February '16

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

We kick off the new year with early electro grooves from AYOBAYO BAND, MASUTUTSA BAND and RAMASHELENG, not to mention the VENDA KIDS, SHADRACK NDLOVU and DAN NKOSI, as well as instrumental struggle songs by AFRICAN YOUTH BAND, reggae vibes from REGGAE MUNTU and soukous by NANA ET BANIEL.


To purchase still-sealed copies of these and other albums, click here!

VENDA KIDS - Wake-Up (1985)

Leopard/Hit City, LEO(A)085
Producers: Banzi Khubeka & John Galanakis
Engineer: John Galanakis
Composer: S. Singo
Recorded at: Platinum

Early album by the Venda Kids, a popular family band featuring the Singo brothers Ntango, Makana and Ndivha, along with others, with tracks composed by their dad Samson Singo and produced by the Hit City duo of Banzi Kubheka and John Galanakis (who also recorded together as Banjo). Benefitting from impressive guitar skills and some smooth synths, what gave the band their signature sound was a chorus of adolescent vocals. Titles include 'Goodbye Baby', 'What is the Matter with You', 'I am an Orphan' and and the gospel 'I want to Follow my Lord'. The album was followed in 1986 by The Lord is my Shepherd. By 1989 they had shortened their name to the V Kids and released the album Rambo.

NANA ET BANIEL - Bouger le Coq chante (1991)

Tusk, HIH4001
Producer: Mukubwa Sammy
Engineers: Alan Ward, Mike B. & Tony
Recorded at: Studio Madeleine, Brussels

Congolese female vocal duo Baniel Mbambo and Nana Akumu featured on Franco's TPOK Jazz album Les 'On Dit' in 1987. They later recorded this album together, creating hypnotic vocals over intricate guitar work, groovy baselines, driving rhythms and tasteful horns. Each penned two of the tracks, as did producer Mukubwa Sammy. Titles include 'Tremblement de Terre (Earthquake)' and 'Samantha je suis Trouble'. Originally released on Belgian label Espera. 

  • Mint copies of this album are for sale here

RAMASHELENG - Masemys (1990)

TFM/NB Records, TFML79
Producers: Tom Mkhize & V. Mthimkhulu
Engineer: Jan Smit
Recorded at: Takk Studios

Catchy pre-kwaito pantsula grooves heavily influenced by the likes of Chicco, Splash and Dan Nkosi, with a faster, more electronic groove. Composed by one S Malefo and produced by Tom Mkhize (Abangani, African Image, Neville Nash, Uthando). Tracks include 'Shebeen Girls' and 'I Will Follow Them'.

AFRICAN YOUTH BAND - Thula Sizwe (1989)

Leopard/Hit City, LEO(V)069
Producer: Blondie Makhene
Engineer: Deran McNamara

By the late 1980s Blondie Makhene had done it all as a solo artist, bandleader and producer. As musicians were drawn increasingly into the struggle against apartheid, his African Youth Band recorded recognisable 'struggle songs' as synth-powered instrumentals to avoid censorship. They released Nkosi Yami (1987) and Vuka (1988). 1989's Thula Sizwe is dedicated to "The men and women on the morning and afternoon trains to and from work. Keep shaking those coaches with dance and song." Following 1990's Woya Moya, the band evolved into Amaqabane, enjoying massive sales into the 90s and reuniting in recent years.

"Though some of the tracks had very few lyrics, it had heavy political undertones. AYB's other hits include 'Ntate Modise', a track that almost became the unofficial national anthem before 'Nkosi Sikelel'iAfrika'. This due to its prominence as a signature tune when the nation was waiting with bated breath on 11 February 1990 as the gates of Victor Verster Prison (now Drakenstein Prison) were thrown wide open for Dr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela to walk free… The freedom songs challenged the status quo and agitated for a spy transformation" (Mojapelo, 2008:34).

* Mint copies of this album are available for sale here.

MASUTUTSA DANCE BAND - Vol 1: Setsokotsane (1991)

Diamond, TUH35
Producers: Professor & Doc Mice
Mixed by: David Moloele
Engineers: T. Mdluli & A. Cadabra

Co-produced and composed by Thami Mdluli (Professor Rhythm, Taboo, CJB), one of the leading names in early SA electronic music. While the Professor's solo albums from the same time are all instrumental, the Masututsa Dance Band makes use of a chorus of female vocals - The Super Trio - adding depth to the sound. Setsokotsane ('hurricane' in Sesotho) is split into "chapters" rather than sides. The first relies more heavily on drum machines and samples for an upbeat dancefloor groove that pre-empts kwaito and house. The second chapter ventures into other territory, drawing influences from the Dalom Kids (on 'Hayi Uku Dlala Ngami' / don't play with me), the gospel of Platform 1 (on 'Dineledi' / star) and the flute-driven anthems of Blondie's African Youth Band ('Abazali Bami' / my parents).

