Hawk

Hawk
Hawk - African Day
Hawk - Africa she too can cry
Hawk- Live & Well

“It’s dark and still in the chief’s village protected by the mountains of the great southern regions of Africa”… so began the greatest Afro-rock epic concept album ever made. Hawk’s debut album is music that legends are made of with its fusion of acoustic music with African rhythms. This reissue includes the 17-minute title track, “Kissed by the sun”, their evocative version of “Here comes the sun” and four bonus live tracks from 1971 plus the usual rare photos and in-depth liner notes.

Learning to fly . . . The African Day story

He’s a good man, Dave Ornellas. But then he’s always been good; rising like a colourful prophet of old from the smoking stage, with a voice Joe Cocker might have envied. Wild black hair and flowing beard, he chose – in the early years – the complex simplicity of making music the African way.

No, not fusion. But earthy stuff – the virile, extraordinary, substance concept albums are made of.

Strange to write that now, thirty-something years on.

The “concept album”, with its long, interwoven tracks, telling a musical story, was the avant-garde pop symphony of the 1970s. It is also long dead. Everyone did concept albums – Pink Floyd with Umma Gumma, Genesis (the original Genesis, that is, when Phil Collins was a drummer, not a weasel-voiced vocalist) produced them with Trespass and Foxtrot (and at a push The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway). Deep Purple went even further, seconding the entire Royal Philharmonic and Malcolm Arnold in the Royal Albert Hall to do their seminal Concerto for Group and Orchestra and equally impressive, but not as melodic Gemini Suite. Add Uriah Heep and Free, who fringed – and Keith Emerson (as the Nice and later with ELP) who turned classical themes – like Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kije Suite – into mind-numbing extravaganzas, sometimes stabbing the keyboard with a knife to hold the note. It was the age of course, resurrecting itself from the post-World War 2 How Much Is That Doggie in the Window? Mocking Bird Hill syndrome; the hysterical – but musically brilliant – the pop culture of The Beatles and the raunchy y’all R&B of the Rolling Stones. And who can forget The Who?

In Johannesburg, bursting, like Durban, with musicians eons ahead of their time, Ornellas added the sunburnt, brown prairies of Africa to the genre of the concept album – the heady, steady beat of drums, and enough cross-rhythms to make you dizzy.

Add the mesmerising voices – and the telling story.

Tuck in the ranging flute, the saxophone. The deep bass buzz. And the mesmerising, talking drums.

African Day, all 17-plus minutes of it, was the birth of a home-grown concept later taken up by Jon Clegg and Sipho Mchunu, and the other rising sons of South African music.

“John used to sit at the foot of the stage with ‘smoke’ from the ice machine curling down when we performed,” says Ornellas. “He was about 15 years old – sometimes Sipho was with him. Sometimes they danced.”

African Day took up the entire side one of the album of the same name, something never quite before seen, or heard, in a country alive with indigenous sounds no-one had worried to emulate, because the “culture” was foreign. In other words, not “white.” And everyone knew, in a society insanely paranoid with Apartheid-speak, that only “white people” could, well, make music.

The others could develop separately.

Hawk changed – and challenged – that immediately.

In the offstage darkness a voice intoned:

It’s dark and still in the chief’s village protected by the mountains of the great southern regions of Africa . . .

Drums echo through the village as the first fingers of light paint the sky with the fresh colours of morning, and so the days begins . . .
And so, too, the lights came up. It was the prelude to a unique, colourful, performance, and once caught live, and the story dramatically revealed, was never forgotten.

It was music theatre on a grand, unique, stage.

One day in the Kraal of Taka,
All the peoples’ hearts were filled with fear,
Three men had died and the village waited
For the maddened beast to re-appear.

An African story, this. Of a killer, rogue, elephant, a rampaging, out-of-control beast. A story culled from the heat and dust of Africa, a fast-disappearing natural world around us. An avant-garde tone poem.

Ornellas, diminutive now, with a craggy face and short, off-black hair, sips orange juice. We are in the lounge of his Cape Town home, with his young son, Caleb. His dogs huff and puff in the heat.

At my feet, the instrument of his profession and his success – a guitar. New strings, in a box, lie on the table.

It is a good meeting.

I last saw him around 1970-71 in Durban. Whatever the year, Hawk headlined at the Battle of the Bands – an annual bash put on by the music magazine I edited, Trend, and Durban councilor Peter Breytenbach, who organised the City Hall and the anti-riot-drug squad. It was a good year for music. On the show were Otis Waygood Blues Band, Abstract Truth, Scratby Hud, and a collection of good local bands. Voting was by four judges – I was not one, but my colleague Carl Coleman was.

