April '17

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

Coming up we'll be checking out albums by SENYAKA, T-GROUP, TERYLENE, THE RIBBONS, BIBBI, POOSH and PARK STATION.

SENYAKA - Ntate Senyaka (1991)

Roy B/Teal, RBL186
Producer: Senyaka Kekana
Engineer: Peter 'Mahamba' Pearlson
Recorded at: Downtown Studios

Following the groundbreaking album Fuquza Dance (1987) and the subsequent success of Portuguese (1988) and Sophiatown (1989), kwaito forerunner Senyaka Kekana’s 1991 album Ntate Senyaka was certainly not his best, attempting to blend his signature rapping style with traditional accordian grooves. He was soon back to his best for 1993’s Ma-Gents and remained popular as an artist and actor until his untimely death in 2015.

J.G. PROJECT - Khay'elitsha Sunrise (1990)

Hit City, HC003
Producer: John Galanakis
Engineer: John Galanakis
Recorded at: Platinum

One of the top producers of the era, John Galanakis launched the careers of some of bubblegum’s biggest names, including Dan Nkosi, Zizi Kongo and Benjamin Ball. An accomplished musician in his own right (with Banjo and others), in 1990 Galanakis released this solo studio project of instrumental synth jams. Dedicated to the plight of the homeless and poor in South Africa, the song titles pay homage to some of the country’s famous townships: Khayelitsha, Kliptown, Crossroads, Orange Farm and Mshenguville, while others refer more generally to the township experience, such as ‘Jimmy’s Shack’ and 'Zozo in the City’.  

“This is the beat of the City,” the liner notes proclaim. “It is the sound of the country village. It is the soul of the squatter camps. It is the sadness of the past, and the hope of the future. It is joy for today. It is Africa”

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here 

KOMBI - Kombi (1990)

Eagle, EGH4000
Producer: Cyril Mchunu
Engineer: Graham Satterthwaite
Recorded at: DB Studios, Durban

Downtempo Afro-pop grooves with some spacey synths. Featuring Lucas Msomi and Nicholas Kweyama on keyboards, midi programming by engineer Graham Satterthwaite and sax by Mandla Masuku. According to the liner notes it took the Joburg-based singer three years to put the album together, eventually finishing it in Durban. Titles include ‘My Way’, ‘I Need Somebody’ and ‘Sthandwa Sami’ (my darling).

OZIAS - Taxi Driver (1988)

Mbali/Kato/Mambo, YPC(C)10002
Producer: Tom Mkhize
Engineer: Jan Smit

Top-quality bubblegum with intricate synths and powerful vocals, produced by the legendary Tom Mkhize. Opening with the title track, a funky and sincere call to take it easy on the roads, other highlights on the six-track include ‘Uyajola’, ‘Money Money’ and ‘Soweto’. Ozias Ntsele also released mbaqanga albums like 1985’s Uthando and Khuzani Abantu. His other disco albums from the era include Hey Driver (1987) and Mother.

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


Tusk, HIM101
Producer: Mme Denise
Recorded at: Studio Diana Music, Paris

Jean ‘Johnny’ Bokelo Isenge was a popular Congolese guitarist who began his music career as a teenager in the 1950s. Recorded in Paris with his band Mbonda Africa and originally released in 1989 on Espera, Anti Balle was one of Bokelo’s last albums before he passed away in 1995. It was released in South Africa in 1991.

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here 

RUSH (with Linda Ziqubu) - Molo Bas (Looking for a Job) (1989)

Music Team/Roi/CTV, CT81
Producer: Danny Mokoka (exec: Mannie Tulsie)
Engineer: David Moloele
Recorded at: Orange 338

More top-quality electronic grooves from the Music Team stable, with keyboards by Linda Ziqubu and lead vocals by S. Sibiya, produced by Danny Mokoka from the Boyoyo Boys. Titles include ‘Kalimba Jive’, ‘Vampire’ and the hypnotic ‘Come Back’. Rush followed this album in 1990 with Cynthia.

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here.

THE EQUALS - Don’t Take Me For Granted (1989)

Music Team/Red Fish/Red Label, RLLP0551
Composer: G. Hadebe

Another long-lost gem rediscovered in recent years alongside V.O. and Jivaro. Belying the no-budget cover art, the album was ahead of its time and contains five synth-fuelled disco jams like ‘Game of Love’ and ‘New Lover’, plus a dancefloor-friendly dub mix of the title track. 

