May '16

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

This month we bring you more forgotten classics by the likes of SOWETO YOUTH BAND, Q, TAILS OUT, NOVIDADE and SUN. Before that we had NEVILLE NASH, ZIZI KONGO, MAKHWERU, BENJAMIN BALL and SOUND PROOF.

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

TAILS OUT - What Makes U Dance (1986)

RPM, 12XMC(C)4007516
Producer & Engineer: Bobby Summerfield
Recorded at: The Workshop

Bobby Summerfield was a respected club and radio DJ, engineer and producer. Around 1986 he was hired by Hilton Rosenthal's MINC label as an in-house producer, where he also released solo projects like Tails Out. A few years later he moved to Los Angeles as part of Rosenthal's new Rhythm Safari label. In 1993 he set up his own production company and studio, Summerfield Music (more about him here).

NOVIDADE - Voaria (1991)

Tusk, TUH19
Producers: Tata Sibeko & Thokoza Memela
Engineer: Humphrey Mabote
Recorded at: RPM Studios

Led by Mozambican guitarist Benjamin Nhassavele, Novidade were a trio also featuring Michael Mancu (keyboards) and Anderson Khomba (bass). Following 1988's Fun Time, the band had a hit with 'Voaria', which came out as a 12" single in 1990. The album of the same name came out the following year, and features five tracks blending Shangaan, Mozambican, Afro-Cuban and sophisticated electronic sounds, the latter thanks to producer Tata Sibeko, who handles programming and sequencing. Other personnel on the album are Isaac 'Mnca' Mtshali (Stimela, The Cannibals) on drums, saxman Mandla Masuku, Mozambican-born percussionist Johnnie Hassan and backing vocals by Tu and Marilyn Nokwe, Veronica Makgalemele and Mandisa Dlanga.

Nhassavele also recorded with Minebelt and was part of the stage musical Umoja. In 2014 he released a new solo album, Knock Knock.

Q - One (1989)

Producer: DPMC

Killer bubblegum by unknown band fronted by Manjoe Diphoko with Sammy Q and Dillo Monei on keyboards, Sipho Nziki (bass), Thabana Thabana (drums) and Ennie Williams and Ruth Morapedi (backing vocals). Songs 'Falling in Luv' and 'Tavern' both get remixes; other titles are 'Jive On' and 'No Money No Job No Pay'.

SUN - Looking For Love (1991)

Diamond/Tusk TUH36
Producers: Q-Sound & Sun
Engineer: Q-Sound
Recorded at: Tone Def Inc.

Sun (real name Poth Nkotsoe) established himself in the late 80s as one half of the popular duo Monwa & Sun. In 1990 they parted ways to pursue careers as solo artists and producers. 1991's Looking For Love follows Sun's eponymously titled 1990 solo debut, drawing heavily from early house and Eurobeat influences and utilizing Sun's Rick Astley-styled vocals. A sign of future trends, every title on the album is a 'mix' of some kind - including a 'new jack city remix'  of 'You Give Me Good Love' and a 'bassappella mix' of the title track. The liner notes give thanks to New York house icons Dave Morales and Tony Humphries, although it's not clear if they played a role in the album. Featuring on backing vocals Nelli 'Bibbi' Booi, whose solo album 'You Don't Mind' Sun produced that same year.

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here

SOWETO YOUTH BAND - Hey Kids Wozala (1990)

Music Team/Super Beat, ETL(C)5021
Producer: Kelly Ndlovu
Engineer: Darryl Heilbrunn
Recorded at: RPM

Instrumental synth and drum machine grooves with a pantsula touch, similar to Ayoboyo Band on the same label Music Team. Titles include 'Slender to Fatty' and 'Jika Magogo'. Produced by Kelly Ndlovu (Sweet Desire). SYB also released Buya Africa in 1990.

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here. 

BENJAMIN BALL - In The Jungle (1990)

Tusk/Diamond TUH11
Producer: Professor Rhythm
Engineer: Fab Grosso

Following the massive success of 'Flash A Flashlight' from his debut solo album Paulina in 1984, Benjamin Ball spent the rest of the 80s and early 90s continuing to fuse disco and reggae, over time focussing more on the latter. On In The Jungle he reunites with Thami Mdluli (aka Professor Rhythm), with whom he started playing 10 years earlier as part of Hot Soul Singers/Sound Busters/CJB family.

While the title track, 'Danki Eheck' and the downtempo 'Thy Kingdom' show his true colours as a conscious reggae man to rival names like Lucky Dube, the opening track 'Cry For Freedom' offers a funky synth-driven groove (so funky the song gets a dub version on the six-strack album) reminiscent of his early hits but with a political message (at a time when censorship was no longer so severe). 'This Music Got Us' sees BB showing off his rapping skills. Featuring keyboards by one Magic Fingers Dolphy (aka Prince D). Composed under the pseudonym Elsie Joseph.