Hawk, in full flight tore the house down with a storming set, a beaming Ornellas, dressed in flowing African-style full-length robes shaking the perspiration from his oval of deep black hair.

Not bad for a lad who grew up in Cape Town’s southern suburbs and went to Plumstead High School. And learned to play the acoustic guitar.
Ornellas says: “I wanted to go to university, but didn’t make it. That was bad news because I was pretty keen. Instead, in 1967, I headed north to Johannesburg and the school of mines. I wanted my future to be in the science of metallurgy, and eventually landed on the Kloof gold mine.”

It was dismal, and not what Ornellas wanted. But his next move was the nudge into an entirely new career.

“I went to art school – in the center of the city. There I met a fellow student who was very neat on the guitar. His name was Mark Kahn – better known as ‘Spook’. He could really play the lead, while I tucked myself in on rhythm. Soon we a pretty tight duo and called ourselves The Buskers and got regular work at that music hangout, the Troubadour in Johannesburg.”

Kahn says: “It was amazing how it all came together. This dude Ornellas could make things happen. Hey, it was a pretty exciting thing. We kind of rolled up at these places, you know. Kind of casing the scene. What we really wanted to do was play with some people – you know, people with drums and keyboard and sax – that kind of stuff.”

Extraordinary things began to slot into place.

Ornellas believes in extraordinary things – like meeting “his hero” for the first time.

“It was Mike Dickman – he had been playing electric guitar with a group called Flood which also included Pete Measroch, Rod Clarke, and Richard Johnson. Well, I spent hours listening to Mike, so laid back, so cool, so collected. The man was a guitar wizard. When he hit the strings, the wood talked.”

Richard remembers “Flood was playing a weekly gig at the Troubadour Dave and Spook would drop by to do a set or two and as most musos do we checked each other out. In the same block as the Troubadour Keith and Braam were playing in a group called Toad then as if by fate both bands folded virtually at the same time; Mike and Pete went on to Abstract Truth and I, together with Keith and Braam teamed up with Dave and Spook to form Hawk”

Spook says: “This coming together seemed some kind of destiny. Here were these fellows – just what we were looking for, Dave and I. I suppose we sniffed around for a while – they could hear what we could do; we could see what they could do.

“They went so far as to let us use their instruments, too.

“We found a togetherness, a synergy. And we found the farm.”

Paddock Farm, to be exact. In Morningside, Rivonia, on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

Says Ornellas: “We had no money; so we grew our own stuff – someone gave us a huge jar of mayonnaise once, and we ate it for weeks with homegrown salads. We played the Troubadour; we played here and there. We wrote music. We did our own cover versions. And for a while had a female singer – Maureen England, who made a name for herself later in folk.

“And we called ourselves Hawk – after a hawk that lived on the farm. We were beginning to fly, and formulate the direction our music was going to take. We were listening to a lot of Hugh Tracey tapes – the expert Afro-musicologist who had traveled Africa placing sounds and music on tape for posterity.

“We went to Swaziland and came back with our own sounds, drums, and a burning desire to make our own brand of African music. From all of this came African Day.”

There is a touch of wistfulness as Ornellas says: “We told a story. It was a simple one. And we put everything into it – just listen to Keith’s sax; the pain of the elephant is there.

“We produced a spectacle – spears on stage and the like.”

It is an understatement of considerable proportions. Hawk’s stage spectacular was a masterpiece of the time – not only on stage but also in the huge, open-air concerts that became the rage of the 1970s, rain notwithstanding.

The real miracle was that no one was electrocuted.

Spook says: “Sometimes I look back – I mean there we were, running around in leopard skins. Perhaps in hindsight, it was just too pretentious. Too much. But it worked.”

Richard says: “Here’s something most people have already forgotten – when we went on stage, we were the first live group to have their own permanent sound engineers out there among the audience.

“One was Don Williamson, the other Trevor Pitout. We called him Snake – I don’t think anyone ever called him Trevor. Anyway, there they were out there, at their huge sound desk. Now, this was a major technological advance because we had the most amazing sound equipment you could imagine.

“So much so that the British group Barclay James Harvest, who were here at the time, couldn’t believe their ears. They had never heard anything like it. I was later tour manager with them – I know what they thought.

