June '15

Hola mpinji! This is AFROSYNTH, the realest African selection!
This month we bring you more classics by the likes of STIMELA, SAILOR and NELLI.

Last month we bought you new old music by OZIAS NTSELE, PETER MARINGA, MICHAEL LEBESE & THE AFRICAN VIBES, blind soulmen MARUMO and Sotho accordian grooves by MANKA LE PHALLANG, as well as Zimbabwean legends ROZALLA and NEW BLACK MONTANA. Sharp!

NELLI - Guns On Fire (1989)

Orange, ORH008
Producer: RP 'Sun' Nkotsoe
Engineer: Terry Meredith
Recorded at: The Sound Studio

Powerful Brenda/Rebecca-inspired vocals over slick electronic beats with a distinctive synth bass, produced and composed by Sun Nkotsoe, one half of influential duo Monwa and Sun, who also lends his vocals to the duet 'Living For Your Love'. Other titles include 'Tired of Being Fooled' and 'Living in a Bar'. Albums notes include a "Producers message: Do unto others as you have want done to yourself. And don't judge a book by its cover."

SAILOR - Sailor Man (1989)

Power/Genesis, POH5001
Producer: Dan Mosa
Engineer: J. Mabika

Potent synth-powered bubblegum by Themba Mazibuko, singer in Mordillo, the former backing back of Shangaan disco king Paul Ndlovu, who until his untimely death in a car accident in September 1986 was known for his trademark sailor's cap. In 1987 Mordillo released their first album without Ndlovu, naming it Sailor Man in tribute to him, and retained the nautical dress code thereafter. After two more albums, Mordillo split, leaving Mazibuko to continue the legacy. In the album notes he give thanks to Ndlovu: "He reintroduced me to the music industry. I was no longer interested, but due to his encouragement I'm back but this time as a soloist...Sail on Sailorman!"

STIMELA - Siyaya (1991)

Gallo, HUL40238
Producers: Dave Segal & Stimela
Engineer: Dave Segal
Recorded at: Bop & Downtown

Stimela's 1991 album Siyaya (we are moving) came at the end of a golden run of iconic albums, starting in 1984 with Fire, Passion and Ecstasy and until 1989's Trouble in the Land of Plenty. Frontman and founder Ray Phiri was in 1990 invited to feature on Paul Simon's Rhythm of the Saints album, the long-awaited follow-up to Graceland. Phiri reportedly left the group around this time to concentrate on his solo career, in 1990 signing to French label Barclay, but after his 1992 solo album People Don't Talk, So Let's Talk things never quite panned out as hoped. Stimela continued with Nana 'Coyote' Motijoane, who had been hired to share vocal duties with Phiri a few years earlier. One of the country's most distinctive and powerful vocalists, Coyote had long proved an able substitute, and the stream train marched on. The core line-up remains intact on this album, with Isaac Mtshali (drums), Lloyd Lelosa (keys), Thapelo Khomo (keys), Ntokozo Zungu (guitar) and Charles Ndlovu (organ) with Sandile Ngema replacing Jabu Sibumbe on bass. Also featuring a young Ringo Madlingozi.

Though not featuring on every track Phiri was still closely involved in Siyaya as a co-producer, and provides guitar and vocals on two of the eight tracks, 'Rhythms of Oneness' and 'The Guys Are Doin' It' (a nod to Hugh Masekela's 1975 hit). Though arguably considered to not fall within the band most revered albums, it still contains some of their greatest hits, 'African Changes', 'Go On (Living Your Life)', 'A Song Tells a Story' and 'Siyaya Phambili' (we are moving forwards), a song that answered many of the band's skeptics and also captured the sprit of political change at the time. Three songs of the best known tracks from this album were included in Stimela's 1992 UK release, Kululani

Stimela continued to release albums, including Don't Ask Why (1994), Out of the Ashes (1996) and more recently Turn On The Sun (2011) but struggled to maintain the same relevance or success as during their prime in the second half of the 1980s

Big ups to the Boiler Room crew for this recent interview:

PETER MARINGA - Makanani (198?)

