Formed in Mamelodi township near Pretoria, the group started out as Malombo Jazz Men with Julian Bahula on malombo drums, Abbey Cindi on flute and Philip Tabane on guitar. Fusing traditional and improvised rhythms with jazz, Malombo became renowned as one of the first South African bands to fully connect jazz with the African traditions. Despite his undoubted genius, Tabane became erratic on tour and Bahula brought in another Mamelodi-based talent, guitarist Lucas "Lucky" Ranku, renaming the band Malombo Jazz Makers. The group played stadiums and festivals and were soon signed to Gallo.
Recording at a studio in Pretoria, the trio debuted with the album Malompo Jazz in 1966, showcasing the simple, spacious beauty of the Malombo sound and Abbey Cindi's compositions, with Mahotella Queens' Hilda Tloubatla on guest vocals.