Dec '14 - Jan '15

Vukani mawethu! This is AFROSYNTH, the realest African selection . . .

This festive season we bring you LAPPASIDE, JOYCE, the legendary RICHARD JON SMITH, SHADIII, AFRICAN IMAGE, Zulu grooves from LINGANISA NABAFANE BEJUBANE and THISA, xmas synths by BONNY, something different from THE SOFT SHOES, a 1985 tribute album to DESMOND TUTU and a synth-packed gospel compilation.


Bless up!

AFRICAN IMAGE - Reality (1986)

Spinna/Roi/CTV, SPIN(0)3338
Producer: Tom Mkhize
Composers: Tom Mkhize & Neville Nash

African Image began as a crossover collaboration between Tom Mkhize (Uthando) and keyboardist Glynn Storm (Neville Nash, Backtrax), who in 1982 released the album Roots (Izimpande) featuring a host of top black and white local talent, including members of Abangani on vocals. In 1984 the album was picked up by the US label Gramavision, which released it in North America and Germany, adding English song titles and a new cover. In 1986 Mkhize sought to continue the success of the project, drawing on singer Neville Nash to record a new track, 'Reality', which was re-released locally in 1986 using the same cover as the 1984 international release of Roots (Izimpande) and also featuring a dub mix of the title track, as well as two tracks from the original 1982 album, 'The Way I Feel' and 'From The Roots'.

BIBI MSOMI - Gcobisa (1985)

Producer: Thokoza Elphus Memela
Engineer: Philip Nel

"One of the finest male voices of the eighties belonged to Bibi Msomi, the son of Noshukela and Mantombi Msomi. From a young age Bibi was inspired by vocalists like 'Mama Africa', Miriam Makeba. He released his maxi single You Are The Flower/ Frustrated Mind (Wea, 1985) co-written with Almon and Thokoza Memela who also produced it. It was arranged by Almon Memela and engineered by Philip Nel. His album What Kind Of Love Is This? (Right Track, 1987) was produced by Peter Moticoe and engineered by Humphrey Mabote and Lee Short at RPM record company. By 1990 he was with Dephon Music where he released an album that paid tribute to the continent's female superstar, Miriam Makeba, titled Makebamalitis. Banzi Khubeka and Cyril Mnculwane co-wrote and co-produced it" (Mojapelo, 2008:195).

THE SOFT SHOES - Soled Out (1983)

RPM, RPM1192
Producer: Attie van Wyk
Engineer: Pikes Cronje
Recorded at: RPM Studios

Long before today's ubiquitous TV talent searches like Idols and The X-Factor, The Soft Shoes emerged as winners of the SABC's 'Follow That Star' contest in 1983, due to the success of one song, 'Elvis Astaire', which reached number 4 on the SA charts. The band, made up of Jervis Pennington, Darren Magnusson, Roy Bramwell and Tinus 'Tommy' Maree, went on to release three albums. Looking at them now, it's hard to see how these guys broke hearts with their lame dance moves and cheesy 50s era rock n' roll and swing posing. Indeed the white pop scene soon took to superior acts like Face To Face, Ella Mental and eVoid. Interestingly, the Shoes were produced by Attie van Wyk, the same man responsible for launching the careers of black talent like Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Chicco at Dephon around the same time. If you love cheese, 
feast your eyes on this 35-minute TV special...


Soul Brothers, MXH7
Producer: David Masondo
Engineer: Fernando Perdigao & RF Gumbi

The Soul Brothers label is synonymous with the enduring quality of the band it's named after, and the skills and professionalism of David Masondo and Black Moses Ngwenya. Umakoti (bride) is deep, mellow, timeless traditional Zulu maskandi, a far cry from the Soul Brothers' mbaqanga pop.

