Aaron ‘Big Voice’ Jack Lerole (1940 – 2003) was a singer, penny-whistle player, composer, and a leading performer in the Kwela music of 1950s South Africa. In this short film he tells us how it all started and introduces the basics of different musical forms: marabi, tsaba-tsaba, Kwela and mbaqanga. We also see him in a virtuoso two penny-whistle performance at the Whale Well at Iziko Museum, with jazz pianist Hilton Schilder, guitarist Jonny Blondell, and ‘hosepipe’ performer, Pedro Espi-Sanchez, and we catch a glimpse of Pops Mohamed playing the kora.
The film shows the indigenous roots of the penny-whistle in the Pedi ‘skoti’ performances, and shows how Kwela was born on the streets of Johannesburg. It reveals how musicians then had to use ingenuity to survive arrest, and gives a sense of Big Voice Jack’s irrepressible personality and his deep love for music.