September '17

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


Leopard/Hit City, LEO(H)020
Producer: Thomas 'Makhulela Endleleni' Motshwane
Engineer: RF Gumbi
Recorded at: Platinum

As was often the case with South Africa music, the best results came about when musicians and producers of various backgrounds defied apartheid rules and collaborated. So although the final product here is an album of Tsonga music, giving it that superior touch are top players like Felani Gumbi and Vuka Mbele who handle all keyboards, including plenty of spacey samples. Frontman T.S.D. Maseve plays bass and in his notes makes it clear that his music is for one and all: “My thanks to all the people who worked on this album with me. I hope all of you will enjoy my Tsonga Music.”

BIBBI - You Don't Mind (1992)

Diamond, DMD3
Producer: Sun
Engineer: Jorge Arrigone
Recorded at: Shandel Music Studios

New-school grooves produced by Poth ‘Sun’ Nkotsoe, formerly one half of Monwa & Sun and a popular solo act after his eponymous debut in 1990 and Looking For Love (1991). He surely could’ve put his own name on this four-track album, given that the early house beats take centre stage.

IZINSIZWA - Uthandabani? (1991)

Music Team, WHR(C)101
Producer: Bheki Ngcobo
Engineer: Danny Bridgens
Composer: Bheki Ngcobo
Recorded at: Kitchen Sync

Synth-heavy mbaqanga along the lines of the Soul Brothers, Abangani, Madlala Brothers and many others. Produced by Bheki Ngcobo (Ihashi Elimhlophe) and engineered by keyboard wizard Danny Bridgens. Best tracks ‘Isingehlule’ and ‘Intozami’ see Izinsizwa (the young men) replacing traditional Zulu guitar lines with uptempo synths for infectious, offbeat winners. 

  • Mint copies of this album are for sale here 

POOSH - Check Ups (1991)

Music Team, ETL(C)5028
Producer: Danny Mokoka
Engineer: Danny Bridgens
Composer: Vusumzi Keiser Dipu
Recorded at: Syntrax

Debut album from Pumla Mtengwane, with all songs composed and keyboards played by Keiser Dipu, former frontman of Chaka. Uptempo pantsula grooves with Poosh’s singing and rapping often taking a backseat to frantic beats and layers of synths, best on tracks like ‘Johnny Boy’, ‘Do It’ and ‘Sisi Rebecca’, a funky ode to rising star Rebecca Malope.

“From humble beginnings singing in a choir choir, talent competitions and shows, here is my debut album. Thank you to Keiser Dipu for always believing in me and my dream. Together we had made this album come true. Special thanks to Music Team for the chance in a million to record my album and for the support and encouragement they have given me. Everybody has a dream, and if you can dream it, you can achieve it.”

SYNDICATE SISTERS - Foolish Games (1991)

Producers: Marvin W. Moses, C. Ghelakis & G. Vardas 

Leaders of the new-school sound that drew influence from international trends like Eurobeat and New Jack Swing, the DPMC label struck gold with the Syndicate Sisters, a trio whose sound typifies the early 90s pre-kwaito sound, along with MarcAlex, J.E. Movement and others. All instruments and programming by Marvin Moses, featuring guest vocals by a young Ringo Madlingozi (on ‘Bad Boy’) and the late great Ronnie Joyce (on ‘Every Song’).

THETHA - Move Me Closer / Call On Me (1983)

Spinna/Roi/CTV, 12SPIN3328
Producers: Tom Mkhize, Glynn Storm & Thetha
Engineers: Hennie Hartman & Richard Mitchell

Armed with the most talented bass player in the business in Bakithi Kumalo, Thetha were one of the slickest early bubblegum outfits, alongside the The Rockets and others. The two tracks on this 12” are not their best however, with the band striving for an overproduced "international" sound with minimal local influence.

  • Mint copies of this album are for sale here 

TERYLENE - Listen to the Music (1984)

Jive Wire/Head’s, SV0079
Producer: Peter Moticoe
Engineer: Martin Moss

Obscure early 80s disco single on Emil Dean Zoghby’s Heads label, produced by the legendary Peter Moticoe and co-written by future bubblegum star William Mthethwa alongside J. Ramauwane and T. Lyn. Full of funky synths, best showcased on the B-side dub version.

THE BOXERS - The Fighting Prince (1986)

Spinna, 12SPIN(C)3336
Producer: Phil Audoire
Engineers: Phil Audoire & David Moloele
Recorded at: Orange 338

Promotional single for popular boxer Arthur ‘The Fighting Prince’ Mayisela, accompanied at the time by a music video. The song itself isn’t as bad as this might suggest, particularly the B-side versions (‘Ring Mix’ and ‘Video Mix’) with their stripped down synths, falsetto vocals and funky bassline. Featuring keyboards by Emil Dean Zoghby and ‘drums and computers’ by producer Phil Audoire. File under Sports along with the many South African soccer albums, next to 'Dingaan Thobela'.

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here 

T-GROUP - Luambo (1991)

Beat City/Tusk, QBH1143
Producer: Ananias Maphwanya
Engineer: Lee Short
Recorded at: RPM

Venda grooves driven my guitar and bass but underpinned by plenty of sweet synths and organ sounds, with infectious call-and-response vocals that work best on tracks like ‘Ndokondelela’ and ‘Wo Ndingelani’. Composed and produced by Ananias Maphwanya (Gift Brothers).

PARK STATION - Culani (1991)

Music Team/Roi/Red Label, RLLP(C)080
Recorded at: Howard Morgan Studio

Synth instrumentals of songs composed by Platform 1, Pure Gold and the Zion Christian Church (ZCC), among others. The result is an album full of interesting synth sounds over funky basslines, similar to African Youth BandS.Y.B., J.G. Project and others. Named after the train station in downtown Johannesburg.

SENYAKA - Ntate Senyaka (1991)

Roy B/Teal, RBL186
Producer: Senyaka Kekana
Engineer: Peter 'Mahamba' Pearlson
Recorded at: Downtown Studios

Following the groundbreaking album Fuquza Dance (1987) and the subsequent success of Portuguese (1988) and Sophiatown (1989), kwaito forerunner Senyaka Kekana’s 1991 album Ntate Senyaka was certainly not his best, attempting to blend his signature rapping style with traditional accordian grooves. He was soon back to his best for 1993’s Ma-Gents and remained popular as an artist and actor until his untimely death in 2015.

J.G. PROJECT - Khay'elitsha Sunrise (1990)

Hit City, HC003
Producer: John Galanakis
Engineer: John Galanakis
Recorded at: Platinum

One of the top producers of the era, John Galanakis launched the careers of some of bubblegum’s biggest names, including Dan Nkosi, Zizi Kongo and Benjamin Ball. An accomplished musician in his own right (with Banjo and others), in 1990 Galanakis released this solo studio project of instrumental synth jams. Dedicated to the plight of the homeless and poor in South Africa, the song titles pay homage to some of the country’s famous townships: Khayelitsha, Kliptown, Crossroads, Orange Farm and Mshenguville, while others refer more generally to the township experience, such as ‘Jimmy’s Shack’ and 'Zozo in the City’.  

“This is the beat of the City,” the liner notes proclaim. “It is the sound of the country village. It is the soul of the squatter camps. It is the sadness of the past, and the hope of the future. It is joy for today. It is Africa”

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here