Down Music Memory Lane – Ugly Creatures, Namibia’s Live Music Brand of All Time

One of Namibia’s most recognisable live music bands in years gone by, and currently, Ugly Creatures, began life at the Martin Luther High School in 1970 after music crazy boys from the Garden town of Okahandja teamed up to embark on a journey that would capture the imagination of local music followers for years.

Doc Naobeb and Jefta, !Noabeb and Moses !Omeb, his boyhood buddies, was the trio of footballers from the Spoilers Football Club while doubling up as polished musos in brass instruments alongside another Garden town boy Axali Doeseb. Later a quartet, they joined forces with Nicro Hoabeb, Joni Adams and Emil Keister from the Lutheran Brass Band to form Ugly Creatures. .

Younger brothers Baby Doeseb, Theodor Keister and Helois Hoabeb were later roped in to reinforce the band while young Jomo Haoseb also frequently performed with the band. Interestingly all the founding members of the group were students of the Martin Luther High School. The band featured the late Joni Adams (vocals), Doc Naobeb (drums), Moses !Omeb (drums), August Uiseb (vocals), Axali Doeseb (rhythm guitar), Emil Keister (keyboards), Nicro Hoabeb (bass) and the late Jefta !Noabeb (lead guitar).

However, the band’s repertoire was ineffective with no proper defined style, prompting a reshuffle that saw Axali shifting behind the ivories (keyboards) with Emil taking up the horn (saxophone). Doc remained in the kitchen steering the pots notably on slow songs while Bra Mokes was the rocker and fast beat drummer. The shift in personnel seemed to have the desired effect as the band started performing in several towns during school holidays, doing live gigs in community halls while also performing gospel music on Sundays in Lutheran congregations around the country.

As time went by, additional members were recruited with Mbaqanga guitarist, Elvis Afrikaner, coming on board while former MLH trombonist, the late Meester Gothardt Awaseb, also joined the fray. Despite gaining popularity amongst the local music folklore, the band needed some refinement – hence the inevitable arrival Hendrik Cloete and Little Lazzie Garoeumlb on vocals with the versatile Baby Doeseb joining the brass section (trumpet) and Bra Jomo on the skins.

In the meantime, formidable live bands led by the Poppets from Cape Town found refuge in Windhoek while the likes of Movers, Rockets, Prumes, Jonathan Butler, Flamingoes, Flames, Richard-Jon Smith also toured South West Africa on a regular basis to spice up the local musical scene.

In contrast, South West Africa was not short of live entertainment with local bands, Locomotion, Baronages, Gypsies, Osibisa (Luderitz) 5th Wheel, Co-Bees, Chicittos, Purple Haze, Deadwood and Children From Pluto (CFP) (both Walvis Bay) also making their presence felt on the local front.

By the mid 1970s, Ugly Creatures had garnered a reputation as the premier local musical ensemble after the line-up was altered for the umpteenth time with a significant number of the founding members giving way to young musos. That was to change the band’s repertoire for good. Axali (keyboard amp vocals) Baby (lead guitar) Elvis and Helois (rhythm guitar) Jefta (bass) Nicro (trumpet amp vocals) Jomo (drums) Joni (vocals amp saxophone) and Theodor (saxophone and keyboards). The change in personnel culminated in the recording of three albums, Generation, !Nosa !Keis (Gospel) and Creatures topping the top 20 charts on the indigenous radio languages service of the then South West Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SWABC). However, Khowa am dao amte and Eyes of Ice were banned from the local radio stations. Top hits such as Shirley, Not Tonight, and !Erere had the longest standing on the local radio stations while Creatures of the Earth had a short stint on South African airwaves.

While touring the country, the band was formally introduced to late politician, Danny Tjongarero and Fura Kambangula by the late Mokganedi Thlabanello, a teacher at the MLH to discuss the concept of a “Peoples Band.”

Tjongarero and Ngatjizeko, then national leaders of the SWAPO Party took the Band under its wings with Peter Karon, Rudolph Jacobs, Jacky Francis and Doc Naobeb forming part of the management.

As fate would have it, the band lost valuables that included vehicles and musical instruments as a result of police raids on SWAPO rallies. The most notable was the SADFKoevoet attack of the 1977 Oluno Rally where the late Dr Hendrik Witbooi, the main speaker got introduced to Party members. The band’s entire instruments were damaged leaving members with the painful struggle to replace the instruments and vehicles.

Transformation during the 1970s

Over the years some founding members left for seek greener pastures elsewhere and the distinct style, performance, sophistication and township sounds appreciated by local music revelers started to decline, leading to the band folding up in 1981. The long absence from music eventually came to a halt in April 2008 at the Warehouse, triggered by the Old Mutual – Air Namibia Jazz Festival of 2007.

The long holiday effectively came to a premature end at the Old MutualAir Namibia Jazz Festival in Windhoek in 2007, featuring Axali, Nicro, Baby, Jomo, Helois and Gerson Doeseb, followed by the welcome back concert at the Warehouse in 2008 featuring the late Joni Adams, Ruben Khoeseb and Erna Chimu as guests vocalists.

Source : New Era