November '14

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

This month we bring you more slick disco tunes from LORRAINE STAPLE, RUFARO, JOYCE and RONNIE MARTIN, instrumental pop from HARRY MOYAGA and THE YOUNG STARS, crossover from LAPPASIDE, and some traditional grooves by UMSALOFU NAMAVIZITHA and LINGANISA NABAFANE BEJUBANE.



RONNIE MARTIN - Don't Mess Around (1985)

Rufaro/Gallo/GRC, XRU118
Producer: Sipho 'Hotstix' Mabuse
Engineer: Phil Audoire
Recorded by: Ovation

Produced by Sipho 'Hotstix' Mabuse in his post-Harari prime, 'Don't Mess Around' is typical early bubblegum - innocent subject matter, repetitive English lyrics ("Don't mess around with a good thing..."), strong American R&B influence and a mid-tempo groove laid down real musicians, here led by some impressive guitar work. The B-side 're-mix' is more of a dub version and hardly deviates from the original.

THE YOUNG STARS - Gold Dust (1989)

Umkhonto, KHON1024
Producer: D. Sihlangu
Engineer: R. Sletcher
Recorded by: Gateway Studio

Fresh instrumental fusion of programmed beats, synths and sax jive sounds, with titles like 'Party Time' and 'Lets All Dance'. According to the duo, "We would like to thank those who encouraged us, especially Christinah K. Bogopane who spent a lot of time with us, and to thank Mr Santos James Ramatlhape. We won't forget our parents Mr and Mrs Ramatlhape and Mr and Mrs Pilane for praying and wishing us the best. The best of everything not forgetting our creator, the Lord Almighty God."

UMSALOFU NAMAVIZITHA - Washonaphi Ubaba (1986)

Daylight Beat/CCP, DB(A)4051511
Producer: Simon Ngwenya
Engineer: Jan Smit
Recorded by: EMI Studios

Superior quality traditional Zulu grooves courtesy of producer Simon Ngwenya (Indod'engaziwa, Abakhwenyana) who throws in some experimental synths and samples to spice up the traditional guitar-driven maskandi sound. There's even a rare English track, 'Hello Lavi', with its catchy refrain, "I want to see you tonight".

HARRY MOYAGA - Jonaaas (1987)

Mabob City/CCP, MMB(O)4061621
Producers: Rex Rabanye & Harry Moyaga
Engineer: Marks Mankwane
Recorded by: Emcee Studios

Moyaga has been a respected musician and visual artist for many years, including during the 80s with the Medu Art Ensemble in Botswana, and more recently fronting the Harry Moyaga Band in the UK. Here he delivers upbeat saxophone and flute instrumentals over some fairly experimental programming courtesy of co-producer, keyboard legend Rex Rabanye. Engineered by the legendary Marks Mankwane (a key figure in the Makgona Tsohle Band that backed Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens). "Dedicated to the Mothers, Fathers, Daughters and Sons of Southern Africa".

RUFARO - Rufaro (1987)

Challenger/Mac-Villa, CHM073-12"
Producer: Sidwell Duda
Engineers: Sam Wingate & Lee Short
Recorded by: RPM 

Top-quality disco grooves from a tight, full band along the lines of Zasha and with the Afro-rock influence of Harari. "Moses (Mahlangu, bass), Shadrack (Rameya, keyboards) and Joseph (Mngoma, drums) started as session musicians, playing in various studios in Johannesburg. Having backing numerous groups we decided to look for additional musicians and to record our own material. We met Ephraim (Hlope, keyboards) who playing keyboards for the now defunct Cannibals. He injected new life into the band and assisted us with our compositions. Together with our producer, Sidwell Duda, we auditioned several vocalists until we discovered Eric (Mmusi) who used to work with Cheek To Cheek and Sparks. After a few weeks of rehearsals we went into the studio for our first maxi-single 'The Mighty Birds'. For the backing vocals we used the powerful new trio Elegance."

LORRAINE STAPLE - Here I Come (Sizolala La) (1986)

Gallo/GRC, HUL40098
Producer: Richard Siluma
Engineer: David Segal
Recorded by: RPM Studios

Soulful grooves with the unmistakeable Stimela influence courtesy of a backing band of Ray Phiri, Thapelo Khomo, Felani Gumbi and Nana 'Coyote' Motijoane (Lorraine writes: "Nana, with your raunchy voice and arrangements you have made this album into something special"). Produced and engineered by Richard Siluma and David Segal, the same duo behind Lucky Dube and Stimela. Siluma takes care of Roland 707 and Yamaha DX7, with Tim Kraft on Linn 9000. This was her second full-length album, after the debut single 'On The Road Again/Let The Music Move Me' (1984) and the album You Belong to Me (1985). In 1986 Staple also recorded 'Together We'll Make It', a duet with Lucky Dube, which featured in the SABC's First National Song Festival.

