August '14

Hola mpinji! This is AFROSYNTH, the realest African selection . . .

This month we bring you bubblegum grooves from PATIENCE AFRICA and PRINCESS, early house from NOVIDADE, Tshivenda stars the ADZIAMBEYI BAND, mbaqanga heroes the SOUL BROTHERS, vastrap with the IKEY GAMBA DANCE BAND and something funky from SAKKIE. Last month we checked out DAVID CHANKE, EMOTION, NEVILLE NASH, KORI MORABA, LIONFIRE and ROBIN AULD.


SAKKIE - Linda / Comma Comma (1986)

Right Track, RTS647-12"
Producer: Sakkie Ndlovu
Engineer: Sam Wingate
Recorded at: RPM Studios

Funky stuff by one Sakkie Ndlovu. 'Comma Comma' was co-written by Sipho 'Hotstix' Mabuse and bears a close resemblance to one of his hits from the same year, 'Shikisha', with similarly potent synths and dancefloor rhythms. On the other side, 'Linda' drops all local influences and instead sounds like a slick power ballad, somewhere between Lionel Richie and Foreigner, complete with lyrics like "I feel like the first time...".

NOVIDADE - Voaria (1990)

Tusk, TUM700
Producer: Tata Sibeko
Engineer: Peter Pearlson
Recorded at: RPM

Very early South African house track, released as a single ahead of Novidade's six-track album of the same name in 1991. The group also released the album Fun Time in 1988 with Gallo. Produced by the late Tata 'TNT' Sibeko (Small, Shalom, Judi), 

PRINCESS - Let's Do It (1989)

Sounds of Soweto, SLH6012
Producer: Bushy Seatlholo
Engineers: K. Manas & S. McNamara
Recorded at: Hi-Tech

Bushy Seatlholo was one of the most influential keyboardists of the bubblegum era. He provided sizzling synths to bands like The Big Dudes, Spirits Rejoice, Joy and Theta and did session work for the likes of Hugh Masekela, Barney Rachabane, Caiphus Semenya, Neville Nash and many others. Following the demise of the Big Dudes, at the end of the 80s he took under his wing a young singer named Princess Mthembu, who had taken part in the popular talent search the Shell Road to Fame. Bushy's skills are all over this album, having composed and produced all six tracks. Add Princess's powerful vocals, reminiscent of Rebecca Malope and Brenda Fassie and the result is one high-quality album. Princess later worked with Masekela and apparently went through the rehabilitation programme of the organisation he founded, Musicians, Artists Assistance Programme of South Africa (MAAPSA). 

SOUL BROTHERS - Hluphekile (1991)

Soul Brothers, SBH1009
Producers: Moses Ngwenya, David Masondo & Maxwell Mngadi
Engineers: Fernando Perdigao & Neville Holmes
Recorded at: Powerhouse

The undisputed kings of mbaqanga arguably reached their peak in the 90s, with over a decade of experience and success under their belts, but still keeping old age at bay. Hluphekile is characerised by throbbing basslines and stinging synths courtesy of Black Moses Ngwenya. The title track (meaning 'troubled' or 'tormented') was released internationally on 'Jive Soweto', the fourth instalment of the popular 'Indestructible Beat of Soweto' compilation.

ADZIAMBEYI BAND - Volume 7: Putani Dzanu (1991)

Zim/Mpumelelo/Beat City/Tusk, QBH1141
Producer: S. Depete & A. Maphwanya
Engineer: Richard Austen
Composer: Elias Sirwali
Recorded at: RPM Studios

The Adziambeyi (usually spelt Adziambei) Band is a Tshivenda group founded in 1982 by Elias Maele Sirwali in the rural north-east of the country. He was later joined by his older brother Tshivhangwaho Raedani, Johannes Kwinda and Sarah Masindi. They released their first album, Midzimu ya Madimoni, in 1983 and remained popular into the 90s before disbanding, only to reunite in 2012 for the release of a new album, Shango lo Takala in 2012, followed by Mutula Gole in 2013. Sadly Raedani passed away in 2013.

