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SEA BEE - I Wanda Why?

Afrosynth Records, AFS039 


Originally released in South Africa in 1994 on the Mighty Good Sounds imprint, Sibi Motloung’s debut album was a hit in the earliest days of kwaito, the house-infused soundtrack of a newly democratic nation. 

While it may have been Sea Bee’s release, key to the album’s success was the magic touch of Spokes H, who composed, produced and arranged all the tracks. Sea Bee would soon disappear off the radar, while Spokes remained an influential and popular figure in SA until his untimely death in 2013. 

The latest release on Afrosynth Records removes two tracks from the original six-track album, keeping four of the choicest downtempo dancefloor bombs – ‘Home Boy’, ‘I Wanda Why’, ‘Thiba’ and ‘Stoppa - all heavy on the bass, with uplifting vocals and unique lyrics guaranteed to not let any discerning (or aspiring) DJ down – ever!


Pre-order it here.






A Spokes H Production. All tracks composed by Ishmael Hlatshwayo
Engineered by Fab Grosso. Recorded at Grosso Studios
Keyboards by Peter Chilly Tshabalala. Backing vocals by Dolphy Maloka, Tutu Mogulatsi, Billy Lethoba & Sylvia Moloi
Mastered by Wouter Brandburg
Cover Art by Grant Jurius/Future Nostalgia
Distributed by Rush Hour

NIGHT FORCE & THE TOM CATS – Dance

Afrosynth Records, AFS037 


Rare South African disco from 1981, re-issued for the first time on Afrosynth Records. 

The title track ‘Dance’ was originally released in 1980, a hit throughout Europe written by Belgian composers Frank Degrijse and Alain Denisse, released as Night Force and produced by ill-fated Dutchman Bart van der Laar.

In Johannesburg, where a promo was sent to the offices of the local independent label Music Team, it was decided that the song would be released to the South African market at a slower tempo, the original 45rpm slowed down to 33rpm.


Originally released in South African in 1981, the slowed-down version of Dance was the brainchild of Enoch Ndlela during his days at Music Team, run by Maurice Horwitz.

Ndlela recalls: “Before I left [Music Team], I found ‘Dance’, a maxi single from Italy – Night Force and Tom Cats. It was a maxi single and the tempo was high. Because the tempo is Italy, it’s white people. I told Maurice, ‘This is a hit, but you have to slow it down’. He refused, but I had to persuade him into slowing it down.

“Now the story is that it was a mistake that I played in on 33. It was not a mistake. I did it! I am a musician, I’m a producer. The master was sent and we asked permission to slow it down to suit the market… You can hear it differs if you know the original.“



The move dropped the beats per minute from a frantic 135 down to 113, transforming the original into a slow-burner for the earliest days of the South African disco market, which would soon explode into what became known as bubblegum.

The trend in South Africa of pitching down imported dance records continued and in the following decade gave rise to the first kwaito releases.



Added to the Night Force tracks are four songs by The Tom Cats, Music Team’s in-house production team. Most recognisable are dub reworkings of recent Afrosynth releases ‘Burnin Beat (It’sHot)’ and ‘Searchin’ - originally released two years earlier, in 1979 - here re-titled ‘Hot Stuff’ and ‘Search For Love’ respectively.



Synth-heavy oddities ‘You Are My Fire’ and ‘Shake Shake’ make up the rest of the tracklist, credited to Jannie Smit, who a few years later would work on V.O.’s Mashisa, another recent South African re-issue.

Night Force & The Tom Cats Dance (AFS037) will be available in late 2018. Order from Rush Hour here.


MABUTA - Welcome To This World

Afrosynth Records, AFS041


Afrosynth Records is proud to announce its first new release: Cape Town collective MABUTA's Welcome To This World.

The album is the brainchild of Shane Cooper, a central figure in the new wave of young voices in South Africa’s thriving jazz scene. The bassist, composer and producer from Cape Town has paid his dues as a prolific sideman and award-winning acoustic artist. He is also involved in South Africa’s leftfield electronic scene as Card On Spokes.

