August '16

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

This month we bring you classic pantsula grooves from CHAKA, AYOBAYO BAND, HARD WORKERS, FAST MOVE, THE SCOTCH BAND and VENDA KIDS. Also look forward to albums by OZIAS, SPOKES H, VOLCANO and more.

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

FAST MOVE - Uzolala La (1989)

Music Team/Roi/Red Label, RLLP055
Producers: Danny Bridgens & ZE Magwaza (exec: Enoch Ndlela)
Engineers: Darryl Heilbrunn & Ralph Martin
Composer: ZE Magwaza
Recorded at: RPM Studio


Another winner from producer Eddie Magwaza, who was also behind V.O. and Ayobayo Band before his life was cut short in a shooting. Catching the tail-end of the bubblegum-era, tracks like ‘Jika Magogo’ and ‘Watch Out’ are inspired by the burgeoning pantsula trend that soon gave rise to pre-kwaito instrumental grooves, although vocals still feature prominently here on tracks like ‘No Smoking in the Taxi’ ("There was this gentleman who kept on bugging everyone, he really don't know the rules of the taxi, from the way he took out his cigarette...")


VOLCANO - Tshigubu Tshanga (1993)

Eric Frisch/ZMC, EFL1087
Producers: Doctor X & R. Makhubele
Engineers: L. Mokoena & M. Makume
Mixed by: L. Mokoena & M. Makume
Recorded at: Suite 3 Studios


One of the biggest bubblegum bands of the 80s, Volcano parted ways with Gallo in late 1990, joining Eric Frisch's label and recruiting new members to back frontman Richard ‘Poso’ Mhubele, ensuring that they continued putting out great music into the 90s. Most of this album, their sixth, relies on tried-and-trusted Shangaan-influenced synths similar to their arch-rivals Splash, but on ‘Vanonyana Lava’ and ‘Another 24 Hours’ the new-school kwaito groove is obvious. For vinyl lovers however by 1993 South Africa's pressing plants had shut down, with only limited stock manufactured in neighbouring Zimbabwe for the next few years. Followed by The Bold and the Beautiful (1994), Khegu (1997) and Mama Ka Sbongile (1999).


THE SCOTCH BAND - Mkongwana (1989)

RPM/Music Team/Red Fish/Red Label, RLLP(C)048
Composers: N. Selepe & P. Wright 


Another obscure classic finally gaining some international recognition 27 years after the fact. Packed full of hot synths and slick vocal interplay between a male groaner and female backing singers, the title track also gets a dub mix to show off the long-forgotten skills of unknown producers N. Selepe and P. Wright. Other highlights include 'Niya Kaya' and 'Cansane'.



* Mint copies of this album are for sale here.

AYOBAYO BAND - Phuza Face (1990)

Music Team/Roi/Red Label, RLLP070
Producer: Zenzele 'Sister Monica' Magwaza
Engineer: Danny Bridgens
Recorded at: Syntrax Studio


Composed by ZE Mtungwa and produced by Eddie Magwaza, here using the name Zenzele ‘Sister Monica’ (also the name of one of the tracks on this album), who was also behind V.O. and Fast Move but died in the early 90s. The band typified the new pantsula sound that prefigured kwaito, alongside The Hard Workers and others. Over 100% electronic grooves vocals relied of chanting and rapping rather than singing, hence the word ‘rap’ being prominent on the cover, despite this not being a hip-hop album. The term ‘Phuza Face’ refers to the effects of heavy drinking, as was also used by Banjo and others.