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here 

THE CRACKERS - Zama (1980)

Masterpiece, LMS561
Producers: Moses Dlamini & Stanley Nkosi
Engineer: Phil Audoire
Recorded at: Satbel

More smooth soul from the beginning of the 1980s. Featuring on bass Peter Moticoe, who would soon make his name as producer of Shangaan disco king Paul Ndlovu, as well as countless others (Peter Maringa, The Ghetto, Joy White, Joyce, Minebelt, Tom Dollar, Bibi Msomi, Shadiii, Obed Ngobeni, etc).

AYOBAYO BAND - Sorry Bra (1989)

Roi/Music Team, RLLPC061
Producer: Zenzele 'Sister Monica' Magwaza
Engineer: Mr Mixer
Composed by: ZE Mntungwa
Recorded at: 338

"The eighties saw the mushrooming of 'Mapantsula' dance groups both in urban and rural areas. In 1987 almost every group was dancing to J.M. Silk's album 'Hold On To Your Dream'… Local record companies responded to this with groups like The Hard Workers, Ayobayo Band and Makhweru. The Hard Workers' album Ayoba-Yo featured the hit 'Take Away' composed by Mphix on Music Team's Red Label. The success of the album saw the formation of the group Ayobayo Band, which released albums like Hey Ta Da engineered by Danny Bridgens on the same Music Team label." (Mojapelo, 2008:76). 

On Sorry Bra the band puts out impressive, mostly instrumental electronic dance music that foreshadows the rise of kwaito a few years later. Other tracks include 'Majida', 'Drunken Man', 'Homeless Man', 'Giyane Special' and 'Durban Station'. The band also released Phuza Face (not to be confused with Banjo's album of the same name). 

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here 

LES CHAMPIONS DU ZAIRE - Hommage a Franco OK Jazz (1991)

Tusk, HIH4000
Producer: Didier Boluwe
Engineer: Alan Ward
Recorded at: Studio Madeleine, Brussels

Congolese soukous from Les Champions du Zaire, paying homage to the legendary Franco Luambo Makiadi and his OK Jazz band (aka TPOK Jazz), one of Africa's most successful bands since their formation in the late 50s. When Franco passed away in October 1989, various incarnations of the band's many members recorded numerous tribute albums, including this one by a group of Franco's touring entourage who were based in Belgium. Led by guitarist Dizzy Mandjeku, the group later evolved into Odemba. Here they put a modern touch on the soukous sound with some added synths.

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here 

PROFESSOR RHYTHM 4: Radihepehepe (1992)

Diamond/Tusk, TUH38
Producer: Professor Rhythm
Engineer: David Moloele
Recorded at: Shandel Music

Thami Mdluli started out as bass player for the Hot Soul Singers and got into production during stints with CJB and Taboo, also producing for other artists such as Benjamin Ball and Sox. At the end of the 80s he left Eric Frisch to join Tusk and embarked on a solo career as Professor Rhythm, releasing four gold-selling albums that showcased his production skills in some of South Africa's earliest fully electronic dance music. Mdluli later moved into gospel and then jazz, and currently runs a recording studio, Studio 12, as well as a publishing company in Johannesburg.

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here 

THE RHYTHM KINGS - Mantwa (1982)

City Lights/Rainbow, CGH5004
Producer: Maxwell Mngadi

Smooth Sotho soul with a healthy dose of early pre-bubblegum organ sounds, produced by Maxwell Mngadi (Soul Brothers, Super Tens, Soul Fire, Peace Brothers). Striking the right balance of timeless grooves, traditional touches and modern instrumentation, best on 'Nthabiseng' with its soaring male vocal harmonies and thumping beat. 'Gasane' and 'Nifike A Jonie' also stand out for piercing synth leads giving them a futuristic touch.

ALMOMO - Tando (1989)

Hit City HC(O)905
Producer: Charles Mogale
Engineers: Richard Sletcher & Quinton King Madlala
Recorded at: Gateway & Powerhouse

Alvin 'Almomo' Mogale released this his only album, produced by his brother Charles Mogale, better known as an influential and charismatic newspaper man from the 1970s until his death in 2012. Charles also plays all instruments, mainly a barrage of synths and drum machines, while Alvin writes and sings. Despite their lack of experience the end result is classic bubblegum that still sounds fresh today. Tracks include 'AEIOU', 'Inkalakatha', 'Heroes' and 'Sad State'.

Almomo writes in the album notes: "The album is the result of a life-long desire between my brother Charles and I to record an album. He is the one person without whom none of this could have ben possible. Thanks a million brother". Referring to the title track 'Tando' (love), he adds: "May 'Tando' reach out to every home in our country - this strife-torn country we love so much".

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here

OKIE - I'm Missing You (1990)

Tusk, TUH4
Producer: P. Nel
Recorded at: Universal Studios

Catchy bubblegum from Okie Mashiloane, slickly produced if a little derivative of established acts like Hotstix ('I'm Missing You'), Steve Kekana ('Love') and Chicco ('Corobreak') - but by 1990 the same could be said of most disco releases. Best track 'Ximanane' serves up wobbly Shangaan synths and uplifting call-and-response vocals. Mashiloane in 1988 featured on crossover project Lionfire's Rip-off.