March '15

Vuka sizwe! This is AFROSYNTH, the realest African selection!

This month we go deep with BENJAMIN & THE YOUTH CHOIR, MTHENJWA ZWANE, KATI ELIMNYAMA and OZIAS NTSELE, and bring you vintage bubblegum by the likes of TJ GANG, JENNIFER, SASA S., PETER MARINGA, SHALOM, VIVA, BOMBA, THE VIBES and LOMBARD EXPRESS, not to mention a hi-NRG hit by PEOPLE LIKE US.

Earlier we brought you leading ladies NTOMBI NDABA, MAVIS MASEKO and SHADIII, mbanqanga from THISHA, new school grooves from LUCKY MEREKI, as well as the synth-packed GOSPEL GREATS compilation and the hard-hitting HIT PICK REMIXES compilation.


PEOPLE LIKE US - Deliverance (1987)

EMI, EMCJ(L)4051781
Producers: Paul Crossley & Hilton Rosenthal (exec: Terry Owen)

Far removed from the bubblegum scene, Hi-NRG act People Like Us' 1986 hit 'Deliverance' made them famous in clubs in Europe and all over the world, although people didn't at first know that they were a South African act, something their UK-based record label Passion were reluctant to acknowledge. In South Africa 'Deliverance' was also popular, although albums were only available through import and people only found out that they were South African at the height of the song’s popularity. The song became the title track of their debut album, featuring other tracks including 'Hiroshima', 'Fighting for our Lives' and 'Reincarnation'. 

Frontman and producer Paul Crossley seemed destined for big things before dying of Aids in August 1989. He wrote the following message for partner in crime, former Shiraz bandmate and lyricist Terry Owen: "Terry, special thanks for your innovative lyrics which have equally inspired me to produce world-wide number one dance hits." Vocals by Cindy Dickenson. Other names associated with People Like Us include Hilton Rosenthal (Juluka, Savuka), Robin Hogarth (who later won a Grammy with the Soweto Gospel Choir) and Bobby Summerfield.

KATI ELIMNYAMA - Yini Mhlaba? (1984)

Chocolate City/Rainbow Records, CNH2037
Producer: Alton Ngubane
Engineer: Graham Handley

Not to be confused with the local action movie of the same name starring Simon Sabela and musical contemporary Kati Eliclean, Kati Elimnyama ('The Black Cat') was a notable figure in the mid-80s Zulu traditional scene. In 1984 he released Yini Mhlaba? (What is the world?), produced by Alton Ngubane (The Special Five, Madlala Brothers, Umphahleka noNgqi, Thikasiza ne-Zikoshi). That year he also contributed a song 'eGoli' to the compilation Soweto Street Music: The Definitive Collection, released in the UK.

TJ GANG - Don't Disappoint Me (1988)

Gallo GRC, BL634
Producer: Richard Siluma
Engineer: Lee Short
Recorded at: RPM Studios

Tight disco grooves by T. Cele and J. Senoamadi, recorded at least partly by a real band, giving it a similar feel to Zasha, Ashiko, Casino and at times even Stimela. Produced by Richard Siluma (best known as Lucky Dube's mentor/producer/brother, as well as his work with Stimela, Lorraine Staple and Ruben Beewa, and his solo hits at Richie S and later Saggy Saggila). Includes two sax-driven instrumentals, 'Isn't It True' and 'We Were There'. Other titles include 'Shortgirl' and 'Saturday Night'.

MTHENJWA ZWANE - Shimo La Pondo (1986)

Fen City/Blue Tree/Priority, FL53
Producer: Sipho Kheswa
Engineer: Dane Stevenson
Special Sithole & Nkatazo
Recorded at: Blue Tree

Don't be fooled by the disco suit and neon cover, this is vintage maskandi from the old school, full of elaborate guitar flourishes and with hardly a synth in sight. Deep, soulful grooves reminiscent of the Madlala Brothers, Ihashi Elimhlophe and Izindlovu, and many others. Produced by the underrated Sipho Kheswa.

SASA S. - Amabhungu (1989)

Gallo GRC, BL668
Producer: Hamilton Nzimande
Engineers: Lee Short & Humphrey Mabote
Recorded at: RPM Studios

Another Brenda knock-off and a relatively rare foray into bubblegum by the prolific producer Hamilton Nzimande, better known for heading the Isibaya Esikhulu stable that saw him work with mbaqanga, maskandi, soul and jive artists since the late 60s. Here Sasa puts out uptempo, synth and drum machine-driven grooves, with socially conscious lyrics on tracks like 'We Miss Our Heroes', 'I'm Suffering', 'Don't treat me like a hobo' and 'You think you're better'.

BENJAMIN & THE YOUTH CHOIR - Holy Spirit (1986)

Roy B/Dephon, RBM056
Producer: Sello 'Chicco' Twala
Engineer: Dane Stevenson
Recorded at: Blue Tree

Today one of the biggest names in gospel, Pastor Benjamin Dube started out alongside bubblegum stars at the Dephon label like Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Sello 'Chicco' Twala, who produced this album. Later albums include Celebration (1994), I Feel Like Going On (1999), High Praise Explosion (2002), You Blessed Me Still (2005), All Time Favourites (2006), Looking Back and In His Presence (2007).