PATIENCE AFRICA - Wozani La (1987)

Reamusic, RML(O)2011
Producer: Danny Antill
Engineer: Keith Forsyth

"Patience Africa was another tigress of South African music in the late 1970s and the 1980s. The second-born in a family of six, she started singing at the age of 11. After showing her talent as a student, she joined a Durban group known as Jazz Sledge. When she went to Johannesburg she joined the Hollywood Jazz Band. Upon her marriage in 1965 she took a break from music and became a housewife. When she later contact West Nkosi of Muvuthela Music Company for a comeback, the result was the recording of one of her best sellers 'Bhula Sangoma', became huge even in neighbouring states like Zimbabwe. She was most popular for her love songs, which included 'Sakatuku' and 'Basadi Mamelang'. Her albums include Ilanga Malishona (1977), Siyabonga (1979), Let's Groove Tonight (1980), Ebang Le Mohau (1982), Mabewena A Duduza (1983), Batho Ba Lesotho (1984), Sesi We... Life Is What You Make It (1986) and Wozani La (1987)" (Mojapelo, 2008:88).

LIONFIRE - Rip-Off (1988)

Lionfire/Bop/Tusk, LFH3
Producer: Taso Stephanou
Engineer: David Moloele
Recorded at: Orange 338

Early crossover project by Taso Stephanou, better known as the promoter behind the Lion Lager Roadshow, one of the biggest gigs of the 80s. In fact Mojapelo (2008:81) suggests that Lionfire was created just for the Roadshow itself. Stephanou had earlier worked in East Africa in the 1970s, writing songs for Afrobeat act Mokonde, and after moving to SA produced Steve Kekana's 1983 album 'Night Boot Patrol' before releasing 'Kookie' as Lionfire in 1984. In the early 90s he put on the the Coca Cola Full Blast Music Show, which helped launch kwaito stars like Arthur, and continued to make his mark as a music sponsorship guru. But as producer/musician, Stephanou did a great job with Lionfire, a slick crossover effort that still sounds funky today. Also contributing were Okie Mashiloane ("vocal assistance") and Pinkie on keyboards, and prolific soundman David Moloele. The title track is a synth-fuelled pantsula winner that tells the tale of a guy who confronts the tsotsis who robbed him:

So I'm walking back to town, 
and I see them in the yard.
I pretended not to see, 
then surprise them from the rear!
'Come on boys I'm one of you, 
I can dance pantsula too!
Let's be friends - give me my things, 
I'll forget just what you did.'
We are all just dancing now, 
dancing our pantsula style.
Hey I'm jiving just like you, 
jiving our pantsula style...

EMOTION - Sprocket/Give Me The Feeling (1987)

Challenger/Mac-Villa, CHM074
Producer: Sidwell Duda
Engineer: Sam Wingate
Recorded at: RPM Studios

Red-hot disco grooves on this two-track maxi, both composed by S Likhethe and E Lukhele. It's uptempo dance music with English lyrics, loaded with synthesizers from this unknown seven-piece outfit. Produced by Sidwell Duda who also worked with Denis Yekani & The Movement, Elegance and Abagandayi.

NEVILLE NASH - What's Your Name? What's Your Number (1985)

Kato/Solid, 12PERM(c)502
Producer: Thomas Mkhize
Engineer: Richard Mitchell
Composers: J. Zikhali, S. Chambale & T. Mkhize
Recorded at: RPM Studios

Alongside of the likes of Ronnie Joyce, Supa Frika, Al Etto and Melvyn Matthews, Mr Nash was one of the funkiest guys around and still commands a cult following among funk collectors all over the world. Early in his career he had international releases like 'Disco Lover' (1979) in Spain and  'It's A Real Good Feeling' (1981) in the Netherlands. Other albums include Kind Hearted Man (1980), Neville Nash (1981), Diamonds & Peals and Solid Gold (1982), 'Love Me Now/Funky Feelin' (1983), Teaser (1984) and Why? (1986). 