In 2017 Cooper wanted to start a new project that would be a platform for him to consolidate ideas from his jazz and electronic pursuits under one umbrella. This project is MABUTA – taking it’s name from the Japanese word for ‘eyelid’, playing on the power of the eyelid as the doorway between the dream world and the real world.


Cooper recruited some of South Africa’s most exciting young artists for the group: Bokani Dyer (piano, Rhodes and synths), Sisonke Xonti (tenor sax), Marlon Witbooi (drums) and Robin Fassie-Kock (trumpet). He then ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to raise the money to record MABUTA’s debut album Welcome To This World.

Photo by Aidan Tobias
The resultant sound is deep and dynamic – timeless yet groundbreaking in its originality. MABUTA fuses acoustic and electronic elements on an eight-track album that in years to come will be regarding as a  seminal 21st-century addition on South African’s long and proud jazz tradition. The album also ventures further into other parts of Africa, including Mali (on ‘Bamako Love Song’), Nigeria (‘Log Out Shut Down’) and Ethiopia (‘Tafattala).



MABUTA’s debut album features several notable guest artists, including globe-trotting British tenor saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings (Shabaka & The Ancestors, Sons of Kemet), South African saxman Buddy Wells, and Swazi percusionist Tlale Makhene.

The 2xLP vinyl edition of Welcome To This World is released exclusively on Afrosynth Records, the first contemporary release on a label until now associated with bubblegum and kwaito re-issues from the 80s and 90s. It is distributed worldwide by Rush Hour Music in Amsterdam and will be released during the second half of 2018. Order it here.


“This debut from MABUTA is a nice example of how doing something a little bit different doesn’t necessarily have to be an obstacle to creating supremely embraceable music.  The sextet’s mix of South African jazz and contemporary electronic music is all kinds of friendly and forges a strong connection, even as it simultaneously creates an environment that sparks an introspective reaction.” – Bird is the Worm 

 “Shane Cooper and his many incarnations will always offer the freshest air for your lungs, the awakening your mind has been craving and sustenance for your soul. The MABUTA collective has released a mesmerizing album, timeless and challenging all at once. You’ll have this on repeat for a while and return to it often.” - Texx and The City

NTOMBI NDABA - 'Tomorrow'


Afrosynth Records AFS036 

SOUTH African music has undoubtedly been blessed with many fine female voices, too numerous to list here. During the 1980s a new generation emerged. For many fans of that era’s music, one voice stands out above the rest: Ntombi Ndaba. 



Eleanor Ntombikayise Ndaba was born on 28 February 1958 in Vryheid (Afrikaans for ‘Freedom’), in the Zululand region north of Durban. In the early 1960s her family was forced to relocate to the newly built township of eMondlo a few kilometres away, along with millions of other South Africans living under the notorious system of enforced segregation known as apartheid.

Ntombikayise (isiZulu for ‘Daddy’s girl) grew up in a close-knit family. Her father worked as a driver for a local furniture company, her mother as a domestic worker for a family in town. As a young girl Ntombi would sit glued to her radio, taking it all in. The first record she bought was ‘Ngiyabuza’ by Letta Mbulu, one of her biggest influences.

As a teenager she started singing for a local band in eMondlo called Shame. Hooked, she decided to follow her dream and make the journey, like so many others, to the City of Gold: Johannesburg.

 “I’ve always known I’d be a singer,” she remembers. “I was singing in church and in school. I wasn’t shy at all. I’m not shy, I’m an outspoken person. I don’t get nervous when I sing, I just feel free, and happy.”

In Joburg young Ntombi auditioned successfully to join the cast of Gibson Kente, the famous “father of township theatre”, in a production titled Hungry Spoon. In the same cast were two other young singers who were soon to become major stars of the ‘bubblegum’ era: Phumi Maduna (of Cheek To Cheek) and Brenda Fassie.


During breaks from Hungry Spoon’s schedule, Ntombi would return home to eMondlo, where she soon drew the attention of local entrepreneur A.T. Khoza, known to one and all as ‘Rubber’. So impressed was the wealthy businessman that he offered to put a band together for Ntombi, including paying for all the instruments they would require. 