“Anyway, this gave Hawk a unique sound – like it was another dimension. It was raw. Vital stuff.”

As is Johnson’s bass, throughout the various movements of African Day.

With Hawk flying high, a manager had appeared on the scene – smart-talking Geoff Lonstein – and a record deal had been struck with EMI-Parlophone.

It was a dream come true.

But Lonstein caused problems.

Keith Hutchinson recalls: “I went to war with Lonstein. We were playing to packed houses everywhere. The show was massive. We were successful. People liked us. But we weren’t getting what we deserved.

“Money came in, but not to us.

“There were times when I had to hitch from the farm to Highlands North because I didn’t have money. Sometimes I walked – and that was pretty far. We came away with virtually nothing in our pockets.

“Then one day I’d had enough.

“We were in the middle of a rehearsal. I stopped it – That’s it, guys, I said. No more. We are not going to do this anymore. It’s enough.
“Someone must have called Lonstein – half an hour later he arrived to try and sort it all out.

“For a while, it seemed okay. But then three months later, I quit.”

I hear this graduate of the Royal School of Music chuckle over the telephone: “One thing – I learned how to play a saxophone and flute. African Day was a good concept – it was fun at the time.”

Apart from African Day, as the side one concept, Hawk began writing more tracks – Richard Johnson with Happy Man, Ornellas with Look Up Brother, Keith with Love Song, Ornellas, and Spook with Kissed by the Sun – and an evocative cover version of George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun.

Look Up Brother, with its evocative solo acoustic lines, supplemented suddenly by a second guitar, and building up to a vocal climax, is one of the most beautiful songs penned.

Kissed by the Sun – “I wrote it in the swimming pool” says Ornellas, is another gem, with Spook providing the melody.

Another version of the song is included in this reissue of the album. It is one of four bonus live tracks recorded at a Concert for Hugh Tracey’s International Library of African Music on 10th June 1971, at the Selbourne Hall, in Johannesburg (courtesy of Dave Marks’ 3rd Ear Music)
The other three tracks are a previously unrecorded African Rondo, a spectacular run through The Hunt, and another version of Look Up Brother.

Ornellas says: “The album was simple really – kind of contemporary folk-rock. It came out, we were happy. Then Lonstein turned us into a multi-voiced, huge ensemble that destroyed the simplicity” – Ornellas uses that word often – “we had strived so hard for, and which had become part of us.

“It was a disappointment.”

Kahn says: “The other day Richard and I were talking – we see quite a lot of each other. We kind of both came up with the same thought. Someone had been talking about Clive Calder and the major success he had become – he is perhaps the biggest record company executive in the United States today.

“Not bad for someone who had this little downtown Johannesburg office and a company called CCP – Clive Calder Productions. You remember – had artists like Richard John Smith?

“Well, Hawk at one time had this choice – either go with Lonstein, or sign with Calder.

“We went the wrong way. We signed with Lonstein. Someone said, Better the devil you know than . . . well, you know the rest. What would have happened to us today? I guess it’s a question that has no answer . . .”

We talk briefly about another former South African, regarded today as perhaps the world’s greatest record producer – the reclusive Robert John “Mutt” Lange.

But the talk is wishful.

Johnson just says: “Lonstein took the magic out of the band…”

But Braam Malherbe talks of magic – and indeed without his drum work, African Day would not have been the barnstorming success it became.

He says: “They were magic years. This was jungle music.”

But then Braam was brought up on the likes of Jon Bonham (Led Zeppelin) and Keith Moon (The Who). “I learned those solo pieces,” he says, “I could play them. I’m a rock and roller.

“Jungle music is close to my heart – and no one today can do it, other than musicians from the Congo. It’s alive and well there. Colin Pratley” (former drummer with Freedom’s Children) “feels the same way. He has that excitement too. It’s in his work.”

Malherbe adds another dimension, however, to the Hawk story.

“It was political, you know. I mean there’s that elephant destroying things left, right, and centre – driving people from their land. We were making a huge comparison – if anyone had analysed the words then, they’d have realised what we were on about.

“But when we played the small centers, people jeered and mocked us for wearing long hair, while they walked around in safari suits with combs stuck in their socks.”

Braam says: “Perhaps the problem was that we didn’t write hit parade stuff. It was far too complex and deep for that – hey, no DJ would play the entire album.”

There is another consideration. The radio play was strictly monitored – words had to be supplied with the albums touted by recording company representatives, seeking air time. Too often records were banned.

