Feb '15

Hola mpinji! This is AFROSYNTH, the realest African selection from back in the day!

This month we bring you leading ladies
NTOMBI NDABA, MAVIS MASEKO and SHADIII, mbanqanga from THISHA, new school grooves from LUCKY MEREKI, as well as the synth-packed GOSPEL GREATS compilation and the hard-hitting HIT PICK REMIXES compilation.

Earlier we brought you BIBI MSOMI, LAPPASIDE, JOYCE, the legendary RICHARD JON SMITH, AFRICAN IMAGE, LINGANISA NABAFANE BEJUBANE, xmas synths by BONNY, something different from THE SOFT SHOES and a 1985 tribute album to DESMOND TUTU.


BENJAMIN & THE YOUTH CHOIR - Holy Spirit (1986)

Roy B/Dephon, RBM056
Producer: Sello 'Chicco' Twala
Engineer: Dane Stevenson
Recorded at: Blue Tree

Today one of the biggest names in gospel, Pastor Benjamin Dube started out alongside bubblegum stars at the Dephon label like Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Sello 'Chicco' Twala, who produced this album. Later albums include Celebration (1994), I Feel Like Going On (1999), High Praise Explosion (2002), You Blessed Me Still (2005), All Time Favourites (2006), Looking Back and In His Presence (2007).

"Meadowlands-born Bonani Benjamin Dube is the last-born son of evangelists Mrs Grace Dube and the late Mr Benjamin Dube Snr....At the age of 14 he was shocked by the tragic death of his father, but had to continue from where Benjamin senior had left off to complete the race. He did his music diploma in piano at FUBA Academy in Newtown in the mid-eighties. Later with his family as The Dube Family released the album We Are What We Are (Gallo GRC, 1989) produced and written by him...Benny who was a member of Image started his solo career with his debut single 'I Live Joyfully'. In 1986 he released Holy Spirit as Benjamin and The Youth Choir. It was produced by Sello Chicco Twala at Dephon Records on the Roy B label. The title track which was written by Chicco Twala became a monster hit. In 1988 when Benjamin released Ebenezer he was already a household name who was invited to be a supporting act for the US gospel star, James Cleveland, when he toured South Africa. He later toured America where he shared the stage with greats like the Mighty Clouds Of Joy and Andre Crouche" (Mojapelo, 2008:332).

LUCKY MEREKI - You Got Me Dancing (1991)

Accord/Diamond/Tusk, AMH400
Producers: Lucky Mereki, Nic Paton & Meir Eshel
Engineers: Meir Eshel & Nic Paton
Recorded at: Miditone, Jhb

Underrated artist who put out this great album of R&B-inspired jams, handling all vocals, rapping, synths and songwriting. It's a refreshing change of pace, with slow and midtempo jams the order of the day, right down to smooth sax solos by Nic Paton (Jazzanians) and co-producer Meir Eshel - the only exceptions being the dancefloor-friendly title track, 'Your Lips' and 'Action'. A fine example of the pre-kwaito new school, alongside Taps, King Rap, Tashif' Kente and MarcAlex. Today Mereki is still going strong, recently collaborating with house DJ Dino Bravo.

MAVIS MASEKO - Bayehla Bayenyuka (1989)

Nu Beat/World Of Music, NUB5008
Producers: D. Ngubeni & R. Mvelase
Engineer: Neville 'Jack D' Holmes
Recorded at: Wellington Road Digitial Studios

Mavis Maseko fronted the legendary soul band The Movers on the 1978 album Amabungu. She re-emerged over a decade later with this solo album of slick Afro-pop. Featuring Dumisani Ngubeni (Brenda & The Big Dudes, Debs Fraser, etc) and Rogers Mvelase (Mordillo, Small) on keyboards and sax man Teaspoon Ndelu. "Let's stick to our African beat and sounds, because music is the only weapon of the future".

SHADIII - Pride Of Tomorrow/Last Chance (1986)

Righttrack/RPM, RTS641-12"
Producers: S. Khomo & Peter Moticoe
Engineers: Ian Osrin & Sam Wingate

"Former members of South Of Sahara, Tshidi Helen Leloka and Anneline Malebo (Joy) met a former member of The All Rounders, Faith Shadi Kekana, and formed a new trio, Shadiii. It was named after Faith but spelled with three i's at the end to show that they were three, as in Bob Marley's backing vocalists, I-Three" (Mojapelo, 2008:118). This maxi follows their 1985 debut, Yes I'm Gonna Give It Up.

VA - Hit Pick Remixes (1991)


The DPMC label helped define the new school sound of the early 90s that drew on house and eurobeat influences. This compilation is a sign of the times: big bass beats, samples and piercing female vocals were in; funky bubblegum was on the way out and kwaito was just around the corner. Featuring Syndicate Sisters ('You don't have to be white to be right'), crossover act Walk This Way, the South African version of the UK no.1 'Ride On Time' by Black Box, here credited as 'Bright on Time' by 'BB Plays Black Box', American favourite Gwen Brisco, and other young local acts like Liza Mezulu, Strike Force and New Age Kids.