Roy B/Dephon, RBM051
Producer: Peter Moticoe
Engineer: Rick Wolff
Recorded at: Studio 5

High-end bubblegum grooves on the Roy B label produced by the legendary Peter Moticoe (Tom Dollar, The Ghetto, Joyce, Minebelt, Shadiii). "Clothes concept" by kwaito pioneer Senyaka Kekana (RIP). Maringa also released Jakalas (1988) and made a comeback in 2014 with Hadyiwa.

MICHAEL LEBESE & THE AFRICAN VIBES - Rhythm Through The Night (1986)

Raintree/Rainbow, CEX8015
Producer: Michael Lebese
Engineer: Ferdi Brendgen
Recorded at: Universal Studios, Jhb

Born in Mangaung and raised in Thaba Nchu, Michael Lebese was an original member of the pioneering multiracial punk band National Wake (recently the subject of the documentary, Punk In Africa, and re-issued by Light In The Attic Records in the US). In 1981 he released an album as Michael LBS, 'Greetings From Africa'. In 1986 he released these two tracks of synth-heavy disco, 'Rhythm Through the Night' and the instrumental 'Kwela Rhythm Shock'. Lebese handles lead vocals and drums. Also featuring Lucky Franks (guitar & synths), A. Lucky Nxumalo (keyboards), Jorge Arrigone (lead guitar & bass) and Richard Ntsumele (bass). Sadly these days Lebese is living on the streets of Joburg (see here). 

BOMBA - Poor Man's Dance (1988)

Zub/Tusk, UBH004
Producer: Feduja Trio (exec: Alton Mashaba)
Engineer: Fabb Grosso
Recorded at: RPM Studios

Powerful disco grooves with a Shangaan twist. Backing vox by Felicia Marion, Thoko Ndlozi, Cecil Mitch and Ernest, synth brass by Joe Matsheka (Bayete, Pongolo), all other instruments by Gofe. Standout track is the instrumental 'Poor Man's Dance', which strikes the perfect balance groove traditional grooves and modern instrumentation. Little-known Bomba wrote all five tracks and provides lead vocals and deep English lyrics on tracks like 'One-sided Love', 'Release' and 'Victim of Time':

Here I am standing on the face of the planet
I'm a stranger, everything around me looks so strange
I don't know, I think I'm stuck...
I saw many people running up and down, in a rush,
I asked, what's going on, can somebody tell me please?
But no one ever bothered about me
They looked at me, and walked away...
I went to my father and said, 
'Father, help me, I want to know,
I'm seeing people running up and down,
Tell me, what's going on?
I wanna know, I need to know...'
My father said 'Son, ever since I was born,
I've been trying to find out what's going on.
Look at me now, I'm a wasted body, I'm an old man,
I'm a living soul, stuck in this dying body,
I'm a victim of time...'
If we can stop this time,
we can turn this world into a paradise forever.
The sun will rise, but never set.
We are living out of time, without no limitations,
where we'll never die,
where we'll live forever and ever."

NEW BLACK MONTANA - Vol. 1 (1987)

Teal, TEL2162
Producer: Tymon Mabaleka
Engineers: D. Scobie
Composers: P. Tembo & C. Mashoko
Recorded at: Shed Studios, Zimbabwe

Debut album from underrated Zimbabwean sungura act who later had hits with 'Night Shift' and 'Jekanyika'. Producer Tymon Mabaleka, nicknamed "The White Horse", was a top soccer play in the 70s before becoming one of Zimbabwe's most revered producers (working with acts like Oliver Mtukudzi, Lovemore Majaivana, Ilanga and John Chibadura) and later record label executives. He passed away in June 2014.