Malherbe says: “I enjoyed that time. It was magic.”

Ornellas says: “Suddenly, in 1972, we had that unsung giant of South African music, Ramsay McKay with us. Les ‘Jet’ Goode, who had been playing with the British group Jericho, joined us in the place of Richard Johnson. The extraordinary Julian Laxton, who had been flirting with Freedom’s Children and drummer Ivor Back was taken on.

“In a flash, we had a whole lot of Black musicians too – Alfred ‘Ali’ Lerefolo came in on African drums and vocals, as did Billy ‘Knight’ Mashigo, who also handled percussion. There was Audrey Motaung on vocals with Peter Kubheka.”

Instead of a group, they had become a collective. A marketing proposition, with prospects of becoming a commercial giant. For Lonstein.
Richard remembers the split of the original lineup with a touch of sadness “This was heavy stuff. Both Braam and I lost our place in the band which had nothing to do with the music. It was the machinations and scheming of the management.

“Leaving the band in this way hurt really badly as we were a few weeks away from recording the second album.”

Although the new lineup went on to record Africa, She Too Can Cry album and toured Europe to critical acclaim the long-awaited breakthrough failed to materialise and the group splintered in a blaze of publicity and recriminations but that, as they say, is another story some time to be told.

The original band reformed a couple of years later.

But things had changed.

Today the Hawks are active in many fields:

· Dave is a committed Christian pastor whose children have the Ornellas musical genes;
· Richard is a successful businessman in Johannesburg;
· Keith was an integral part of Johnny Clegg’s Savuka and now runs a recording studio as does Mark “Spook ” Kahn and Braam Malherbe are deeply involved in his other passion, training horses.

Now, over thirty years later, the reissue of African Day stands as a testament to the collective magic of five musicians who drew inspiration from the red dust of Africa and created a musical epic that surely must rank with some of the greatest rock debut albums of all time.

Owen Coetzer,
Cape Town 2001/2001

The mighty Hawk’s second album, recorded in the UK and originally released by Charisma Records in 1973. This officially sanctioned release includes all the original vinyl tracks, 2 songs from the “Live and well” album PLUS some rare gems “Orang Outang”, “Kalahari Dry”, and “Mumbo Jumbo”. Digitally remastered “Africa, She Too Can Cry” is a must for all connoisseurs of Afro progressive rock.

The Rise And Demise of Jo’Burg Hawk

The year is 1973 and in South Africa, the stranglehold of apartheid and the oppression of its opponents is increasing all the time, the noose growing ever tighter. These are dark and dangerous times and the watershed 1976 Soweto student uprising – which began a chain of events that would ultimately lead to the collapse of apartheid and the birth of democracy in South Africa – is still three years away.

These were strange and scary times when the law forbade marriages across the colour bar, legislation enforced the separation of the different races – and having friends of different races could land you in trouble with the authorities. It was also a time of a huge surge in original local music, an era when South Africa produced some of its finest bands. And leading the charge was Hawk, who go against the trend, turned their backs on the music coming out of Europe and America, and turned to their African musical roots.

Buoyed by the success of their first album, African Day – a thinly disguised commentary of South Africa and its insane politics – in 1971, followed by seminal Africa She Too Can Cry, in 1972, Hawk had already established itself as one of the country’s premier rock outfits. Explains Braam Malherbe, a member of the original Hawk line-up: “It (African Day) was political, you know. I mean there’s the elephant destroying things left, right, and center – driving people from their land. We were making a huge comparison – if anyone had analysed the words then, they would have realised what we were all about.” Like its predecessor, Africa She Too Can Cry, was a concept album, a social commentary on the madness that was South Africa in the 1970s.

“Hawk was a concept band and the album “Africa She Too Can Cry”, came at the right time, it was meant to be,” said Dave Ornellas, former lead vocalist and frontman for Hawk, the owner one of the definitive rock voices of his era. It tells the story of a young African man, Kakawa, and his village and the people who lived in it. “It is a sad story of how the tribe was torn apart,” explains Ornellas, remembering the lyrics that captured the mood of the album.

“They took me from my people, Drove me from my home.”

The album, not counting this latest reincarnation, has been released three times before, with three different track listings, first in 1972, then again in 1973 – with a slightly different track listing and credited to Joburg Hawk (redone in South Africa for European release). The final release, until now, was around 1998 as a cheap bootleg CD on Japan’s Never Land Label.