"Lorraine Staple's solo career was Lloyd Lelosa's dream. Her real name was Lorraine Sibisi... Her music was the alternative of the time to Disco music. She had a mellow voice and her style of singing reminded one of Mavis Staples of the Staple Singers" (Mojapelo, 2008: 106-107).

Writes Siluma in the cover notes: "Lorraine Staple releases this album for her fans, in the hope that this is what they have been waiting for. Her message is: If you are tired of hearing daily disco music, this is the kind of music to listen to. Sit down, stretch your legs, relax and let Lorraine make you "Feel the Fire" in her music. We hope you enjoy this album."

SUKAZI MKHIZE - Sukazi Mkhize Namadube (1991)

Gaza/Sounds of Soweto GAZA(K)005
Producer: Buss Ngcobo
Engineers: Nevil Fox/Dean Haskins
Recorded at: The Note Factory

Deep maskandi grooves by one Elliot Sukazi Mkhize, in the mould of Ihashi Elimhlophe, Phuzekhemisi and many others. Inspired in part by the zebra, as the cover art and title ('and the zebras') suggest.

MAKAOTA AKALAME - Tau Ea Thaba No. 2 (1987)

CCP/EMI, RG(O)4051981
Producer: SM Khoza
Engineer: Graham Handley

Vintage Sotho grooves driven by upbeat rhythms, frantic accordian melodies and soaring vocals, still the hallmarks today of the Mountain Kingdom's perenially popular famo sound.

THE CHALLENGERS - Lendawo Ingcwele (198?)

Midnight Beat/Dephon, MBT208
Producer: Simon Ngwenya
Engineer: Phil Audoire
Recorded at: Orange 338

The Challengers were a popular Zulu gospel group not afraid of a synth or two, as the cover of this album (translated at "this holy place") suggests - partly no doubt due to the influence of producer and co-arranger Simon Ngwenya (Indod'engaziwa, Abakhwenyana). Altogether The Challengers released some 20 albums over the years. The key figure behind the group was Thokoza Msomi, who later established groups like iThemba Lama Khatholika (since 2001) and oMama be Nqaba yamaKhatholika. 

BYRON - Byron (1990)

David Gresham, DGR1167
Producer: John Capek

Byron (aka Jean-Michel Byron, aka Byron du Plessis) is a singer from East London who miraculously found himself fronting US rock band Toto in 1990 for their 'Past To Present' compilation, including four new songs for which he shared song-writing credit. In his brief stint with the band he gained notoriety for "diva-like" behaviour, infuriating the band's founding members and fans alike. He was quickly booted from the band and in an effort to redeem himself recorded this solo six-track album, retaining his only moderate hit with Toto, the power ballad 'Love Has The Power', as well as the original version's producer, John Capek. Byron shows his African roots on two other tracks, 'Sangoma' and 'Plaything', which go a long way to redeeming his image and this album. Interestingly the experience inspired Capek enough to record his debut solo album 'Indaba' in South Africa, released in 1991. Byron remains based in Los Angeles and in mid-2014 began recording a new album in Italy.

According to the accompanying press release from David Gresham Records, "Byron combines the best of pop, rock and ethnic elements creating an album of classy sophistication. 'Byron' is a superb local offering... a clear indication of the talent in South Africa."

KATIE PENNINGTON - Look What God Is Doing (1989)

Maranatha, MAR048
Producers: Danny Antill & Lukie Carelson
Engineer: Andre Groenewold
Recorded at: Maranatha

An American-born gospel singer who made an impact on the pop scene with her powerful vocals, most famously by featuring on the Stimela hit 'Where Did We Go Wrong', Pennington as a solo artist here delivers sugary gospel pop, with synths by Danny Antill (Sunset, Patience Africa, Liz Pass, Billy Paulson). "Although I was born, raised and educated in the United States, I have had a mission call to Africa since the day I asked Jesus into my life at age five. It has been my privilege to live and minister along with my husband Leif in this country of OURS for the last five years. Africa my home too!"

MINEBELT - Jealous (1988)

Teal Trutone, KVL5081
Producer: Peter Moticoe
Engineer: Humphrey Mabote

Funky disco grooves produced and composed by the prolific Peter 'Hitman' Moticoe (The Ghetto, Tom Dollar, Joy White, William Mthethwa, Brenda Fassie). Featuring lead guitarist Benjamin Nhassavele (later became part of the sucessful stage musical Umoja), drummer Godfrey Mgcina (Ymage, Hugh Masekela), keyboardist Joey Mabe (Mahlathini & Mahotella Queens) and backing vocals by the likes of Khanyisile Sibiya (Sweet Desire) and Ntombifuthi Mabaso (Hot Soul Singers).