VA - Give Praise Where Praise is Deserved (1985)

Plum, Teal, KVL5013
Producer: Sipho Gumede & Ray Phiri (exec: Charmaine Modjadji)
Engineer: Richard Mitchell
Recorded at: RPM Studios

The mid-1980s represents the apex of state-sponsored repression in South Africa and a turning point in musicians' role in the struggle for democracy. International pressure on the nationalist regime was mounting too, particularly Archbishop Desmond Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. Two of South Africa's most gifted musicians, Ray Phiri (Stimela, The Cannibals, Kumasi, Paul Simon's Graceland) and Sipho Gumede (Sakhile, The Boogie Man, Jika) gathered other top South African artists, including Lionel Peterson, Mara Louw, Lloyd Lelosa (Stimela), Nana 'Coyote' Motijoane and Katie Pennington to record this album in recognition of Tutu’s achievements and to raise funds for the African Bursary Fund.

The project was helmed by Charmaine Modjadji, a former Soweto beauty queen who spent much of apartheid exiled in the US before returning to South Africa to emerge as a prominent businesswomen and restaurateur. According to her liner notes, "This album is to raise funds for the African Bursary Fund so a smooching kiss to Richard Mitchell for his engineering, Sipho Gumede, Ray Phiri, Charlie Ndlovu and Lloyd Lelosa without whose musical genii this album would not have been possible. May God bless you in you music careers. I love you all. Thanks to all those lovely people who will feel good about this project. The ever living spirit is never without resources."

BONNY- Have A 'Bonny' Christmas (1984)

Tru Sound, TSL800
Producers: Issy Nathan & Nick Blignaut
Engineer: Doug van der Merwe

Bonny van der Merwe's mellow synth take on all your timeless Christmas favourites, with instrumentals of 'Silent Night', 'Little Drummer Boy', 'Come All Ye Faithful', 'Jingle Bells', 'Amazing Grace', etc. The festive cover art is enough of a reason to buy this album, but surprisingly the tracks are smooth enough to keep you coming back to this every year. This album was followed in 1986 by 'And I Love You So', a collection of popular medleys.

RICHARD JON SMITH - Shangrila (1980)

Bullet/CCP/EMI Brigadiers, BU(L)571
Producer: Robert Schroder
Engineer: Ian Martin

Smith was an influential and popular figure since the 1970s with albums such as Sweet Mama (1973), Superstar Smith (1974) and Michael Row The Boat (1979), featuring one of his most popular hits, 'Michael Row The Boat Ashore'. Born in Cape Town, Smith scored seven top 20 hits in South Africa between 1973 and 1980, earning the nickname 'Mr Knockout'. With the guidance of producer Clive Calder and Ralph Simon he led the way for other 'coloured' stars, such as Jonathan Butler, Ronnie Joyce and others. In the early 1980s Smith left South Africa to join Calder and Simon in exile in the UK, during the earliest days of their Jive/Zomba empire. He provided backing vocals to Tight Fit's chart-topping 1982 version of 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' and reached number 63 on the UK charts with the disco-funk hit 'She's the Master of the Game' from his eponymous 1983 album. 

Despite being overshadowed by his former protege, Butler, Smith continued to release albums to some international acclaim, such as You And Me (1984) and Africa (1988). Though much of his early work sounds decidedly unfunky these days, Smith was a notable musical pioneer, one of the first to fuse conscious, politically relevant lyrics to American-inspired disco sounds and even reggae. For example on Shangrila, the title track deals with the still-burning issue of forced removals, with lyrics dwelling on "The sound of bulldozers tearing away at our hearts..."

JOYCE - Fantasy (1988)

RPM, RPM7127
Producer: Peter Moticoe
Engineer: Humphrey Mabote
Recorded by: RPM Studios

Funky Shangaan disco produced by the prolific Peter "Hitman" Moticoe (Tom Dollar, Joy White, The Ghetto), featuring two English songs - the title track and 'The Other Side of Me'. Powerful vocals and stinging synths, but nothing really catchy enough to set it apart from the rest. 

LAPPASIDE - Colourblind Fever (1987)

Teal, XPD2472
Producer: Potatoes Zuma

Unknown early crossover effort by L Joubert and SG Mbatha, evidence that the crossover trend that defied apartheid ran far deeper than the big names typically associated with it, like Savuka, Hotline and Zia.

"Hey sister, let's stand together,
this game called life is forever...
We live and love together,
we've got colourblind, colourblind fever"

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".