In 1985 he performed his hit 'One Of These Night' at the historic Concert In the Park. That year he also released the cheeky single 'What's Your Name? What's Your Number?', produced by Tom Mkhize (the two also recorded together under the name African Image). Featuring among others Joe Zikhali on guitar, with keyboards by Bushy Seatlholo (The Big Dudes, ChiccoCaiphus Semenya) and Solly Letwaba (Savuka), the latter also playing bass, and backing vocals by Anneline Malebo and Felicia Marion of Joy.

VA - The Second National Song Festival (1987)


As South Africa's townships burned, government pulled out all the stops to try to stop the rising tide of resistance to apartheid. To this end, in 1986 the SABC launched an ambitious annual project known as the National Song Festival, with each of its 15 (later 17) radio stations represented by an artist (Mojapelo 2008:78). The selection of artists would be released annually as a compilation album celebrating the organised segregation of the music industry. 

Interestingly, by the time of the Second National Song Festival in August 1987, the government had adapted its policy with regards to popular music to embrace the crossover trend for its own ends. For example a white artist (Vernon Roux) was selected to represent Radio Swazi, while mixed-race acts represented Radio Zulu (Lorraine Staple and Karleen Kane), Radio Highveld (Malie Kelly, Kim Kallie aka Margino and Felicia Marion), Radio Port Natal (Friends First) and Radio Sesotho (Isaac). All of the songs carried messages of peace and reconciliation, eg 'Our Home in Africa', 'Children Of Africa', 'Let's Join Hands', 'Happiness' and 'You Can Make It Work'. Also featuring Supa Frika, Mordillo, Taboo, Ricardo, Johnny Mokhali and Yvonne Chaka Chaka. Perhaps audiences could see through the SABC's hypocrisy, as the festival doesn't seem to have made it to a third edition.

KORI MORABA - Le Rato Howena (1981)

RPM, RPM7057
Producer: Jimmy Mojapelo
Engineer: Hennie Hartmann
Recorded at: RPM Studios

Kori Moraba was a popular figure on the Sotho soul scene alongside contemporaries like the Black Five, Babsy Mlangeni and Mpharanyana. In 1977 he released one of the earliest examples of homegrown reggae, entitled Sotho Reggae, years before the likes of the Dread Warriors, Lucky Dube and Steve Kekana. In 1978 he led The Minerals line-up that released 'Maditaba' in Europe. 1981's Le Rato Howena captures him in his prime. Moraba continued to have hits during the 80s, many written by Jimmy Mojapelo, and in 1992 released Victims of the System (1992).

ROBIN AULD - Z-Astaire (1984)

Mountain, MOULP(M)38
Producer/Engineer: Kevin Shirley
Recorded at: Spaced Out Sound Studios, Cape Town

Born in Zambia in 1959, Auld moved to Cape Town as a child. In his late teens he played guitar for local favourites the Lancaster Band. In 1982 he released his first solo album, At The Corner, followed two years later by Z-Astaire, also the name of his backing band at the time ('Z' rhyming with 'Fred' in South African English). Both albums were on the influential Mountains Records label (also home to David Kramer and others) and produced by Kevin 'Caveman Shirley (who left for Australia in 1987 and later the US, working with seminal hard rock acts like Aerosmith, Iron Maiden, Rush and Journey). 

In 1986 Auld moved to the UK, returning to South Africa in the early 1990s and releasing popular albums such as Love Kills, Heavy Water and Zen Surfing in the 3rd World on the Shifty label. After another long stint in the UK, he is back in Kalk Bay, still performing, and running a label called Free Lunch. Z-Astaire includes Auld's breakthrough hit, 'Baby You've Been Good To Me'. Auld later wrote of the song on his website: "The suburbs loved it as much as the hip underground hated it. They both must have sensed my natural empathy for white trash culture."