April '14

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


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SLIPSTREAM - Cruisin' (1987)

Reamusic, RML(V)2014
Producer: Keith Hutchinson
Engineer: Scotty Scott

Smooth jazz meets synth-funk for this innovative take on the bubblegum sound. Unfortunately the instrumental sax groove hasn't aged so well - it's cheesy and dated, but still boasts some super funky basslines and stinging synth riffs, derivate of American jazz funk (like The Crusaders, or early Jonathan Butler) with limited local influences on 'TJ'.

LADY THULI - I'm Gonna Make It (1989)

On Record, ONH110
Producer: Edward Jordan (exec: Ronnie Robot)
Engineer: Si Higgins

One half of popular duo Tools & Figs, alongside Mafika. Together they were a central part of the On Record stable's distinctive sound, which incorporated new school influences and studio sounds. On this precursor to 1990's Living In Africa, titles include 'Ngifuna Indoda' (I Need A Man), 'I'm Gonna Make It' (including a bass-synth heavy house mix) and the politically charged 'I Don't Understand': 

"I don't understand the fighting,
I don't understand,
the reason for all the pain,
I don't understand, 
why we can't live together,
I'm standing and crying in the rain..."

NIKI DALY - Whitey In Love (1989)

Sea/Tusk, SEK103
Producer: Murray Anderson
Recorded at: UCA. Cape Town

Daly had a hit with 'Is It An Ism or Is It Art?' from the 1984 album Living In The Suburbs, perhaps the best example of his inimitable style rooted in international trends but injected with local sensibilities and neuroses. Whitey In Love is full of more eccentric, witty, intelligent pop, driven by Daly's keyboard riffs and oddball lyricism - with notable glam and new wave influences (think Roxy Music, David Bowie, Talking Heads, Devo and Gary Numan). Songs address the absurdities of life under apartheid, best on tracks like 'Sunny S Africa', 'Turn Off Your Radio' and 'Be Bop Traffic Cop', with lyrics like:

"Well it's hot in the city,
It's so hot in the city.
We've got boys on the border,
and the girls are so pretty.
Everything's under control,
it's just a little hot in the city
Something is burning,
it must be Louis wearing out his tyres,
and the ethnic sound, 
coming out of the ground..."

SACKEY - Ilala Vuka (1987)

Tusk, TUSB3002
Producer: Lawrence Goreoang
Engineer: Kevin Manas
Recorded at: 8th Avenue

Popular Potchefstroom soulman Sackey finds the sweet spot with his heartfelt lyrics and catchy melodies on this follow-up to 1986's Hey-Tah-DahHere he writes, produces, sings and performs all instruments, with the exception of bass by George 'Nux' Mmolai and drum programming by Kevin Manas. The title track paints a picture of kasi nightlife ("Ufuna ukwazi igama lami"), while 'O S'ka Ikganisa' serves up funky dancefloor grooves. Elsewhere Sackey turns up the charm on 'Someone Like You', with the instrumental 'Leratong' showcasing his guitar skills over some smooth synth sounds.

VIVA - Don't Turn Your Love Away (1985)

Jive Wire, SV0114
Producer: Kevin Mason
Engineer: Mike Durandt
Recorded at: Coastal Recording, Durban

Hi NRG-inspired synthpop from Durban's own Mike Durandt, it follows the tried and tested formula of potent synths and sultry, effeminate vocals over uptempo rhythms that conjure images of sweaty aerobics studios and suburban discos. It's either generic or timeless, depending on your memories of the era. Also released in Canada on Power Records.

PERCY KAY - Don't Drink And Drive (1988)

Reamusic, RML(E)2018
Producer: Enoch Nondala
Engineer: Jan Smit

Following on from Come Down (1986) and Phehla (1987), this disc catches soul brother Percy Kay at his very best, with stinging synthwork on funky R&B-inspired grooves. Similar to the more successful Pat Shange, Kay's lyrics ranged from the domestic ('Cassanova', 'Love Affair') to more pressing social issues ('Don't Drink & Drive' and 'Final Notice').

UMPHAHLEKA no NGQI - Inkunzi (198?)

