November '15

Hola bafowethu! This is AFROSYNTH, the realest African selection...

This month we bring you Congolese maestro KOFFI OLOMIDE, the one and only MONWA, classic bubblegum by ALMOMO, MASEMYS and OKIE and more soulful grooves from the CRACKERS and RHYTHM KINGS.

Last month we checked out jazzman STEVE DYER and bubblegum legends DAN NKOSI, ZIZI KONGO, BANJO and THE COMFORTERS.

To purchase still-sealed copies of these and other albums, click here while stocks last!

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.

BLONDIE - Spreading Love (1987)

Hit City HC(E)701
Producers: Blondie Makhene, John Galanakis & Steve McNamara
Engineers: Steve McNamara & John Galanakis
Recorded at: Platinum

A key figure in South African disco, Blondie was born Keoagile Gerald Makhene in Soweto in 1955 and rose to fame as a performer in the duo Blondie & Pappa. They toured the country with other various family bands, known as The Family and later Spankk, earning the Makhenes a reputation as South Africa's answer to the Jacksons. After the duo split he turned solo, releasing Communicate (1984) and Overtime (1985), performing at the historic Concert In The Park in Johannesburg in 1985. He also helped launch a young Brenda Fassie, teaming her up with his backing back to produce the landmark 1983 single 'Weekend Special'. 

In 1987 Blondie released another solo album, Spreading Love. It's smooth R&B soul led by the balled 'Baby I'm Missing You', dedicated to his wife Agnes. Around this time he also kickstarted the African Youth Band (AYB), which released a string of popular albums of instrumental political songs. Besides AYB Blondie has produced countless others, including Vusi Shange, Hugh Masekela and Amaqabane. Still active in the music industry today, in 2010 he released a new version of 'Baby I'm Missing You'. It was followed by new albums Back To Love (2013) and Sthunywa Sami (2014).

Mint copies of this album are available for sale here 

BANJO - Phuza Face (1988)

Hit City, HC(O)805
Producer: John Galanakis
Engineers: Deran McNamara, Quinton King & Ilan Kometz

Hit City crossover studio project Banjo (Banzi and John) first emerged in 1985 with the politically charged hit 'No No No, No More' and B-side 'In the Middle of the Night'. It was followed in 1986 by another maxi, 'I Don't Want Your Lovin' and 'Please Don't Go'. 

The liner notes from 1988's Phuza Face tell the rest of the story: "Banjo - born as a studio project between Banzi Khubeka and John Galanakis - lives on with this album. When key people connected with the project went their own way to pursue other interests, the project was almost abandoned. But with the infusion of new talent and discovery of Mpho Makhene as lead singer, fronting the group for live appearances, the new Banjo has been revived to provide a fresh sound to the South African Music scene… From the original 'In The Middle of the Night' to 'I Don't Want Your Lovin'', Banjo has been the music-lovers favorite group. The new Banjo continues the tradition, and will be pleasing new fans for years to come." 

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

STEVE DYER - Southern Freeway (1991)

Soul Brothers/Gramma, SMH1
Producer: Steve Dyer
Engineer: Peter van Deventer
Recorded at: Frontline Studios

Born in Pietermaritzburg in 1960, Steve Dyer studied sax and flute at the University of Natal. Refusing military conscription, he left South Africa and lived in Botswana for five years in the 80s, where he came into contact with exiled legends Hugh Masekela and Jonas Gwangwa. As part of Gwangwa's group Shakawe for three years, he immersed himself in both mbaqanga and jazz. In 1988 after a stint in the UK he settled in Zimbabwe, where he formed the group Southern Freeway. They put out two albums, Southern Freeway, a great collection of modern, distinctly South African jazz, followed by Indlela yenkululeko (1992). The band continued to perform into the 90s, representing South Africa  at the SADC music festival in Harare and playing at Arts Alive in Johannesburg in 1996.

Outside Southern Freeway, Dyer is a prolific performer, composer, producer and director bridging traditional African genres, classical and jazz. In 1990 he joined the ANC's Amandla cultural ensemble on a seven week tour of Japan. With democracy on the horizon in 1993 Dyer returned to SA in 1993, settling in Joburg and working with the Soweto String Quartet. He formed the Southern African collaborative project Mahube that toured the world and released two albums, including the Kora-winning Qhubeka (2003). He has also produced five albums by Zimbabwean legend Oliver Mtukudzi (including the hit Tuku Music), leads the ensembles Rebirth and Ubuntu Music and runs independent label Dyertribe Music.

DAN NKOSI - Uyakuni Maria (1986)

Leopard/Hit City, LEO(O)036
Producer: John Galanakis
Engineer: John Galanakis
Recorded at: Platinum

Breakthrough album from one of bubblegum's finest, Dan Nkosi had only recently moved to Johannesburg when he had a hit with 'Pikinini', earning a reputation as a charismatic live performer (and the nickname 'Streamroller'). This album was followed by Gandaganda (1987), the title track an even bigger hit, then Julia (1989) and People's Choice (1990). He formed a fruitful bond with producer John Galanakis, and together they helped launch the careers of others like Zizi Kongo.

