marabi, noun

Forms:
Also maraba.
Origin:
Southern Sotho, Show more Perhaps from Marabastad, the name of a township (now no longer in existence) on the outskirts of Pretoria; or Southern Sotho marabi plural of lerabi gangster (indicating the disapproval with which the sub-culture was regarded); or related to Southern Sotho raba fly around, perhaps referring to the energetic dance style.
1. In historical contexts. A working-class township culture of the 1930s and 1940s: see quotation 1989. Also attributive.
1933 Umteteli 11 Nov. in D.B. Coplan, Urbanization of African Performing Arts. (1980) 247The ‘marabi’ dances and concerts, and the terrible ‘jazz’ music banged and wailed out of the doors of foul-smelling so called halls are far from representing real African taste.
1980 D.B. Coplan Urbanization of African Performing Arts. 205Marabi was..a category of people with a low social status and a reputation for immoral behaviour.
1982 Pace May 103The Doornfontein slums were amongst the worst in the world in the Twenties and were the first to be cleared for removal to Orlando Township in the Thirties. Before this it was the favourite shebeen area in Johannesburg, and the home of Marabi.
1985 Learn & Teach No.3, 30Wilson Silgee was of my old days. He was my schoolmate. He was also of the Marabi Period.
1986 Kallaway & Pearson Johannesburg 36The pictures of Ferreira’s Town in the 1930s capture the context of the ‘Marabi Culture’ — without the romantic gloss it is sometimes given.
1986 P. Maylam Hist. of Afr. People 150Liquor formed a central part of a wider African working-class urban culture, often known as marabi.
1989 Reader’s Digest Illust. Hist. of S. Afr. 355Out of the mire of these teeming, reeking, violent and tumble-down acres of apparently hopeless misery rose a spirit of proud survival. Africans called it marabi.
1989 Reader’s Digest Illust. Hist. of S. Afr. 358The heart of marabi was its music — a throbbing blend of Christian spirituals, Negro rags, Boer vastrap..and traditional rural rhythms and harmonies. But marabi was not only about music. Other vital components were home beer-brewing, weekend shebeen parties and drinking skokiaan and isiqatavika (‘kill me quick’) in order to forget the drabness of life in urban ghettos.
2. In historical contexts. A township drinking and dancing party of the 1920s, 1930s, or 1940s, especially one at which marabi music (see sense 3) was played. Usually attributive.
1946 P. Abrahams Mine Boy (1954) 108They would relax and dance till daybreak at some maraba, egged on by the thumping noise of a broken-down piano.
1970 M. Dikobe Marabi Dance. 2She loved George and he attracted her to the Marabi parties, which were run by the well-known Ma-Ndlovu and were very popular, but not favoured by respectable people.
1978 Speak Vol.1 No.5, 3No ‘stokvel’ (working class savings and self-help club ‘rent party’) or ‘marabi’ party could attract paying customers without someone pounding out African melodies and rhythms on a battered organ, piano or guitar, to the rattle of milk-cans filled with pebbles.
1984 Staffrider Vol.6 No.1, 34Mrs S— didn’t go to Marabi parties, didn’t join a dance club, and rather regrets that she didn’t queue for ‘bioscope’ with her sister.
1987 New Nation 23 July 10It was one of the areas in the city centre where blacks were allowed to live close to the wild shebeen and marabi centre of Doornfontein.
3. Music. A style of popular dance music common in townships in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, consisting of a blend of African, Afrikaans, and ‘coloured’ folk music styles adapted to performance on the organ or piano, with the addition, in later years, of elements of American jazz. Also attributive.
Note:
At that time, often played in shebeens and at parties and dances, at first usually by a keyboardist, later also by guitarists, penny-whistlers, and bands. A forerunner of kwela and its derivatives.
1941 W.M.B. Nhlapo in Bantu World 15 Mar. 9The Jazz Maniacs..were regarded as a ‘marabi’ or ‘Tsaba-Tsaba’ band.
1953 Drum Jan. 40‘Marabi’ Guitar..the three-chord ‘marabi’ style which draws crowds to every gramophone and cycle shop in town.
1953 T. Matshikiza in Drum Feb. 37The choir sings first a short little introductory piece, Marabi-like.
1958 Time 16 June 37In the dusty streets urchins rock to the penny-whistle’s fast kwela beat; in the shabby speakeasies, women shuffle to its slower marabi rhythm.
1959 E. Mphahlele Down Second Ave 96The name ‘Marabi’ came from Marabastad. From there it went to the Reef...Bring your gal, spin your gal for the palpitating marabi rhythm of u-no-mes at a Daybreak Dance at Columbia Every Night.
1976 W. Silgee in D.B. Coplan, Urbanization of African Performing Arts. (1980) 212Tickey draai plus tula n’divile equals marabi.
1977 P.C. Venter Soweto 8Here they danced to marabi tunes, a form of earthy music which preceded the jive and rock ’n roll.
1977 T. Couzens in Quarry ’77 35Doornfontein and Prospect Townships produced a particular music in the early Thirties: marabi. It was shebeen music played to be drunk to.
1981 B. Mfenyana in M. Mutloatse Reconstruction 295The broad topic of language arts cannot be discussed in isolation from drama, story-telling (folk-lore), music, dance, sculpture and other performing and expressive arts. So Scamto goes hand in hand with Jit, Khwela, Marabi, Mbaqanga, Soul, Jazz and Disco-jive.
1982 A. Oliphant in Staffrider Vol.5 No.2, 22Discordantly we sing long forgotten maraba songs.
c1985 J. Cronin in Eng. Academy Rev. Vol.3 35This poem closely resembles the rhythmic qualities of contemporary ‘township’ music in South Africa...This music (in all its varieties — Marabi, Mbganga [sic], Kwela, etc.) is characterised by a basic riff repeated many times over, with small subtle variations.
1986 T. Thoka in Eng. Usage in Sn Afr. Vol.17 No.2, 19Tsotsie-taal goes hand in hand with Marabi (township jazz) and disco music, and with general life in the township.
1987 New Nation 9 July 10Marabi music was born in the ghettos of early Johannesburg. It is the basis of South African jazz. Jacob Moeketsi, the..pianist, said: ‘Marabi music is a type of music that does not compare with European music. It has much more movement physically and rhythmically. It forms the core of African music.’...‘King Force’ Silgee confirms the..influence...‘If you listen to that “Mannenberg” of Dollar Brand, that’s marabi, marabi straight.’
1987 New Nation 16 July 10Composer and critic Todd Matshikiza wrote in Drum magazine: ‘Ntebejana..exploited the three-chord form of marabi, consisting entirely of the major chords in C and F and their sevenths. This was marabi — a simple form of improvisation on the piano, organ or sometimes guitar.’
1990 Sunday Tribune 14 Jan. (Today) 7Mango Groove is not just another ethno-trendy band. It has taken the marabi-kwela sound and popularised it.
1990 [see penny-whistle].
A working-class township culture of the 1930s and 1940s: see quotation 1989. Also attributive.
A township drinking and dancing party of the 1920s, 1930s, or 1940s, especially one at which marabi music (see 3) was played. Usually attributive.
A style of popular dance music common in townships in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, consisting of a blend of African, Afrikaans, and ‘coloured’ folk music styles adapted to performance on the organ or piano, with the addition, in later years, of elements of American jazz. Also attributive.

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19331990