The story of Drum magazine

Drum Staff

The writers

Sylvester Stein considered the Drum journalists giants.

"Being a rumbustious and carefree crowd, staffers were sometimes not as professional as Stein would have liked. He jokingly complains about their inability to keep time. 
However, he defends this by saying: 'The meat in their minds, the heart in their thoughts and the stories they wrote were more important than being punctual.'
"'They had their own African style of writing English. It was the big-hearted use of words.'"
(From an interview with Stein by Mchunu 1999)

Photographs by Jurgen Schadeberg

Can Themba, born 1924. Associate Editor. His home became the "House of Truth" where everyone was obliged to speak the truth. He went into exile in Swaziland where he wrote and taught. He died 1967. 

Casey Motsisi, born 1932. Employed by Can Themba as his assistant. Wrote the Bugs column and named himself "The Shakespeare of the Shebeens". Remained at Drum until his death in 1977. 

Todd Matshikiza, born 1921. Music Editor. Successful musician and composer, particularly of King Kong, which was an international success. He died homesick in Lusaka in 1968. 

Zeke Mphahlele, born 1919. Literary Editor. Writer, academic and African humanist. Down 2nd Avenue, published by Fabers in 1959, is autobiographical. Spent working time in many parts of Africa, the UK and the USA. Died in South Africa, highly honoured, in 2008.

Bloke Modisane, born 1923. Reporter. Went into exile in Germany where he was a journalist, actor and playwright. His autobiography Blame me on History was first published by Thames and Hudson in 1963 and reissued as a Penguin Modern Classic in the 1990s. Died 1986.

Arthur Maimane, born 1932. Boxing Editor. In exile in the UK, he worked as a Journalist for BBC and ITV and wrote. Died 2005.

Nat Nakasa, born 1937. Reporter. With the help of Nadine Gordimer launched The Classic, a literary magazine. Was the first black to write a weekly column for the Johannesburg Rand Daily Mail. He went into exile in the USA. He became deeply depressed and homesick and committed suicide in 1965.


The Photographers

 Jurgen Schadeberg (centre), with Peter Magubane and Bob Gosani,  look for a good picture.

Jurgen Schadeberg (centre), with Peter Magubane and Bob Gosani,  look for a good picture.

Jurgen Schadeberg was born in 1931 in Berlin. He arrived in South Africa having experienced the destruction of Berlin, aged 19. He became Drum Picture Editor 1951 to 1959, and was pivitol in his role as teacher and mentor to the Drum photographers. He continues to photograph but spends as much time as he can painting. He exhibits widely.

Bob Gosani was born in 1932. He was the nephew of Henry Nxumalo, and under Schadeberg's guiding hand became one of the leading Staff photographers of Drum, famously photographing Mr Drum in prison with a telephoto lens to tell the story of conditions there for the blacks. Died of tuberculosis in 1972.

Peter Magubane was born 1932. Joined Drum as a driver and then, again under Schadeberg's guiding hand, became a Staff photographer. Still photographing to this day. Now lives in South Africa.


The proprietor…

Jim Bailey
Bailey was born in 1919. He was the son of Sir Abe Bailey, the diamond magnate. During the WWII he was an RAF fighter pilot. He owned Drum from 1951 – 1981. He died in 2000. 


The first two editors…

Anthony Sampson
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." Sampson was editor from 1951 to early 1955. On leaving Drum he returned to the UK to pursue a successful career as journalist and commentator until his death in 2004.

Sylvester Stein
Took over from Anthony Sampson in early 1955 and was editor until late 1957 when he resigned.