The European release, which was a compilation of the band’s first two albums, saw the band progress from its original flute/sax/percussion and then, later, keyboard-driven sound, to a new, more powerful twin guitar attack. Hawk, far from being a social commentator who viewed the madness from the safety of a stage and then went home to the safety and isolation of a divided South Africa, was caught up in the center of the insane politics of the country. One of the few multi-racial bands on the scene at that time, Hawk was finding that, while there was much to write and sing about, it was becoming increasingly difficult for the band and its members to operate. Looking back today, Ornellas – now a preacher living in Muizenberg, near Cape Town – remembers those bizarre times, with the band finding it increasingly difficult to perform and grow creatively with the noose of apartheid tightening around their necks.

“I remember playing at the Klerksdorp Civic Centre. It was surreal: the black members of Hawk were not allowed to appear on stage with their white brothers. But a special concession was made and the black members were allowed to play as long as they were hidden behind a curtain on the stage.” At the same time Paddock Farm, in Morningside, in Sandton, where the band had lived since 1969 had increasingly become the focus of police raids because black and white members of Hawk were living there together. “We wanted to develop the African side of our music but it was becoming increasingly clear that we could not do it in South Africa. We needed to spread our wings, break the shackles of apartheid and let the music come through.” Overnight the band was thrown a lifeline when their manager, Geoff Lonstein, signed a deal for them with the London-based Charisma records.

With the world, and particularly the UK, focused on the injustices of apartheid South Africa, the people, and the media in that country welcomed the band with open arms. With Charisma driving the band, they soon found themselves working hard in London, including three gigs at the legendary Marquee club, star billing at the Reading Festival, and opening for hard rock group Budgie. And with Charisma, they found themselves part of an impressive stable of some of the biggest bands around, including Genesis, Lindisfarne, and Van der Graaf Generator. From a struggling outfit from the southern tip of Africa, they were suddenly receiving star treatment, with the deal negotiated by Lonstein including tickets to the UK and accommodation in a magnificent three-story house in the plush north London suburb of Highgate.

“We were treated like real stars, with a fleet of Bentleys at the airport to collect our 16 member party when we landed in London,” says Ornellas. “We thought we had arrived.” But the reality was somewhat different: despite their fancy house in one of London’s best suburbs, the band was permanently broke. Their manager kept them on a shoestring budget. Both Ornellas and new guitarist Julian Laxton, who produced the album for European release, remember how they had to survive on a meager handout of one pound a day from their management.

They had sold all their equipment before leaving South Africa and Lonstein supplied them with brand new equipment when they arrived. In hindsight, Ornellas says, the big mistake came when Lonstein signed them up to Charisma for the UK and Europe only, but kept control of South Africa and the United States for himself. Another big mistake, they say, was when they spurned a management offer from Clive Calder, then working out of a tiny office in Johannesburg. Calder went on to form Zomba Records, one of the world’s biggest and most successful independent labels, which he finally sold in a multi-million-pound deal in 2002.

“We backed the wrong horse and we paid the price,” says Ornellas with the benefit of hindsight three decades later. “But at the time the Charisma deal Lonstein signed was our ticket to freedom and we grabbed it with both hands.” Unlike other South African bands that had tried – and failed – before them to crack it in the UK because of work permit problems, Hawk had no problem getting the right paperwork because they were a multi-racial band. Their history of police harassment back home no doubt also helped smooth their entry into the UK. “We arrived in London to great hype, the press all wanted to interview us and we believed we were on our way to the big time. All the journalists wanted to make our arrival political, but we just told them we were there for the music and it would speak for us,” Laxton says.

“I remember the first big press interview we did in London. It was bitterly cold and we did a photoshoot for one of the papers wearing only the skimpy tribal regalia we wore during our stage act. The story appeared under the headline: The tribe who fled to freedom, neatly summing up the exhilaration and newfound freedom Hawk found in London.” It was a time of concept bands and big, powerful live acts, with outfits like Pink Floyd, Genesis, and King Crimson leading the charge. Into this arena Hawk arrived with their fresh African sound and a stage act and presence that blew their British audiences away. For the boys from South Africa, it was a whole new world and, under the expert guidance of Charisma, the band was launched into a whirlwind of gigs, playing the club circuit, concerts and festivals. It was an exciting time for the band as they began building a solid fan base and sales of their album took off, says Ornellas.

