May '16

Heita-da! This is AFROSYNTH, the realest African selection...

This month we bring you more forgotten classics by the likes of SOWETO YOUTH BAND, Q, TAILS OUT, NOVIDADE and SUN. Before that we had NEVILLE NASH, ZIZI KONGO, MAKHWERU, BENJAMIN BALL and SOUND PROOF.

To purchase still-sealed copies of these and other albums, email djokapi[at]!

BENJAMIN BALL - In The Jungle (1990)

Tusk/Diamond TUH11
Producer: Professor Rhythm
Engineer: Fab Grosso

Following the massive success of 'Flash A Flashlight' from his debut solo album Paulina in 1984, Benjamin Ball spent the rest of the 80s and early 90s continuing to fuse disco and reggae, over time focussing more on the latter. On In The Jungle he reunites with Thami Mdluli (aka Professor Rhythm), with whom he started playing 10 years earlier as part of Hot Soul Singers/Sound Busters/CJB family.

While the title track, 'Danki Eheck' and the downtempo 'Thy Kingdom' show his true colours as a conscious reggae man to rival names like Lucky Dube, the opening track 'Cry For Freedom' offers a funky synth-driven groove (so funky the song gets a dub version on the six-strack album) reminiscent of his early hits but with a political message (at a time when censorship was no longer so severe). 'This Music Got Us' sees BB showing off his rapping skills. Featuring keyboards by one Magic Fingers Dolphy (aka Prince D). Composed under the pseudonym Elsie Joseph.

MAKWERHU - Daddy Come Back (1990)

Reamusic, RML(V)2059
Producer: Enoch Nondala
Engineer: Jan Smit
Recorded at: Takk

Fronted by vocalists William Ngobeni and Patrick Mabasa, Makwerhu (Shangaan/Tsonga for 'our brother') were pioneers of the pantsula style that bridged bubblegum and kwaito (alongside Ayobayo Band and The Hard Workers). Their 1990 album Daddy Come Back followed earlier releases Education (1987), Mapansula (1988) and Mahlalela (1989). Over highly infectious electronic grooves, lyrics touch on issues of dislocation - absent fathers ('Daddy Come Back'), missing children ('Vha Kho Shengela') and migration ('Ngwana Enwa'). Other titles include 'Brother' and 'Living with the People'. 

SOUND PROOF - The Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (1980)

Atlantic City/Tela/Gallo, BL255
Producer: David Thekwane

Pre-bubblegum soul produced by the influential David Thekwane (Boyoyo Boys, The Movers), who shares song-writing credits with Jabu Sibumbe (Stimela) and P. Ndlovu. Full of intricate organ grooves and powerful vocals, the band successfully fused marabi with Motown, laying the foundation for the disco acts that would emerge a few years later.  

VA - Roy B's Party Time Vol. 2 (198?)

Roy B, RBL124u

Roy B was a successful independent label (aka Dephon) run by Phil Hollis that helped launch the careers of some of the biggest names in the business. The second volume of their Party Time compilation features Yvonne Chaka Chaka singing 'Winner My Dear Love', a thinly veiled tribute to Winnie Mandela, as well as Chicco with his breakthrough solo hit 'I Need Some Money', Pat Shange ('Rules of Love'), William Mthethwa & The Young Five, Benjamin Dube's gospel hit 'Holy Spirit' as well as lesser known band The Groovy Guys. The album also features two prominent acts not usually associated with the label, Splash (wrong listed here as Smash) and the late great Al Etto (singing 'She's Hot').

ZIZI KONGO - Back To Back (1990)

Leopard/Hit City, LEO030
Producers & Engineers: John Galanakis & RF Gumbi
Recorded at: Platinum

Following the success of her 1988 debut Come Duze, Zizi Kongo returned with Back To Back. Spreading her wings as an artist, Kongo (real name Elizabeth Mkhwanazi) pens two of the songs on the album ('Ma-Africa' and 'Makabasa'). Dan Nkosi (who wrote all the tracks on her debut album as well as co-produced) takes a step back, this time writing two tracks (the title track and 'Samariya') and leaving the production and all instruments to John Galanakis and Felani Gumbi, also credited with writing two tracks apiece. 

The producers write: "It's been a pleasure working with a talented singer like Zizi. It gives us great satisfaction being able to uncover another side of her, particularly as a potential songwriter of the future. We hope you, her fans, will love her more and encourage her songwriting by listening and supporting her music."

Featuring backing vocals by members of Pure Gold as well as Marilyn Nokwe, Faith Kekana, Beulah Hase and Stella Khumalo, with extra synths by the likes of Vuka Mbele (Vibe Talk, Amaqabane). 

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here.

TSHALA MUANA - Nasi Nabali (1991)

Tusk, HIM102
Producer: Tshala Muana & Ben Nyamabo
Recorded at: Studio Diana Music, Paris

One of the central Africa's biggest female stars of her day (along with Mbilia Bel and others), Tshala Muana was born in Lubumbashi in 1957 and started her career as a dancer in Kinshasa in the late 70s. In 1981 she left for Abidjan and then Paris in 1984, where she recorded her debut album Kami. She returned to Kinshasa in 1986 but decided to stay based in Paris. Other albums include La Devine (1987), Munanga (1988), Biduaya (1990), Mutuashi (1996) and Pika Pende (1999). She is currently in the midst of a comeback, releasing Lunzenze in early 2016.