“When I was with Hungry Spoon, we were moving around all over South Africa,” says Ntombi. “When I went home for holidays, thinking that I’ll come back again to Gibson Kente, that’s when Rubber suggested that he buys me the whole set of instruments. We came here to Johannesburg, to Gallo Studios [situated downtown on the corner of Kerk and Goud Streets], and collected the guys. Musicians were sitting outside waiting for jobs.”

Ntombi and Rubber made their pick: keyboardists Jerry Dube and Bheki Zulu, Bongani Sithole on bass, Enock Nkosi on drums. Hailing from various parts of the country, they drove around collecting their belongings before heading back to eMondlo. “That’s when we started to rehearse together. Rubber gave us a big house behind one of his businesses and we rehearsed there. That’s when the Survival was formed.”

Meanwhile, Ntombi and Rubber’s relationship soon flourished. “As a businessman he used to hire these guys I was singing with and ask them to do some shows for him. I happened to be there. And then we just fell in love…”

The band’s first opportunity to record came when a contact at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in Durban put them in touch with Clive Riskowitz (aka Clive Risko), a successful producer who ran his own label, Reamusic. In 1985 Ntombi & Survival released their first two singles, including her breakthrough hit ‘Think More About Me’, a 10-minute ballad that established Ntombi as a star in the making, as well as a talented lyricist and songwriter.

“I never had any awards; the only thing I knew was how my fans reacted when I performed that song. They couldn’t stop asking for encore, again and again! People watched in amazement, some of them couldn’t believe I had that energy. They were so excited.”

The following year Ntombi & Survival’s star continued to rise with the release of the albums I Am Trying and Dance The Night Away. 

By 1987 the group had left Reamusic and signed to one of the biggest labels of the day, EMI’s CCP Records, also home to Brenda Fassie and her backing back The Big Dudes. At EMI Ntombi & Survival released two more albums in 1987, Sweet Love and What Is It With Me (Yini Ngami). As usual, songwriting credits went to Ntombi while Khoza was credited as the producer and arranger, although the band played an important role in crafting the songs, particularly Dube.

In search of more creative freedom and a healthier cut of the profits, Rubber and Ntombi soon parted ways with CCP to set up their own label, Anneko. The establishment of the new label saw the singer going solo and starting to work with a wider group of session musicians, and even branching out to producing other artists. 

She released her first album as Ntombi Ndaba in 1988: Mina Ngilijaji (isiZulu for ‘I am the judge’), the title track a powerful affirmation of her independence as an artist and a woman, and another hit with her fans. The same album also included tracks like ‘I’ve Got a Friend’, ‘Do You Trust Amajita’ and a cover of British singer Joan Armatrading's 'Weakness In Me' (originally released in 1981), a nod to one of Ntombi’s favourite international artists.

More solo albums soon followed: Mama Nature in 1989, then Will Power and Why Me in 1991, featuring a new version of her breakthrough hit ‘Think More About Me’.

At their peak, Ntombi and her band would perform up to 20 shows a month in every corner of South Africa. “We were always on the road,” she remembers. “The only memory I have is that, when people love you, they’d usually come to me. Some offered a place to stay, which I didn’t want, but they used to show love. Those are good memories.”


Just as quickly as she rose to fame in 1985, in the early 90s Ntombi disappeared. Following Rubber Khoza’s unexpected death, she sold their house in Soweto and returned to her family home in eMondlo, never to record or perform again. Since then she has been living a quiet life in eMondlo with her mother, far removed from the bright lights of Johannesburg and her former life as one of South Africa’s most loved and talented artists. 

ORDER 'TOMORROW' HERE.

VOLCANO - 'Vanonyana Lava' b/w THE BEAT GANGSTERS - 'Chappies'

Afrosynth Records, AFS035 

Hot on the heels the label’s debut release Burnin’ Beat, Johannesburg-based Afrosynth Records’ second release is a 12” of two bass-heavy cuts of obscure ‘90s kwaito from South Africa.

Founded in the early 80s by Richard Makhubele, Volcano’s signature brand of Shangaan disco made them one of the most popular bands of the ‘bubblegum’ era, releasing a string of big-selling albums with the Gallo label. But by 1993 things in South Africa were changing fast, both politically and musically. Volcano had left Gallo to join Eric Frisch Productions (EFP) in search of greater independence. On their 1993 album Tshigubu Tshanga they began to experiment with the new house-inspired sound of kwaito courtesy of producer Malcolm ‘X’ Makume, with one track in particular standing out: ‘Vanonyana Lava’.