"Meadowlands-born Bonani Benjamin Dube is the last-born son of evangelists Mrs Grace Dube and the late Mr Benjamin Dube Snr....At the age of 14 he was shocked by the tragic death of his father, but had to continue from where Benjamin senior had left off to complete the race. He did his music diploma in piano at FUBA Academy in Newtown in the mid-eighties. Later with his family as The Dube Family released the album We Are What We Are (Gallo GRC, 1989) produced and written by him...Benny who was a member of Image started his solo career with his debut single 'I Live Joyfully'. In 1986 he released Holy Spirit as Benjamin and The Youth Choir. It was produced by Sello Chicco Twala at Dephon Records on the Roy B label. The title track which was written by Chicco Twala became a monster hit. In 1988 when Benjamin released Ebenezer he was already a household name who was invited to be a supporting act for the US gospel star, James Cleveland, when he toured South Africa. He later toured America where he shared the stage with greats like the Mighty Clouds Of Joy and Andre Crouche" (Mojapelo, 2008:332).

LUCKY MEREKI - You Got Me Dancing (1991)

Accord/Diamond/Tusk, AMH400
Producers: Lucky Mereki, Nic Paton & Meir Eshel
Engineers: Meir Eshel & Nic Paton
Recorded at: Miditone, Jhb

Underrated artist who put out this great album of R&B-inspired jams, handling all vocals, rapping, synths and songwriting. It's a refreshing change of pace, with slow and midtempo jams the order of the day, right down to smooth sax solos by Nic Paton (Jazzanians) and co-producer Meir Eshel - the only exceptions being the dancefloor-friendly title track, 'Your Lips' and 'Action'. A fine example of the pre-kwaito new school, alongside Taps, King Rap, Tashif' Kente and MarcAlex. Today Mereki is still going strong, recently collaborating with house DJ Dino Bravo.

MAVIS MASEKO - Bayehla Bayenyuka (1989)

Nu Beat/World Of Music, NUB5008
Producers: D. Ngubeni & R. Mvelase
Engineer: Neville 'Jack D' Holmes
Recorded at: Wellington Road Digitial Studios

Mavis Maseko fronted the legendary soul band The Movers on the 1978 album Amabungu. She re-emerged over a decade later with this solo album of slick Afro-pop. Featuring Dumisani Ngubeni (Brenda & The Big Dudes, Debs Fraser, etc) and Rogers Mvelase (Mordillo, Small) on keyboards and sax man Teaspoon Ndelu. "Let's stick to our African beat and sounds, because music is the only weapon of the future".

SHADIII - Pride Of Tomorrow/Last Chance (1986)

Righttrack/RPM, RTS641-12"
Producers: S. Khomo & Peter Moticoe
Engineers: Ian Osrin & Sam Wingate

"Former members of South Of Sahara, Tshidi Helen Leloka and Anneline Malebo (Joy) met a former member of The All Rounders, Faith Shadi Kekana, and formed a new trio, Shadiii. It was named after Faith but spelled with three i's at the end to show that they were three, as in Bob Marley's backing vocalists, I-Three" (Mojapelo, 2008:118). This maxi follows their 1985 debut, Yes I'm Gonna Give It Up.

VA - Hit Pick Remixes (1991)


The DPMC label helped define the new school sound of the early 90s that drew on house and eurobeat influences. This compilation is a sign of the times: big bass beats, samples and piercing female vocals were in; funky bubblegum was on the way out and kwaito was just around the corner. Featuring Syndicate Sisters ('You don't have to be white to be right'), crossover act Walk This Way, the South African version of the UK no.1 'Ride On Time' by Black Box, here credited as 'Bright on Time' by 'BB Plays Black Box', American favourite Gwen Brisco, and other young local acts like Liza Mezulu, Strike Force and New Age Kids.

THISHA - Ama1990's (1990)

Vuka Afrika/Priority VU(O)83
Producer: Moses Dlamini
Engineer: Wessel van Oudtshoorn
Recorded at: Powerhouse Studio

Thisha began his recording career in 1981, releasing albums like Geza, Thisha and Woza Year 2000, often backed by the mighty Soul Brothers. According to the liner notes, "In 1986 he was involved in a terrible car accident, and was hospitalized for over 10 months. But nevertheless Thisha came back stronger than before. He went on to record Nto Zami and has now followed up his success story with Ama1990's. The album that has everything enjoyed by the music lover! What impresses the most, is the variety of the songs and the style that confirms the confidence of so many thousands of fans - enjoy!"

VA - Gospel Greats, vol. 1 (1990)

Gallo/Mike Fuller Music (MFM), FML1032

Gospel hit the mainstream at the end of the 80s and many popular bubblegum and crossover acts tried their hand at the genre, some never turning back. Here the MFM stable seized the moment and put out a compilation featuring most of their biggest stars, including Mercy Pakela, Ali Katt, PJ Powers (Hotline), William Mthethwa and keyboard fiend Mathambo aka Bones Brettell. Then there are the established names of the genre like Rebecca, Benjamin Dube, Pure Gold, at times backed by the likes of the Holy Spirits Choir, Forever Mass Choir, Baragwanath Choir and Galathia Ama First Born Choir.