MAKWERHU - Daddy Come Back (1990)

Reamusic, RML(V)2059
Producer: Enoch Nondala
Engineer: Jan Smit
Recorded at: Takk

Fronted by vocalists William Ngobeni and Patrick Mabasa, Makwerhu (Shangaan/Tsonga for 'our brother') were pioneers of the pantsula style that bridged bubblegum and kwaito (alongside Ayobayo Band and The Hard Workers). Their 1990 album Daddy Come Back followed earlier releases Education (1987), Mapansula (1988) and Mahlalela (1989). Over highly infectious electronic grooves, lyrics touch on issues of dislocation - absent fathers ('Daddy Come Back'), missing children ('Vha Kho Shengela') and migration ('Ngwana Enwa'). Other titles include 'Brother' and 'Living with the People'. 

SOUND PROOF - The Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (1980)

Atlantic City/Tela/Gallo, BL255
Producer: David Thekwane

Pre-bubblegum soul produced by the influential David Thekwane (Boyoyo Boys, The Movers), who shares song-writing credits with Jabu Sibumbe (Stimela) and P. Ndlovu. Full of intricate organ grooves and powerful vocals, the band successfully fused marabi with Motown, laying the foundation for the disco acts that would emerge a few years later.  

VA - Roy B's Party Time Vol. 2 (198?)

Roy B, RBL124u

Roy B was a successful independent label (aka Dephon) run by Phil Hollis that helped launch the careers of some of the biggest names in the business. The second volume of their Party Time compilation features Yvonne Chaka Chaka singing 'Winner My Dear Love', a thinly veiled tribute to Winnie Mandela, as well as Chicco with his breakthrough solo hit 'I Need Some Money', Pat Shange ('Rules of Love'), William Mthethwa & The Young Five, Benjamin Dube's gospel hit 'Holy Spirit' as well as lesser known band The Groovy Guys. The album also features two prominent acts not usually associated with the label, Splash (wrong listed here as Smash) and the late great Al Etto (singing 'She's Hot').

ZIZI KONGO - Back To Back (1990)

Leopard/Hit City, LEO030
Producers & Engineers: John Galanakis & RF Gumbi
Recorded at: Platinum

Following the success of her 1988 debut Come Duze, Zizi Kongo returned with Back To Back. Spreading her wings as an artist, Kongo (real name Elizabeth Mkhwanazi) pens two of the songs on the album ('Ma-Africa' and 'Makabasa'). Dan Nkosi (who wrote all the tracks on her debut album as well as co-produced) takes a step back, this time writing two tracks (the title track and 'Samariya') and leaving the production and all instruments to John Galanakis and Felani Gumbi, also credited with writing two tracks apiece. 

The producers write: "It's been a pleasure working with a talented singer like Zizi. It gives us great satisfaction being able to uncover another side of her, particularly as a potential songwriter of the future. We hope you, her fans, will love her more and encourage her songwriting by listening and supporting her music."

Featuring backing vocals by members of Pure Gold as well as Marilyn Nokwe, Faith Kekana, Beulah Hase and Stella Khumalo, with extra synths by the likes of Vuka Mbele (Vibe Talk, Amaqabane). 

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here.

TSHALA MUANA - Nasi Nabali (1991)

Tusk, HIM102
Producer: Tshala Muana & Ben Nyamabo
Recorded at: Studio Diana Music, Paris

One of the central Africa's biggest female stars of her day (along with Mbilia Bel and others), Tshala Muana was born in Lubumbashi in 1957 and started her career as a dancer in Kinshasa in the late 70s. In 1981 she left for Abidjan and then Paris in 1984, where she recorded her debut album Kami. She returned to Kinshasa in 1986 but decided to stay based in Paris. Other albums include La Devine (1987), Munanga (1988), Biduaya (1990), Mutuashi (1996) and Pika Pende (1999). She is currently in the midst of a comeback, releasing Lunzenze in early 2016.

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here 

NEVILLE NASH - Teaser (1984)

CTV, NALP(V)3320
Produced: D. Feigelson, Neville Nash & Richard Mitchell
Engineer: Richard Mitchell
Mixed by: Richard Mitchell, Neville Nash & Tom Mkhize

Nash was one of the funkiest guys on the scene since the late 70s, years before the rise of bubblegum. Following softer soul/disco albums like 1980's Kind Hearted Man, his 1981 eponymously titled effort and 1982's Diamonds & Pearls and Solid Gold, he trimmed the Afro, grew the 'tache and turned up the synths for arguably his finest album, 1984's Teaser. Tracks include 'Perfect Love', 'Love On the Edge of Night', 'Break Down'. and 'One of Those Nights', which Nash famously performed live at the historic Concert in the Park in Johannesburg in 1985.

One of the pioneers of 'crossover' music, Nash defied apartheid to work with a variety of black, white and coloured musicians on the album. Players include Stimela's Lloyd Lelosa (synths), Isaac Mtshali (drums) and Ntokozo Zungu (guitar), Al Etto and Cecil Mitch on backing vox, Mac Mathunjwa on Fender Rhodes and synths, as well as Mike Faure on sax. Programming by Adrian Strydom, who owned the only Fairlight in the country at the time. The album was followed by the single What's Your Name? What's Your Number? (1985) and Why? (1986).