MARUMO - Modiehi (1982)

Spade/Mavuthela BL340
Producer: West Nkosi
Engineer: Owen Wolf

South Africa's blind musicians have a proud legacy, most famously in stars like Steve Kekana and Babsy Mlangeni. In 1982 producer West Nkosi (Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens) recorded a group of musicians from the Athlone School for the blind in Bellville near Cape Town - John Mothopeng, Munich Sibiya, Simon Falatsi and Marks Mbuthuma, who had previously played in bands like the  All Rounders, the Orations and the legendary Batsumi. The result is masterful display of virtuosity and versatility, from the classic Sotho soul of 'Re a Hlopheha' to the deep funk of 'Khomo Tsaka Deile Kae?', space-age synths on 'Toitoi' to touches of gospel ('O Mohau'), classical and jazz.

"Those who tend to think that blind people are living in their own microcosm simply because they are blind must give that idea up... As the Transvaal Association for Blind Black Adults is the dome, the foresight and the future of the blind, our four artists' roads crossed while involved in fund raising for the organisation. They then took a firm decision to combine and clique to form this new band Marumo. Their most solemn prayer is to see Marumo succeed to the most highest accessable peak. This should prove to you that Marumo has a wide variety of talent. Give them a 'Go' support them. They are not modest of their own microcosm: they are part of you and BELONG to you. All they need is your encouragement."

MANKA LE PHALLANG - Leseli (1984)

Reamusic, JUL(E)160
Producer: Clive Risko
Engineer: Martin

Deep Sotho accordion/Famo grooves by multiracial act Manka Le Phallang, who churned out a number of albums in the 80s and featured strongly on the 1988 international compilation 'Sheshwe: The Sound of the Mines'. Produced by former country crooner Clive Risko.

ROZALLA - Spirit of Africa (1989)

Tusk/Serengeti, WIH7047
Producers: Out of the Hat Productions, D. Morton & Trick Productions

Probably the most successful African singer in international dance music, Rozalla Miller was born in 1964 in Ndola, Zambia and began singing professionally as a child at special events and on kids' TV. At 18 she moved to Zimbabwe, where after fronting various R&B cover bands she launched her solo career, scoring numerous radio hits, including 'Party Time' in 1984. In 1988 she moved to London in search of international success. In 1989 she released Spirit of Africa, an album of slick R&B-pop (with minimal African influence except on the title track and 'King') that would soon be overshadowed. A few months later, working with Chris Sergeant of Unit Dance Records and the Band of Gypsies production duo, Rozalla landed club hits in 1990 with 'Born To Luv Ya' and in 1991 with 'Everybody's Free (To Feel Good)', a hit so massive it earned her the dubious title 'Queen of Rave' in the burgeoning electronic mainstream.

Following the success of her debut album Everybody's Free, in 1992 she opened for Michael Jackson on the European leg of his Dangerous tour. She continued to release lesser hits throughout the 90s and beyond, moving between dance music and R&B/soul. Her other albums include Look No Further (1995), Coming Home (1998) and Brand New Version (2009). 'Everybody's Free' enjoyed new life with remixes charting in the UK in 1996 and Australia in 2009. In 2010 she performed in Harare alongside the Rusike Brothers for the first time in many years. In 2014 she released two new singles, 'Can You Feel The Love' with David Anthony and 'If You Say It Again', which entered the Billboard Dance charts in the US. In 2015 she released 'Shaking Through the Night', a collaboration with Farhaan 'Kazz' Khan (of UK-based, Malawi-born, Zim-raised brothers Bkay n Kazz), produced by German producer Peter Schanz. During her 30-year career she has also enjoyed chart success in Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, France, Austria and New Zealand.

OZIAS NTSELE - Uthando (1985)

Vulindlela/Jumbo, VUL6003
Producers: Greg Cutler & Sipho Gumede
Engineers: Greg Cutler & David Segal
Recorded at: RPM Studios

Produced by the late great Sipho Gumede (Sakhile, The Boogie Man), Ozias Ntsele's Uthando (love) serves up traditional Zulu grooves, at times venturing into jazzier territory, with some smooth organ melodies that would have appealed to slightly more conservative tastes.