June '16

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

This month we bring you classic bubblegum from JIVARO, KAKAPPA, SOWETO YOUTH BAND, ANGIE, V.O and GY, and some traditional grooves by SDLODLO, JACKSON MAXIMBYI & THE MPFUMARHI SISTERS and GIFT BROTHERS.

Last month we brought you more forgotten classics by the likes of Q, TAILS OUT, NOVIDADE and SUN.

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

GY - Vakon'wana (1988)

Power/Genesis. POH5000
Producer: Thomas J Masingi (exec: Joseph Mathebula)
Engineer: Jan Smit
Recorded at: Takk Studios, JHB

Unknown band Gy put out this album of six great songs, catchy but a little old-fashioned for 1988, with equal doses of guitars and synths. Judging by the cover photo the band was a four-piece with three female vocalists. Lyrics in English and xiTsonga focus on subjects of love ('Handsome Man', 'My Sweet Baby', 'I Cursed the Day', 'Empty Sky'). 


Music Team/Super Beat/Roi, ETL(C)5019
Producer: Shamza (exec: Enoch Ndlela)
Engineer: David Moloele
Recorded at: 338 Studio

Shangaan grooves by Jackson Maximbyi and his backing singers, incorporating traditional guitar sounds with distinctive electronic drum patterns still popular today in the world of Shngaan electro. Followed shortly after (unsurprisingly) by Inyoka Hansi No. 2

Mint copies of this album are for sale here.

SOWETO YOUTH BAND - Buya Africa (1990)

Music Team/Roi/Superbeat, ETL5025
Producer: Kelly Ndlovu
Engineer: David Moloele

Besides the better-known Hey Kids Wozala, the Kelly Ndlovu-led Soweto Youth Band put out another album in the same year of 1990, Buya Africa. Ndlovu composed, arranged and produced all six tracks on the album, which offer more synth-heavy instrumental grooves, along the lines of the similarly named African Youth Band, with plenty of flute sounds and midtempo drum programming. Ndlovu was also behind the all-girl group Sweet Desire.

Mint copies of this album are for sale here.

SDLODLO - Uzola (1985)

Music Team/Roi/Superbeat, ETL(C)5006
Producer: E. 'Shamba' Lerole
Engineer: Phil Audoire
Recorded at: Orange 338

Traditional Zulu grooves get a heavy synth makeover on this album from the mid-80s, produced by Elias 'Shamba' Lerole, brother of pennywhistle star Aaron 'Big Voice' Jack Lerole (and father of current pennywhistle revivalists Kwela Tebza), who began their music careers together in the late 1950s.

Mint copies of this album are for sale here.

KAKAPPA - Washaniseka (1990)

Super Beat/Music Team, ETL(T)5022
Producer: Danny Bridgens (exec: Enoch Ndlela)
Engineer: Adrian Strydom
Recorded at: Syntrax Studio

Five tracks of wicked synth grooves with a Shangaan touch, followed incongruously by the sax-drenched downtempo number 'Together'. Standout track 'Shangane Piu Piu' pokes fun at apartheid-era ethnic classification:

"Don't call me Shangaan, cos I'm not a Shangaan,
Don't call me Swazi, cos I'm not a Swazi,
I can speak iSwazi, but I'm not a Swazi,
I can speak iZulu, but I'm not a Zulu,
I can speak iSotho, but I'm not a Sotho,
I can speak iShangaan, but I'm not a Shangaan..."

Mint copies of this album are for sale here

JIVARO - Saturday Fever (1989)

Music Team/Roi/Superbeat, ETL5017
Producer: V. Ndlovu
Engineers: P. Audoire & D. Moloele

One of the few South African disco albums to gain international attention in recent years thanks to online diggers and DJs around the world. Produced, arranged and composed by Victor Ndlovu, with backing vocals by Beleoi Khamsule and Magengenene sisters Lizy and Ntsaleni. The album opens with 'What Next', which also gets a dub mix. Other tracks include 'Your Way is My Way' and two synth-heavy reggae numbers, 'Feel Me' and 'Is This Love?'. 

Mint copies of this album are for sale here

TAILS OUT - What Makes U Dance (1986)

RPM, 12XMC(C)4007516
Producer & Engineer: Bobby Summerfield
Recorded at: The Workshop

Bobby Summerfield was a respected club and radio DJ, engineer and producer. Around 1986 he was hired by Hilton Rosenthal's MINC label as an in-house producer, where he also released solo projects like Tails Out. A few years later he moved to Los Angeles as part of Rosenthal's new Rhythm Safari label. In 1993 he set up his own production company and studio, Summerfield Music (more about him here).

NOVIDADE - Voaria (1991)

Tusk, TUH19
Producers: Tata Sibeko & Thokoza Memela
Engineer: Humphrey Mabote
Recorded at: RPM Studios

Led by Mozambican guitarist Benjamin Nhassavele, Novidade were a trio also featuring Michael Mancu (keyboards) and Anderson Khomba (bass). Following 1988's Fun Time, the band had a hit with 'Voaria', which came out as a 12" single in 1990. The album of the same name came out the following year, and features five tracks blending Shangaan, Mozambican, Afro-Cuban and sophisticated electronic sounds, the latter thanks to producer Tata Sibeko, who handles programming and sequencing. Other personnel on the album are Isaac 'Mnca' Mtshali (Stimela, The Cannibals) on drums, saxman Mandla Masuku, Mozambican-born percussionist Johnnie Hassan and backing vocals by Tu and Marilyn Nokwe, Veronica Makgalemele and Mandisa Dlanga.

Nhassavele also recorded with Minebelt and was part of the stage musical Umoja. In 2014 he released a new solo album, Knock Knock.

Q - One (1989)

Producer: DPMC

Killer bubblegum by unknown band fronted by Manjoe Diphoko with Sammy Q and Dillo Monei on keyboards, Sipho Nziki (bass), Thabana Thabana (drums) and Ennie Williams and Ruth Morapedi (backing vocals). Songs 'Falling in Luv' and 'Tavern' both get remixes; other titles are 'Jive On' and 'No Money No Job No Pay'.

SUN - Looking For Love (1991)

Diamond/Tusk TUH36
Producers: Q-Sound & Sun
Engineer: Q-Sound
Recorded at: Tone Def Inc.

Sun (real name Poth Nkotsoe) established himself in the late 80s as one half of the popular duo Monwa & Sun. In 1990 they parted ways to pursue careers as solo artists and producers. 1991's Looking For Love follows Sun's eponymously titled 1990 solo debut, drawing heavily from early house and Eurobeat influences and utilizing Sun's Rick Astley-styled vocals. A sign of future trends, every title on the album is a 'mix' of some kind - including a 'new jack city remix'  of 'You Give Me Good Love' and a 'bassappella mix' of the title track. The liner notes give thanks to New York house icons Dave Morales and Tony Humphries, although it's not clear if they played a role in the album. Featuring on backing vocals Nelli 'Bibbi' Booi, whose solo album 'You Don't Mind' Sun produced that same year.

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here

SOWETO YOUTH BAND - Hey Kids Wozala (1990)

Music Team/Super Beat, ETL(C)5021
Producer: Kelly Ndlovu
Engineer: Darryl Heilbrunn
Recorded at: RPM

Instrumental synth and drum machine grooves with a pantsula touch, similar to Ayoboyo Band on the same label Music Team. Titles include 'Slender to Fatty' and 'Jika Magogo'. Produced by Kelly Ndlovu (Sweet Desire). SYB also released Buya Africa in 1990.

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here. 

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.