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

THE COMFORTERS - Month-End Lover (1986)

Leopard/Hit City, LEO(O)056
Producers: Steve McNamara & Albert Khumalo
Engineer: Steve McNamara
Composer: C. Mukwevho
Recorded at: Platinum

Colbert Mukwevho grew up in the rhythm section of family band Thrilling Artists. At 21 he was fronting his own group, The Comforters, and found fame with this their breakthrough album. Echoing the lyrical sentiment of 'Weekend Special' (and not to be confused with Vibe Talk's 'Weekend Lover'), 'Month-End Lover' is classic uptempo bubblegum. Even catchier is 'These Arms of Love'. The album's two other tracks, 'Immortal Words' and 'Fairweather Lover' head deeper into synth-heavy roots reggae, not unlike Lucky Dube's early reggae albums from the same time, with Mukwhevo's soulful voice at its best on the downtempo tracks.

A revered figure in Venda/Limpopo, Mukwevho soon became a bonafied reggae star fronting Harley and the Rasta Family. Today's he still going strong as a solo act, continuing to tour the country and release new albums (for more details check out his website).

* Mint copies of this album (both covers) are available for sale here while stocks last.

ZIZI KONGO - Come Duze (1988)

Leopard/Hit City, LEO(O)058
Producers: John Galanakis & Dan Nkosi
Engineer: Daren McNamara
Composer: Dan Nkosi
Recorded at: Platinum

Classic album that established young Elizabeth Mkhwanazi as a bubblegum star, thanks largely to composer and co-producer Dan Nkosi, her homeboy from Mpumalanga. Kongo was the Hit City label's answer to other female stars like Brenda Fassie, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Mercy Pakela. Led by the anthemic 'Come Duze', the six-track album includes other similar dancefloor-friendly electronic tracks like 'Naughty Street Boys', 'Come Back To Me' and 'It's a Party'.

According to a producers' note on the album: "Zizi is the most exciting new talent to emerge on the local scene and it has been my pleasure to be involved in the production of her debut album. She is the star of the future and I hope to be part of her career for years to come."

The singer herself adds to the liner notes: "Perseverance is the mother of success and it has taken me seven years of struggle to expose my talent."

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

SANKATANA - Mahlalela (1989)

Produced by: DPMC

Four tracks of tight, band-driven disco on a label more commonly associated with pre-kwaito electronic sounds (Syndicate Sisters, Phil Your Promise, Philip Mathole). The rock art motif and the shirtless look on the cover of Mahlalela (lazy bones) hint at a roots aesthetic, balanced with some tasteful synths and danceable grooves. Best track 'Prisoner on the Street' deals with issues of poverty and dislocation -

"Walking down the street, looking for a dollar bill,
Since I was a boy, I never ever lived so nice…"

WILLIAM 'MR EVERYTHING' MTHETHWA - Tribute to Sophie Mathibela (1988)

Roy B/Dephon, RBL146
Producer: William Mthethwa
Recorded at:  Sweet Sixteen

Mpho and Mphonyana Mathibela made headlines across South Africa when they were born joined at the head in Johannesburg on 7 December 1986. A decision was made for them to be separated, which happened in 1988. The story prompted support from musicians William Mthethwa and Yvonne Chaka Chaka (and Ali Katt, who also released a song for the twins in 1988).

"This album is dedicated to Sophie Mathibela, the mother of Mpho le Mphonyana, in honor of her supreme courage and total devotion to her two babies. All proceeds for the Mpho le Mphonyana track will be donated to Sophie to help in the upbringing of the twins. This track was recorded solely for this purporse. We love you Mpho le Mphonyana." - Yvonne and William.

The album also contains other social messages such as 'We Cry For Peace in Africa', 'Help The Children', 'We Don't need a Party' (all co-written by Al Etto and Mthethwa's frequent collaborator Dimakatso Moletsane) and 'We Miss You',  as well as the more upbeat 'Matjitji' and 'Hoza 2000'.

Sadly Mphonyana died of pneumonia a year after the twins were separated. Mpho, now in her late 20’s, is still alive today. 

SHADES - One More Night (1990)

Hit City, HC002
Producers: John Galanakis & Ziggy Adolph
Engineers: RF Gumbi & John Galanakis
Recored at: Platinum

Shades were a duo of Ziggy Adolph and Paul Green, formerly members of the group Zipp (alongside Patrick Titus), who put out Communication Breakdown in 1986 and also featured on releases by Hit City stablemates Banjo and Vusi Shange. As Shades they put out a heavily Wham-inspired selection of Euro-influenced synth-pop, primarily slow jams. In the liner notes the duo give thanks to "John, Paul, George, Ringo, Michael and Stevie, whose music inspired us to become musicians in the first place". Ziggy Adolph wrote most of the tracks and co-produced the album, "the fruition of a lifelong dream". Adolph remains active in the music industry today as a producer.