The song, its title Shangaan for ‘These Women’, is according to frontman Makhubele a simple story “about women in a nightclub or a tavern… You buy the women their drinks, but when they’re finished drinking then they run away.”  More important than the lyrics is the song’s massive bass hook and distinctly South African groove, which 25 years after its original release have put it back in demand for DJs and diggers mining the South African sound for fresh inspiration.

‘Vanonyana Lava’ was a notable departure from the typical Volcano sound. “Kwaito music was becoming bigger, more powerful,” remembers Makhubele of the band’s foray into kwaito. “So we decided to do at least a track and see if people would love it, then we’d do more. By that time the Volcano sound was very popular, and that kwaito sound was slowly coming in the market. Our fans were happy for it.”

Volcano soon followed this early kwaito success with The Bold & The Beautiful in 1994, the year of South Africa’s first democratic elections. But with the drastic changes of the decade the band was soon relegated to history as a new generation of young kwaito stars became the voice of South Africa’s youth.

On the flip-side of this new release is an even more obscure track from the record bag of Afrosynth Records’ DJ Okapi. The Beat Gangsters were a short-lived studio project made up of Willi Mau Mau and Mad T Doctor, in-house producers for Mob Music, an independent label set up by Eric Frisch (after the demise of EFP) that put out a string of influential club releases in the mid-90s, among the last albums to be pressed to vinyl in South Africa. Named after a popular South African brand of gum, ‘Chappies’ was originally released on the 1995 album Mob Table Dance. 

With the music of South Africa currently gaining international acclaim thanks to a new generation of DJs, diggers and fans, Afrosynth Records continues to shine a light on the origins of South African dance music. Released as a 12” at 45rpm for maximum dancefloor satisfaction, AFS035 has been remastered by Brandenburg Mastering in Amsterdam and comes with original cover art by Cape Town-based artist and DJ Grant Jurius depicting the notorious okapi knife. It’s due out in April 2018, distributed exclusively by Rush Hour Music. Order here.


BURNIN BEAT ft. Olive Masinga – Burnin Beat (It’s Hot)


Afrosynth Records, AFS034

Arranged by: Enoch Ndlela
Produced by: Maurice Horwitz - for ‘Dream’ Productions
Engineers: J. Smit (Backing)
Remix: H. Hartmann
Master Cut: H. du Preez
Published by Roi Music
Licensed by Afrosynth Records from Maurice Horwitz & Enoch Ndlela
Transferred from the original master tapes by Rob Allingham & Ian Osrin

In 1978, a young musician named Enoch Ndlela was working behind the scenes in PR for an established independent label finding success in the apartheid-era South African music industry. A regular in the burgeoning multiracial nightclub scene on the fringes of Johannesburg that defied apartheid, Ndlela was in the midst of the new electronic disco sound that was taking over, the sound of Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer, as well as 10-minute epics like Santa Esmeralda’s ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’. In a segregated South Africa, disco offered a ray of light. Already some local acts like Blondie & Pappa were following this new direction, while Trevor Rabin had a crossover hit with Disco Rock Machine, shortly before his departure for London and later LA.

Ndlela, wanting a release for the CTV label that would serve the nightclub market, teamed up with the label head Maurice Horwitz to pen ‘Burnin Beat (It’s Hot)’. The name of the project took on the same name: Burnin Beat. They hired a team of session musicians and a young singer named Olive Masinga to record the track, along with a B-side called ‘Searchin'’. Masinga was a young stage actress with a powerful voice that landed her in the cast of numerous productions by ‘the father of township drama’, Gibson Kente, including on the 1977 albums Heartbreaker, where she led the G Kente Voices, and Can You Take itThat year she also released a solo album, I’m For Real.

The result of the Burnin Beat recording sessions was a 12” that immediately disappeared into obscurity. Internal politics at the label led Ndlela to join a larger company. Without someone to promote the release to clubs and radio, CTV gave the album to another label, RPM, to distribute, but they soon lost interest. Following its release in 1979, copies of the Burnin Beat only seemed to make it into the hands of a few club DJs, and barely if at all onto record store shelves. Radio didn’t touch it either, and the song was certainly never performed live.