CHAKA - 5 Cases (1989)

Music Team/Roi/Red Label, RLLP050
Producer: Tsietsi Mafabatho (exec: Mannie Tulsie)
Engineer: David Moloele
Recorded at: Orange 338


Fantastic bubblegum grooves - not particularly original but better than most of the rest thanks in part to the Music Team’s production quality. Intelligent lyrics in English and isiZulu focus on topical issues that remain relevant today - for example the title track taking aim at alcoholism: “Somebody please help me, I’ve got a problem / My friend is too much into drinking / He drinks day and night / He used to play the keyboards… in Tembisa / Now every time I just need him so bad / I know I’m gonna find him right at the bar / Walking like a sheep,  moving like a ghost… / He’s calling for beer, 'Five cases', 'Six cases'.. / Well I don’t know what to do, and I don’t know what to say / 'Cos every time I tell him to stop it, He tells me to mind my own business / He used to be a good guy, I really liked him."

Another track, ‘Way To Hell’, is a firm criticism of gang life: “For as long as I live, and as long as I’m your brother / I’ll always keep on warning you, and always keep on telling you, but you won’t learn… Mum always told us to be a good boy / She never said anything about gang membership / Oh can’t you see, your life is influenced / Brother I’m warning you: you’re on the way to hell.”

Other titles  focus on geographical references - Koloni (Eastern Cape), Tembisa (east of Joburg) and Umtata (KwaZulu-Natal). Featuring largely unknown musicians Keiser Dipu on vocals, Charles Vilakazi on synths, Vusumuzi Mndawe (synths and percussion), Justice Mkhwanazi (bass) and David Thabeni (drums). Produced by Tsietsi Mafabatho, better known for his work with The Holy Spirits, while executive producer Mannie Tulsie also worked with the similarly styled Breeze in the same year.


* Mint copies of this album are for sale here.

GIFT BROTHERS - Mune Wanga (1990)

Tusk, QBH1128
Producer: Ananias Maphwanya
Engineers: Darryl Heilbrunn & Peter Pearlson
Recorded at: RPM


Produced by Ananias Maphwanya, Mune Wanga (my father) is great album of guitar-driven grooves from the often overlooked Venda region of South Africa bordering Zimbabwe, which from 1979 to 94 was a 'bantustan' puppet state. 


Mint copies of this album are for sale here.

V.O. - Mashisa (1990)

Music Team/Roi/Superbeat, ETL(J)5023
Producer: Eddie Magwaza
Engineers: Jan Smit & Lucky Matante


This relatively obscure album from 1990 has over the past year circulated internationally on the strength of the dub version of the title track, which has become a go-to for DJs and put the record at the top of the list of many new collectors of South African music, with demand high enough to ensure a re-issue later this year. The album itself showcases some of the coolest electronic sounds of the day, but is no better than countless other albums from the era still languishing in obscurity. Produced and arranged by the late Eddie Magwaza, with co-engineers Jan Smit handling drum programming and mixing while Lucky Matante oversaw sequencing and vocal recording. Other tracks include 'She's My Lady' and 'Mr Mechanic'.





ANGIE - Fela Ke Yaya (1989)

Leopard/Hit City, LEO(O)119
Producer: RF Gumbi
Engineer: RF Gumbi
Recorded at: Platinum


Angelinah Gumbi aka Ntombi Yomsuthu is the wife of multi-talented Richard Felani Gumbi (Volcano, Sgu, Spirro etc), who produced, arranged, performed and engineered this album and shares songwriting credits on all tracks with Angie, who coyly writes in the liner notes: "To the man in my life, you know who you are and how special you are! This is what we have been promised by you know who."

The album met the wrath of one critic at The Namibian newspaper, however, who on 16 February 1990 claimed that the album "appears to have been produced on a shoestring budget - she was only afforded one musician to play all instruments on the record and the result is bland overdubbing made even less interesting by the singer's flat and lifeless voice which a mediocre backing chore cannot rescue." Not one to let the negative criticism get to her, the duo teamed up again in 1991 for Skatana-Skatana and in 1994 for Xola Nhliziyo.


Mint copies of this album are for sale here

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'). 

JACKSON MAXIMBYI & THE MPFUMARHI SISTERS - Inyoka Hansi No. 1 (1990)

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.