“We were playing gigs every day of the week. Our appearance fees were getting bigger and bigger and, as a band, we were growing all the time.” The deal with Charisma had also included the release of an album as Joburg Hawk, a compilation of songs from their first album, “African Dawn” and “Africa She too Can Cry”. It also included some new songs by Ramsay McKay, the former bassist for Freedoms, which they had laid down in a studio in South Africa before setting off for London. The album, engineered by former Freedom’s Children member, Julian Laxton, also saw Hawk take a new musical direction.

With the UK deal in the bag, Julian agreed to join Hawk, with the band moving from its original keyboard, sax, and flute sound, to the power of the two guitars of Laxton and founder member Mark “Spook” Kahn. Laxton, one of the finest rock guitarists and rock music innovators South Africa has ever produced, explains: “I was a resident engineer at RPM and Geoff Lonstein, asked me to help record and produce the album for Hawk for overseas release.

Of ‘Africa She Too Can Cry’, Laxton says: “It is a very different production. It changes all the time and then reverts back. It was a good album.” The challenge in producing the album for Hawk’s assault on Europe, says Laxton, was to “capture the real sound of Hawk live in a recording. I also had to capture the visual side of the band without people seeing them, with the musical side – and bring it all to life on vinyl. For Laxton and McKay it was also a fresh chance to make it big in the UK after an attempt a few years earlier by Freedoms had failed because of work permit and visa hassles. “Hawk was different. They were multi-racial and had been harassed by the police in South Africa for daring to have black and white in the same band. They got permits on that basis Along the way Hawk was “discovered” by Belgium, leading to a tour to Brussels. Bizarrely, the band was entered as the Belgian entry for the Eurovision song festival, earning a credible ninth place and winning them an army of faithful new fans in that country.

Another highlight was touring Scandinavia at the end of 1973, where they had the audience eating out of their hands. “Here we were in the frozen north, playing full-blown African rock and the audience loved it. We were on such a high.” The highly successful sell-out tour took them to Norway, Sweden, and Denmark with their final appearance at Arhus in Denmark, where they were a highlight of a three-day festival held in an old airplane hangar. “We were billed as “Joburg Hawk, out of Africa, direct from London.” Dressed in “war paint” and full Zulu regalia, complete with shields and spears, Hawk was one of the hits of the festival.

Remembers Ornellas: “It was one of the most incredible concerts we had ever done. It was also the last real concert we did before things went horribly wrong.” Until then things were starting to happen for the band and they were building a loyal audience in Scandinavia, Europe, and the UK, and the world, it seemed, was their oyster. They returned to London expecting to move on to the United States but Charisma – excluded from representing them in America because of the deal their manager had structured – by that time were starting to lose interest. “Our gigs started drying up, we were having problems with visas, and this caused hassles in the band. Things just ground to a halt,” says Ornellas.

First the black members of the band, homesick and disillusioned because of the ending with the Charisma deal and the lack of gigs, chucked in the towel and returned home. “We were in serious trouble, we had no work and no money. We were literally starving, there was hardly any money to buy food and we were living on leftovers and handouts. “We even had to sell our African drums just to get money to buy food. It was one of the most terrible times of my life, things were just disintegrating around us.”

Says Laxton: “In the beginning, we were really struggling and often had very little to eat, but at least we were getting places and the band was together and sounding great. There were nine of us living in this huge house in Highgate, it was a bit like Big Brother, but then things started falling apart.” Adds Ornellas: “I was so depressed that I cut off half my beard and half my Afro. I was down in the dump, it was a cry for help, an expression of just how low I felt.” The end for Ornellas finally came when Scotland Yard arrived one morning and told him their (by then) former manager had laid a charge of theft against the band and was demanding they hand over their instruments, which he said was his property.

“He wanted the PA and all our other equipment back. I thought that after we had sold everything when we left South Africa the new equipment our manager bought was ours. “Eventually I agreed to hand over the equipment to Scotland Yard until it was sorted out. I later learned that they had handed the equipment back to our ex-manager and the subsequent case was thrown out of court. “Looking back now I wonder what they thought of me, this manic musician with half an Afro and half a beard.” Soon afterward Julian Laxton and Les Goode left for home and they soon followed by Spook and Ramsay McKay, who had also had enough.

Says Laxton: “I call it my great escape, but it was also sad because the band was getting more and more polished and we were being recognised in London. I mean, to play the Marquee three times and be invited to Reading would be a highlight for any band.” Finally, Ornellas, who was involved in legal disputes and becoming increasingly depressed, was the last member of Hawk left in London.