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here 

NEVILLE NASH - Teaser (1984)

CTV, NALP(V)3320
Produced: D. Feigelson, Neville Nash & Richard Mitchell
Engineer: Richard Mitchell
Mixed by: Richard Mitchell, Neville Nash & Tom Mkhize

Nash was one of the funkiest guys on the scene since the late 70s, years before the rise of bubblegum. Following softer soul/disco albums like 1980's Kind Hearted Man, his 1981 eponymously titled effort and 1982's Diamonds & Pearls and Solid Gold, he trimmed the Afro, grew the 'tache and turned up the synths for arguably his finest album, 1984's Teaser. Tracks include 'Perfect Love', 'Love On the Edge of Night', 'Break Down'. and 'One of Those Nights', which Nash famously performed live at the historic Concert in the Park in Johannesburg in 1985.

One of the pioneers of 'crossover' music, Nash defied apartheid to work with a variety of black, white and coloured musicians on the album. Players include Stimela's Lloyd Lelosa (synths), Isaac Mtshali (drums) and Ntokozo Zungu (guitar), Al Etto and Cecil Mitch on backing vox, Mac Mathunjwa on Fender Rhodes and synths, as well as Mike Faure on sax. Programming by Adrian Strydom, who owned the only Fairlight in the country at the time. The album was followed by the single What's Your Name? What's Your Number? (1985) and Why? (1986).

RUFARO - Guitar Man (1989)

SKR Records, SRH9009
Producer: Dan Ntanzi
Engineers: Phil Audoire & David Moloele
Recorded at: Orange 338

Rufaro (Shona for happiness) was a tight and underrated group along the lines of Harari and Zasha, with rock-inspired guitar grooves making them stand out from the rest. On the follow-up to their 1987 self-titled effort, they parted ways with Sidwell Duda and hired a new producer in Dan Ntanzi (who also worked with David Chanke) to put out six cool tracks, including 'Thutha' and 'Woza Woza'.

POCKET LIPS - The Rhythm of Life (1987)

Teal, KVL5052
Producers: Zack Haines, Ian Osrin and Sam Wingate
Recorded at: RPM & SOS

Studio project made up of American Zack Haines, Ian Osrin and Sam Wingate, also featuring Kenny Mathaba (Malopoets) on guitar, Thapelo Khomo (Stimela) on keyboards, Ekkie Eckhardt on sax and guitar, and Ian Herman (Tananas) on drums. Intended as side project to experiment with new production techniques like sampling, the album nevertheless generated a radio hit in the song 'It's Amazing' and a suitably oddball music video, despite the song apparently being censored due to its not-so-subtle taking-the-piss of the Afrikaans establishment

HAPPY HAPPY - Party Time Again (1988)

White Dove/Hit City DOV(O)025
Producer: Blondie Makhene (exec: John Galanakis)
Engineers: Deran McNamara, Quinton King Madlala & Ilan Kometz
Recorded at: Platinum

Novelty album of synth-heavy Christmas carols, with 'Happy Birthday' thrown in for good measure. Featuring input from many of the Hit City stable's biggest stars, including producer Blondie Makhene, Vusi Shange, Dan Nkosi, Pure Gold, Zizi Kongo and Quinton King Madlala. Despite the all-star cast, there's only so much one can do with a Christmas carol.

* Mint copies of this album are on sale here 

TABU LEY ROCHEREAU - Face Ä Face (1991)

Tusk, HIH4002
Producers: Tabu Ley, Kayen Madoka & Sam Mbende
Engineers: Pascal Portrell & Franak
Recorded at: Gimmick Studio, Paris

As leader of Orchestra Afrisa and great rival of Franco's TPOK Jazz, Tabu Ley Rochereau was one of Africa's greatest musicians. As a bandleader and composer he helped launch the career of Mbilia Bel, the first female soukous star, marrying her in the process. When Bel went solo he discovered the next soukous diva, Faya Tess, who features on three tracks on Face Ä Face (face to face), billed as 'Le Grand Retour' ('The Great Return') of Rochereau. Packed full of interested synths, the album reflects Rochereau's attempts to keep with the times. The title track got no fewer than two different music videos, as did the catchy duet 'Sosolinga'.

The album was first released in the late 1980s, around the time Rochereau had gone into exile in France, before moving briefly to California in the early 90s. He subsequently returned to Kinshasa after the fall of Mobutu in the late 90s, soon getting into politics. He is said to have fathered well over 50 children, including French rapper Youssoupha. He died in Belgium in November 2013 and is buried in Kinshasa.

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here 

DAVID NYANISI - Misava Ya Dzinginyika (1991)

Producer: David Nyanisi
Composer: D. Chauke

Super slick Tsonga disco with fresh 90s synth sounds and spaced out call-and-response vocals. Co-arranged by Blanket Matuku, keyboardist Rivers Ngwenya and Moogo Hanyane. Liner notes also pay tribute to the late Shangaan disco king Paul Ndlovu (who died in a car crash in 1986) - "how could I forget you, you taught me so mug about music and life". In 2004 Nyanisi was nominated for a Xitsonga Music Award for Best Xitsonga Disco for Mahalibota.

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here