THISHA - Ama1990's (1990)

Vuka Afrika/Priority VU(O)83
Producer: Moses Dlamini
Engineer: Wessel van Oudtshoorn
Recorded at: Powerhouse Studio

Thisha began his recording career in 1981, releasing albums like Geza, Thisha and Woza Year 2000, often backed by the mighty Soul Brothers. According to the liner notes, "In 1986 he was involved in a terrible car accident, and was hospitalized for over 10 months. But nevertheless Thisha came back stronger than before. He went on to record Nto Zami and has now followed up his success story with Ama1990's. The album that has everything enjoyed by the music lover! What impresses the most, is the variety of the songs and the style that confirms the confidence of so many thousands of fans - enjoy!"

VA - Gospel Greats, vol. 1 (1990)

Gallo/Mike Fuller Music (MFM), FML1032

Gospel hit the mainstream at the end of the 80s and many popular bubblegum and crossover acts tried their hand at the genre, some never turning back. Here the MFM stable seized the moment and put out a compilation featuring most of their biggest stars, including Mercy Pakela, Ali Katt, PJ Powers (Hotline), William Mthethwa and keyboard fiend Mathambo aka Bones Brettell. Then there are the established names of the genre like Rebecca, Benjamin Dube, Pure Gold, at times backed by the likes of the Holy Spirits Choir, Forever Mass Choir, Baragwanath Choir and Galathia Ama First Born Choir.

NTOMBI NDABA - Mina Ngilijaji (1988)

Anneko/EMI, MKZ(V)814
Producer: AT 'Rubber' Khoza
Engineer: Selwyn Shandel

After making her name fronting Ntombi & Survival, Ntombi Ndaba went solo in the late 80s. Her band also did their own thing, releasing The Big Mechanics in '89 as The Survivals, and continued to back her on Mina Ngilijaja. It's vintage bubblegum that shows off Ntombi's powerful vocals and songwriting skills, driven by uptempo synths and the complimented by the emphatic backing vocals of The Angels. The title track ('I am the judge') is a self-affirmation of note ("You can't tell me what to do!"), 'Flood' references the classic 'Pule ea na' by Hugh Masekela, Mara Louw, the Black Five and others, while obligatory slow jam 'Weakness In Me' is an uncredited but impressive cover of Joan Armatrading's 1981 hit.

AFRICAN IMAGE - Reality (1986)

Spinna/Roi/CTV, SPIN(0)3338
Producer: Tom Mkhize
Composers: Tom Mkhize & Neville Nash

African Image began as a crossover collaboration between Tom Mkhize (Uthando) and keyboardist Glynn Storm (Neville Nash, Backtrax), who in 1982 released the album Roots (Izimpande) featuring a host of top black and white local talent, including members of Abangani on vocals. In 1984 the album was picked up by the US label Gramavision, which released it in North America and Germany, adding English song titles and a new cover. In 1986 Mkhize sought to continue the success of the project, drawing on singer Neville Nash to record a new track, 'Reality', which was re-released locally in 1986 using the same cover as the 1984 international release of Roots (Izimpande) and also featuring a dub mix of the title track, as well as two tracks from the original 1982 album, 'The Way I Feel' and 'From The Roots'.

BIBI MSOMI - Gcobisa (1985)

Producer: Thokoza Elphus Memela
Engineer: Philip Nel

"One of the finest male voices of the eighties belonged to Bibi Msomi, the son of Noshukela and Mantombi Msomi. From a young age Bibi was inspired by vocalists like 'Mama Africa', Miriam Makeba. He released his maxi single You Are The Flower/ Frustrated Mind (Wea, 1985) co-written with Almon and Thokoza Memela who also produced it. It was arranged by Almon Memela and engineered by Philip Nel. His album What Kind Of Love Is This? (Right Track, 1987) was produced by Peter Moticoe and engineered by Humphrey Mabote and Lee Short at RPM record company. By 1990 he was with Dephon Music where he released an album that paid tribute to the continent's female superstar, Miriam Makeba, titled Makebamalitis. Banzi Khubeka and Cyril Mnculwane co-wrote and co-produced it" (Mojapelo, 2008:195).

THE SOFT SHOES - Soled Out (1983)

RPM, RPM1192
Producer: Attie van Wyk
Engineer: Pikes Cronje
Recorded at: RPM Studios

Long before today's ubiquitous TV talent searches like Idols and The X-Factor, The Soft Shoes emerged as winners of the SABC's 'Follow That Star' contest in 1983, due to the success of one song, 'Elvis Astaire', which reached number 4 on the SA charts. The band, made up of Jervis Pennington, Darren Magnusson, Roy Bramwell and Tinus 'Tommy' Maree, went on to release three albums. Looking at them now, it's hard to see how these guys broke hearts with their lame dance moves and cheesy 50s era rock n' roll and swing posing. Indeed the white pop scene soon took to superior acts like Face To Face, Ella Mental and eVoid. Interestingly, the Shoes were produced by Attie van Wyk, the same man responsible for launching the careers of black talent like Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Chicco at Dephon around the same time. If you love cheese, 
feast your eyes on this 35-minute TV special...


Soul Brothers, MXH7
Producer: David Masondo
Engineer: Fernando Perdigao & RF Gumbi

The Soul Brothers label is synonymous with the enduring quality of the band it's named after, and the skills and professionalism of David Masondo and Black Moses Ngwenya. Umakoti (bride) is deep, mellow, timeless traditional Zulu maskandi, a far cry from the Soul Brothers' mbaqanga pop.