“I was stuck there for three more months until I could get out and go back home,” he remembers. “It was the end of a dream for all of us, a terrible way to end. But we gave it our best shot and I know now that we did not fail, it just didn’t work out because of circumstances beyond the band’s control.”

And even now, in the 21st Century and 30 years later, Hawk’s music has stood the test of time – and with this officially sanctioned re-release of Africa She Too Can Cry, a new chapter has been written in the short but influential life of the band, one of the most original and influential rock bands ever to come out of South Africa…

Raymond Joseph,
Cape Town 2003

Originally released in 1974, Hawk’s “Live and Well” is the band’s third and final release rounding off a trilogy of phenomenal Afro-rock albums. This officially sanctioned reissue includes all the original songs plus 4 bonus tracks taken from the SA vinyl version of “Africa, she too can cry” and a rare live song from 1971. With updated liner notes, including the final days of Hawk as told by singer Dave Ornellas, plus never-before-seen photos and poster artwork, “Live and Well” is a must for fans of ’70s progressive rock.

Slowly towards the North..the final days of Hawk

The year is 1973 and in South Africa, the stranglehold of apartheid and the oppression of its opponents is increasing all the time, the noose growing ever tighter. These are dark and dangerous times and the watershed 1976 Soweto student uprising – which began a chain of events that would ultimately lead to the collapse of apartheid and the birth of democracy in South Africa – is still three years away. These were also strange and scary times, when the law forbade marriages across the colour bar, legislation enforced the separation of the different races – and having friends of different races could land you in trouble with the authorities.

It was also a time of a huge surge in original local music, an era when South Africa produced some of its finest bands. And leading the charge was Hawk, who go against the trend, turned their backs on the music coming out of Europe and America and turned to their African musical roots. Buoyed by the success of their first album, African Day – a thinly disguised commentary of South Africa and its insane politics – in 1971, followed by seminal Africa She Too Can Cry, in 1972, Hawk had already established itself as one of the country’s premier rock outfits. Explains Braam Malherbe, a member of the original Hawk line-up: “It (African Day) was political, you know. I mean there’s the elephant destroying things left, right, and center – driving people from their land. We were making a huge comparison – if anyone had analysed the words then, they would have realised what we were all about.” Like its predecessor, Africa She Too Can Cry, was a concept album, a social commentary on the madness that was South Africa in the 1970s. “Hawk was a concept band and the album “Africa She Too Can Cry”, came at the right time, it was meant to be,” said Dave Ornellas, former lead vocalist, and frontman for Hawk, the owner of the definitive rock voices of his era. The European release saw the band progress from its original flute/sax/percussion and then, later, keyboard-driven sound, to a new, more powerful twin guitar attack powered by ex Freedom`s Children guitarist Julian Laxton and founder member Mark Kahn. One of the few multi-racial bands on the scene at that time, Hawk was finding that, while there was much to write and sing about, it was becoming increasingly difficult for the band and its members to operate.

Looking back today, Ornellas remembers those bizarre times, with the band finding it increasingly difficult to perform and grow creatively with the noose of apartheid tightening around their necks. “I remember playing at the Klerksdorp Civic Centre. It was surreal: the black members of Hawk were not allowed to appear on stage with their white brothers. But a special concession was made and the black members were allowed to play as long as they were hidden behind a curtain on the stage.” At the same time Paddock Farm, in Morningside, in Sandton, where the band had lived since 1969 had increasingly become the focus of police raids because black and white members of Hawk were living there together. “We wanted to develop the African side of our music but it was becoming increasingly clear that we could not do it in South Africa. We needed to spread our wings, break the shackles of apartheid and let the music come through.”

Overnight the band was thrown a lifeline when their manager, Geoff Lonstein, signed a deal for them with the London-based Charisma Records. With Charisma driving the band, they soon found themselves working hard in London, including three gigs at the legendary Marquee club, star billing at the Reading Festival, and opening for hard rock group Budgie. And with Charisma, they found themselves part of an impressive stable of some of the biggest bands around, including Genesis, Audience, and Van der Graaf Generator.

