July '14

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

This month we bring you long-lost Shangaan grooves by one DAVID CHANKE, bubblegum from EMOTION, funky stuff by NEVILLE NASH, Sotho soul by KORI MORABA and MAKAOTA AKALAME, crossover from mlungu pantsula LIONFIRE and some early hits by Cape Town's own ROBIN AULD. Last month it was JOY, FACE TO FACE, DR VICTOR the microphone doctor, MATSHIKOS, STEM NET's political pop, JOSEPH DEE, KHUMO and HARAMBE.


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."

DAVID CHANKE - Xhimovana (1988)

SKR/Priority, SRH9003
Producer: Dan Ntanzi
Engineer: J Vermeulen
Recorded at: Audiotrax 

More obscure bubblegum grooves, split between Shangaan tracks on side 1 and Zulu on side 2 (something seldom permitted by state censors until the late 80s). Stinging synthesizers, upbeat dance rhythms and urgent call-and-response vocals from the ladies make this album yet another long-forgotten winner.

KHUMO - Rejoice & Party (1991)

BK/Tusk, BKH6004
Producers: G. Nzuza & L Masitha
Engineers: Meir Eshel, Graham & Andriaan
Recorded at: Miditone

Cool 90s grooves from Bethuel 'Khumo' Maseko, produced by Godfrey Nzuza, the man who behind the synth-heavy MFM sound of Ali Katt, Casino, Zone 3 and others. Featuring backing vocals from the likes of Suthukazi Arosi (Oshakati), Deborah Fraser and Donovan Knox. The title track captures the optimism that defined the transition to democracy. "To all my fans, I look forward to meeting you during my live shows this summer. Meantime!! Have a nice party - Just Boogie"

HARAMBE - Nweti Yi Herile (1986)

Umhlanga, UMM005
Producers: Rev. Joseph Tshawane & Cloud King

Funky bubblegum grooves packed full of synths. Sadly this obscure four-track album slipped below the radar, probably due to it being in Tsonga, although one of the tracks, 'Sunshine Lady', is in English. The Reverend Joseph Tshawane went on in 1987 to open the King-Luthuli Transformation Centre in central Joburg and dedicated his time to education.

JOSEPH DEE - Ikhethele / Choose For Yourself (1986)

Teal Sound, XPD2471
Producer: Joseph Makwela
Engineer: Phil Nel

Joseph Dumako made his name leading the prolific Holy Spirits Choir and the Forever Mass Choir, where he helped fuse gospel's call-and-response vocals with bubblegum's frantic synths. Solo he put out a string of potent keyboard instrumental albums. The title track here borrows the melody of the then-banned anthem 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrica', which Dumako recorded in full on his 1989 solo album Lover's Wedding. Later albums include Spiffy Diffy and Tigers Don't Cry. An underrated legend of South African gospel, he passed away in 2011.

STEM NET - Ja/Nee (1992)

Music Team/Donga DONGA(U)101
Producers: Nico Carstens & Fred Woods

As apartheid came to a close, in March 1992 a referendum was held among white voters to gauge their support for the reforms and negotiations already underway between President FW de Klerk and the recently unbanned struggle movement. Musicians got involved in this process, including Afrikaans stalwart Nico Carstens and new school producer Fred Woods (best known as part of the On Record stable during the 80s with acts such as Hanz, Tools & Figs and Sugar & Spice). Interestingly this release didn't necessarily encourage voters to choose in favour of democracy, but rather pushed them to 'stem net' (just vote). In the end the 'Yes' vote won with nearly 70%, giving De Klerk and co the public mandate from whites to end apartheid once and for all. 

DR VICTOR - Hello Africa (1991)

Producers: Chris Ghelakis & Marvin W. Moses
Engineers: Chris Ghelakis & Marvin W. Moses
Recorded at: TRS Music Studios

Victor Khojane first emerged came from Kimberley to Joburg in the early 80 with his band CC Beat. Later renamed Taxi, they served as the in-house band for the Dephon stable and also released a string of synth-fuelled bubblegum albums. In the 90s he teamed up with teamed up with nightclub owner Chris Ghelakis, one of the pioneers of the new school sound that bridged bubblegum and kwaito. He also got into reggae, at first recording covers such as Eddie Grant's 'Give Me Hope Jo'Anna' and dubbing himself 'The Microphone Doctor'. Here he covers Dr Alban's 1990 hit 'Hello Africa', a song they they re-recorded together in 2010. Featuring keyboards and programming by Marvin Moses, with backing vocals by the Syndicate Sisters. Dr Victor & The Rasta Rebels were one the biggest names of the 90s, opening for touring acts like Tina Turner, Janet Jackson and Gloria Estefan.