Leopard/Hit City, LEO071
Producers: RF Gumbi & Alton Ngubane
Engineer: RF Gumbi
Recorded at: Platinum

Tight mbaqanga grooves by the duo of Buzizwe Mchunu (aka Mphahleka) and Mhlanganisi Malindela Mzila (Ngqi), backed and co-produced by Felani Gumbi (a popular synth session man and engineer, here on drums) and Alton Ngubane (producer of the Madlala Brothers).

LIZ PASS - God Bless Africa (1989)

Password International, PWI001
Producer: Danny Antill
Recorded at: Decibel Studios

Beyond the evangelizing message are sophisticated productions by keyboard wiz Danny Antill (Sunset, Billy Paulson, Mara Louw - and still going strong as a solo artist) and powerful vocals from Ms Pass, who writes: 'I am a white African, born and raised in Zimbabwe, educated in the USA. I once had no hope, now God has given me hope. These songs express my heart-cry for Africa ... Only when we see Africa as God sees her will we know truth and peace." Showing off a variety of influences from jazz to pop. Best tracks 'God Bless Africa', 'I Believe in Africa', 'Alleluiah Amen' and 'Africa Is The Place' feature the 44-strong Sebokeng AFM Mass Choir.

MARGINO - Happy People (198?)

Roy B/Dephon/Gallo, RBL117
Producers: Attie van Wyk & Pikes Cronje
Engineer: Pikes Cronje
Recorded at: RPM Studios

Funky bubblegum grooves by Kim Kallie produced by the influential Attie van Wyk ("keyboards, synths, backing vocals and DMX drum machine"). Featuring guitarist Danny Bridgens (PT House, Children Of Africa, The Goolers) and a duet with Byron du Plessis (who incredibly went became frontman of American rock group Toto in 1990) on 'You'. Other tracks include the footloose 'You Turn Me On', 'You Need A Woman' and 'I'm Getting Out', as well as covers of Pure Energy's 'One Hot Night' (written by Curtis Hudson) and 'You' by Norwegian band Lava ft Randy Crawford. On other albums Margino also had huge hits with near identical renditions of 'Holiday' (made famous by Madonna) and Indeep's 'Last Night A DJ Saved My Life'.


Zim/Tusk, SUH1077
Producer: Bothwell Nyamhondera
Engineer: Willis Mbirimi
Recorded at: Shed Studios

Joe was a pioneering figure in Zimbabwe's music scene during the 1980s, spearheading the Sungura genre that ruled the airwaves, closely alongside the Chimurenga of Thomas Mapfumo and the Jit of the Bhundu Boys. He also helped to launch the career of stars like John Chibadura, System Tazvida and others. This Tusk release showcases Zimbabwean grooves at their hypnotic, inspiring best.

PAT SHANGE - Undecided Divorce Case (198?)

Roy B/Dephon, RBL136
Producers: Rick Wolff & Pat Shange
Engineers: Richard Mitchell & Ralph Martin
Recorded at: EMI Powerhouse, Priority, RPM

Pat hit the right notes with his synthesized African grooves, danceable beats and clever lyrics to secure a loyal audience all over Africa. 'We're All The Same' sends a powerful anti-apartheid message, while 'Shayile' and 'African Lady' celebrate the good times. Other titles include 'The Payable Fine' and the hit 'Undecided Divorce Case'. 

"Special thanks to Ace Mbuyisa for his magic fingers on keyboards. Also I would like to take my hat off to the lovely ladies who sang with love - Stella Khumalo, Beulah Hashe, Deborah Fraser, Merilyn Nokwe and the late Jean Madubane (may you rest in peace)."

THE SUPER TENS - Umsebenzi (1990)

Soul Brothers, MCM1010
Producers: Maxwell 'China' Mngadi & Moses Ngwenya

Named after old ten-seater taxis from the 70s, the Super Tens' soulful, synth-heavy mbaqanga made them one of the most popular non-bubblegum acts of the 80s. Following albums such as Indod'iyakhuluma (1981), Umuzi Wempi (1982) and Qinisela (1984), Umsebenzi ('work') was released on the Soul Brothers label and produced by the influential mbaqanga outfit's guitarist Maxwell Mngadi (who also produced the likes of Ihashi Elimhlophe and Soul Fire) and keyboardist 'Black' Moses Ngwenya.