Drum magazine

The beginnings

From left to right: Henry Nxumalo, Casey Motsisi, 'Zeke Mphahlele, CanThemba, Ntsipe, Arthur Maimane, Mtetwa, Xashimoa, Chocho, Dyantyi, BobGosani Photo: Jurgen Schadeberg.

Drum was – almost – the first black man's magazine. It developed out the the wartime flexings of the intellectual spirit in South Africa which had brought forth a sturdy coterie of indigenous literary and political magazines.

Originally called The African Drum the magazine was started by the journalist and ex Springbok Fast bowler, Bob Crisp. It was full of profound essays on the ethnic origins of the peoples of South Africa, appreciations of tribal customs and hand-painted crockery, and documentaries on primitivism in art. Not of great interest to the black population.

It was when Jim Bailey, an ex-RAF fighter pilot - "one of the few", took over the magazine in 1951 that Drum found its feet. He altered the image of the magazine to reflect urban black life and the aspirations of the people and renamed it simply Drum. It contained a racy mix of sport, politics, Township Jazz, crime, scandal, gossip, devastating exposes – all brilliantly handled by a genius crew of writers, writers such as Henry Nxumalo, Can Themba, Todd Matshikiza, Casey Motsisi, Zeke Mphahlele, Bloke Modisane, Arthur Maimane, Gwigwi Mwerbi and Nat Nakasa - all of whom have become legends and honoured men of Africa.

Bailey invited Anthony Sampson, his friend from Oxford days, to come to Johannesburg and be the editor. Sampson was a man "who did not know the African world and knew that he did not know it , much better than having a South African, however, well-intentioned, who did not know the African world either but was convinced that he knew it and so could learn nothing."

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