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here 

THE HARD WORKERS - Ayoba-Yo (1988)

Music Team/CTV/Mbali/Red Label, RLLP(J)038
Producer: Tom Mkhize
Engineers: David Moloele & Tom Mkhize
Recorded at: Orange 338

Pantsula classic produced by Tom Mkhize, with Linn drums by David Moloele and keys by Joey. Heavy electronic grooves with sporadic vocal samples signal the birth of modern dance music in SA. Other albums by the Hard Workers include Kae Kapa Kae (also from 1988) and U-Turn (1990).

PAMELA NKUTHA - Xaniseka (Kokwana) (1993)

Music Team, CT103
Producers: Themba Mawelela & Fred Woods

Pamela Nkutha emerged near the end of the 80s as a rival to Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Mercy Pakela, Nomuntu and others. Following the success of her earlier albums Umntanami (Kidnapped) in 1988 and Manano (1990), Nkutha moved to the Music Team stable for 1993's Xaniseka (Kokwana). Synth specialist Mawelela aka Little Big Man arranges, co-composes (with Pamela) and co-produces (with On Record's Fred Woods). The album was followed by Sweet Mama. More recently Nkutha released Ingudu (2011) featuring the single 'Strong' , This is Africa featuring 'Muranziwa' (2014) and Balatedi Baka (My Fans) in 2015.

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here.

VENDA KIDS - Ditshiwana (1992)

Music Team/Leopard, WHR(C)104
Producers: John Galanakis & RF Gumbi
Engineers: John Galanakis & RF Gumbi

The Venda Kids were a big-selling boy band synonymous for most of their career with the Hit City stable under the stewardship of producer John Galanakis. The band consisted of the Singo brothers Ntango, Mahana and Ndivha, along with various friends. They released popular albums like Wake-Up (1985) and The Lord is My Shepherd (1986). For 1989’s Rambo they trimmed their name to simply The V Kids, but reverted to the full name for 1992’s Ditshiwana. By this time the kids were growing up, and thankfully this album no longer has their characteristic unbroken voices, making it arguably their finest effort.

* Mint copies of this album are for sale here.

SPOKES 'H' - Tamati 'So' (1987)

Black Talent, BTMR(0)009
Producer: Spokes I. Hlatshwayo
Engineer: Gerhard J. van Niekerk
Recorded at: Black Talent Music Studio

Early pantsula classic by Spokes H, credited as one of the originators of kwaito in South Africa. Besides the massive title track, the four-track album consists of ‘Stjwetla’, ‘Push Isitimela’ and ‘Ibhabhalazi’, another homage to the hangover.

“When I saw the name of Ishmael Hlatswayo for the first time it was on Pat Shange’s album Man Oh Man on Dephon’s Roy B label. He had written the title track and I liked him as a songwriter. One day in 1987 in the SABC record library amongst the received new releases I saw an album titled Tamati So by someone called Spokes H... This is the album that taught me a big lesson as a deejay - never to judge a book by the cover. I listened to this unknown newcomer once and put the album aside. As usual, I went to Dakota Record Bar in town for my routine consumer trend observations. Customer after customer was asking for Spokes H. One of the customers asked the seller to play the track for her and I was shocked when everybody in the store started dancing. I realised that the record in demand was the one I had pushed aside in the listening booth. The following week I put it in my charts and the fire just spread wider and wider - a star was born!” (Mojapelo, 2008:43).

Later albums include Magosha (1989), Under Control (1990), Finger Prints (1991), Wipe Her Tears Off (1992), On My Way Home (1994), Dirty Jozi (1996) and Rafifi (1997). He also produced other artists, such as Sea Bee’s kwaito hit 'I Wanda Why' (1994). He continued to release albums until his untimely death at 2013 at the age of 45.

FAST MOVE - Uzolala La (1989)

Music Team/Roi/Red Label, RLLP055
Producers: Danny Bridgens & ZE Magwaza (exec: Enoch Ndlela)
Engineers: Darryl Heilbrunn & Ralph Martin
Composer: ZE Magwaza
Recorded at: RPM Studio

Another winner from producer Eddie Magwaza, who was also behind V.O. and Ayobayo Band before his life was cut short in a shooting. Catching the tail-end of the bubblegum-era, tracks like ‘Jika Magogo’ and ‘Watch Out’ are inspired by the burgeoning pantsula trend that soon gave rise to pre-kwaito instrumental grooves, although vocals still feature prominently here on tracks like ‘No Smoking in the Taxi’ ("There was this gentleman who kept on bugging everyone, he really don't know the rules of the taxi, from the way he took out his cigarette...")