Sadly, Olive Masinga never found the fame she deserved. A few years after the release of her 1985 solo album Nobuhle, the singer met an untimely end in a car accident in 1990 on her way to join the production of Mbongeni Ngema’s Township Fever in the USA.

Nearly four decades since Burnin Beat’s ill-fated release, in recent years it has somehow made it into the hands of a few notable diggers, among them DJ Harvey, spurring an unlikely interest in this long-forgotten piece of South African disco history.

Remastered from the original master tapes, Burnin Beat is the first release on Johannesburg-based Afrosynth Records. Order via RushHour.

 

T.S.D. MASEVE NAHLAYISANI SISTERS - Ixikuma Kumane (1990)

Leopard/Hit City, LEO(H)020
Producer: Thomas 'Makhulela Endleleni' Motshwane
Engineer: RF Gumbi
Recorded at: Platinum


As was often the case with South Africa music, the best results came about when musicians and producers of various backgrounds defied apartheid rules and collaborated. So although the final product here is an album of Tsonga music, giving it that superior touch are top players like Felani Gumbi and Vuka Mbele who handle all keyboards, including plenty of spacey samples. Frontman T.S.D. Maseve plays bass and in his notes makes it clear that his music is for one and all: “My thanks to all the people who worked on this album with me. I hope all of you will enjoy my Tsonga Music.”

BIBBI - You Don't Mind (1992)

Diamond, DMD3
Producer: Sun
Engineer: Jorge Arrigone
Recorded at: Shandel Music Studios


New-school grooves produced by Poth ‘Sun’ Nkotsoe, formerly one half of Monwa & Sun and a popular solo act after his eponymous debut in 1990 and Looking For Love (1991). He surely could’ve put his own name on this four-track album, given that the early house beats take centre stage.


IZINSIZWA - Uthandabani? (1991)

Music Team, WHR(C)101
Producer: Bheki Ngcobo
Engineer: Danny Bridgens
Composer: Bheki Ngcobo
Recorded at: Kitchen Sync


Synth-heavy mbaqanga along the lines of the Soul Brothers, Abangani, Madlala Brothers and many others. Produced by Bheki Ngcobo (Ihashi Elimhlophe) and engineered by keyboard wizard Danny Bridgens. Best tracks ‘Isingehlule’ and ‘Intozami’ see Izinsizwa (the young men) replacing traditional Zulu guitar lines with uptempo synths for infectious, offbeat winners. 


  • Mint copies of this album are for sale here 

POOSH - Check Ups (1991)

Music Team, ETL(C)5028
Producer: Danny Mokoka
Engineer: Danny Bridgens
Composer: Vusumzi Keiser Dipu
Recorded at: Syntrax


Debut album from Pumla Mtengwane, with all songs composed and keyboards played by Keiser Dipu, former frontman of Chaka. Uptempo pantsula grooves with Poosh’s singing and rapping often taking a backseat to frantic beats and layers of synths, best on tracks like ‘Johnny Boy’, ‘Do It’ and ‘Sisi Rebecca’, a funky ode to rising star Rebecca Malope.

“From humble beginnings singing in a choir choir, talent competitions and shows, here is my debut album. Thank you to Keiser Dipu for always believing in me and my dream. Together we had made this album come true. Special thanks to Music Team for the chance in a million to record my album and for the support and encouragement they have given me. Everybody has a dream, and if you can dream it, you can achieve it.”


SYNDICATE SISTERS - Foolish Games (1991)

DPMC, DMB9033
Producers: Marvin W. Moses, C. Ghelakis & G. Vardas 


Leaders of the new-school sound that drew influence from international trends like Eurobeat and New Jack Swing, the DPMC label struck gold with the Syndicate Sisters, a trio whose sound typifies the early 90s pre-kwaito sound, along with MarcAlex, J.E. Movement and others. All instruments and programming by Marvin Moses, featuring guest vocals by a young Ringo Madlingozi (on ‘Bad Boy’) and the late great Ronnie Joyce (on ‘Every Song’).