Unlike other South African bands that had tried – and failed – before them to crack it in the UK because of work permit problems, Hawk had no problem getting the right paperwork because they were a multi-racial band. Their history of police harassment back home no doubt also helped smooth their entry into the UK. “We arrived in London to great hype, the press all wanted to interview us and we believed we were on our way to the big time. All the journalists wanted to make our arrival political, but we just told them we were there for the music and it would speak for us,” Laxton says. “I remember the first big press interview we did in London. It was bitterly cold and we did a photoshoot in a park for one of the papers wearing only the skimpy tribal regalia we wore during our stage act. The story appeared under the headline: The tribe who fled to freedom, neatly summing up the exhilaration and newfound freedom Hawk found in London.”

It was a time of concept bands and big, powerful live acts, with outfits like Pink Floyd, Yes, and King Crimson leading the charge. Into this arena Hawk arrived with their fresh African sound and a stage act and presence that blew their British audiences away. For the boys from South Africa, it was a whole new world and, under the expert guidance of Charisma, the band was launched into a whirlwind of gigs, playing the club circuit, concerts and festivals. It was an exciting time for the band as they began building a solid fan base and sales of their album took off, says Ornellas. Along the way Hawk was “discovered” by Belgium, leading to a tour to Brussels. Bizarrely, the band was entered as the Belgian entry for the Eurovision song festival, earning a credible ninth place and winning them an army of faithful new fans in that country. Another highlight was touring Scandinavia at the end of 1973, where they had the audience eating out of their hands. “Here we were in the frozen north, playing full-blown African rock and the audience loved it. We were on such a high.”

The highly successful sell-out tour took them to Norway, Sweden, and Denmark with their final appearance at Arhus in Denmark, where they were a highlight of a three-day festival held in an old airplane hangar. “We were billed as “Joburg Hawk, out of Africa, direct from London.” Dressed in “war paint” and full Zulu regalia, complete with shields and spears, Hawk was one of the hits of the festival. Remembers Ornellas: “It was one of the most incredible concerts we had ever done. It was also the last real concert we did before things went horribly wrong.” Until then things were starting to happen for the band and they were building a loyal audience in Scandinavia, Europe, and the UK, and the world, it seemed, was their oyster.

36 years later Dave Ornellas remembers… “Slowly Toward the North” (later released as “Live and Well”) was to be our next big album, a follow-up to “African Day” & “Africa She too can cry”. Our plan was to use an old South African ‘Ten-pound note’ for the cover, which when folded in half made two perfect squares & depicted scenes from the Great Trek! Weeks were spent at Island studios, where Cat Stevens had recorded Tea for the Tillerman etc. Financed by Charisma Records and embellished with overdubs, backing voices, and woodwinds the album was an intricate, interwoven Hawk/Ramsay MacKay masterpiece, a journey, an opera on the Great Trek!

At this time the band was a world-class act with Chris Perry, an English drummer (ex Jericho, whom we had toured within SA), and Julian Bahula (ex Malombo) creating very exciting rhythm patterns and pulling the band very tightly together. We then heard from our manager, Geoff Lonstein that he had negotiated an American deal and that we would be leaving straight from Scandinavia for the U.S.

This news had highly upset Charisma as Lonstein had only signed the band to them for the U.K and Europe, keeping the U.S.A and South Africa for himself. Charisma immediately stopped booking gigs for us and they scrapped the whole album release. Lonstein, meantime had found his way into the studio and with the sound engineer put together a rough mix. And I mean rough. When I returned to S.A to find that Lonstein had released it as an album called ‘Live and Well’ with a picture of me from the Redding Festival on the cover… I actually cried. Today I still have memories of how the tracks were meant to flow & how big it originally sounded. Yet I am thankful that there remain some memories of that time, otherwise lost & am thankful to Benjy for giving it another chance.

Story conclusion: “ Lonstein failed to obtain visas for the band and with no gigs booked in London, we starved. Charisma very kindly gave us our return tickets and the bulk of the members fled for home. Spook Ramsay & I stayed on & tried to find some solution to the massive financial loss the band had suffered, but because the new equipment was bought in London in Lonstein’s name, Spook & I ended up at Scotland Yard having our fingerprints taken and our passports confiscated, pending the court case.. We had been arrested for selling our own African drums. When Lonstein failed to arrive at court three months later, the case was thrown out. Again I want to praise Charisma Records for their help with Lawyers and their amazing support.

And even now, in the 21st Century Hawk’s music has stood the test of time – and with this officially sanctioned release of “ Live and Well”, the final chapter has been written in the short but influential life of the band, one of the most original and influential rock bands ever to come out of South Africa…

Raymond Joseph with additional notes by Benjy Mudie