Music: The Pennywhistlers

Lemmie ("Special") Mabaso is a twelve-year-old Johannesburg schoolboy who rarely goes to school any more. Instead, he hangs around on street corners tootling a pennywhistle. Lemmie leads his own celebrated band, the "Alexandra Junior Bright Boys," which started out playing for coppers, by now has made three hit records and gets featured billing at Johannesburg City Hall concerts. Reason: the haunting sound of pennywhistle jazz has become the favorite music of South Africa's slum-caged blacks—and of a great many white hipsters.

In the dusty streets, urchins rock to the pennywhistle's fast kwela beat;...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!