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!

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.

MONWA - Mama Kuse (1991)

Diamond/Tusk TUSB3013
Producer: Selwyn Shandel
Engineers: Jorge Arrigone & Selwyn Shandel
Recorded at: Shandel Music

Big-selling duo Monwa & Sun had a massive hit with 'Orlando Hangover' and released a string of great electronic albums in the late 80s on the Cool Spot label. After splitting both members embarked on solo careers, Monwa releasing Aweyo (1990) and Mama Kuse (1991), and Sun releasing a self-titled album in 1990 followed by Looking For Love in 1991. Both also produced other artists. The older of the two, Monwabisi Denis Yekani had earlier made a name for himself fronting Denis Yekani and the MovementBy '91 he had left Cool Spot and teamed up with producer Selwyn Shandel (The WinnersNinjaPhumi Maduna, etc). 

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

KOFFI OLOMIDE - Diva (1991)

Tusk, HIM100
Producer: Koffi Olomide
Engineer: Roland Leclercq
Recorded at: Studio Madeleine, Brussels

One of the most successful and enduring artists to come from the DR Congo, Koffi Olomide was born in Kisangani and studied in France, returning to the Congo in the 70s to join Papa Wemba's band Viva La Musica. In the mid-80s he formed his own band, Quartier Latin International, which later launched the careers of stars like Fally Ipupa and Ferré Gola. Riding the early 'World Music' wave, in 1986 he released Diva on Belgian label Espera. His other early international releases include Ngobila (1986), Les Prisonniers Dorment (1990) and Tcha Tcho (1990), the latter his name of his signature brand of slowed-down souks. 

His albums sold well in Zimbabwe, so in 1991 South African label Tusk (formerly known as WEA) attempted to cash in by selling Diva (as well as other Congolese albums) in South Africa, although the strategy was largely unsuccessful. His more recent albums include the Kora-winning Effrakata (2002), Monde Arabe (2004) and Destiny (2014).

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