1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

Just another music list

This Weekend – The Dynamics

This Weekend – The Dynamics

The Dynamics

The Dynamics

In the early eighties in the UK Ska music came to the fore with bands like Madness, The Specials and The Selecter. In South Africa we enjoyed this style of music, but it never really took off. Madness were about the only band of this genre to have chart success on our shores, and even then it was a bit limited. Similarly, our own, homegrown talent in the form of The Dynamics, did not get much play on the radio and, with hindsight, we were poorer for that.

‘This Weekend’ was from the bands first incarnation (1980 – 1981) and is a joyful organ ‘n’ sax romp that is as life affirming as a Friday night on the town. The song goes further into the weekend, even making the Sunday morning hangover sound like a blast (although I imagine not many would recommend a dose of this song as a cure for a babalas).

Being a multi-racial band, there is a definite township inflection to the sound not found in the other ska that was around, and the song is richer for this. There’s a sort of African jazzy sound in the fine print of the song, making it a highly dance-able to track. The CD reissue offers you a choice of the instrumental version, or one which has Ian Botha on vocals. While both are worth a spin, Botha’s slightly plummy singing and the lyrics add to the overall affect, making it the prefereable one to listen to.

The Dynamics were a politically aware band and had to endure the scrutiny of the apartheid government’s secret service (as the sleeve note the the CD describes them “Remember those creepy, moustached thugs in bad clothes and white socks who used sit on the front-row tables with untouched beers and those unmistakable dikbek faces that never smiled?” – some secret huh!). But ‘This Weekend’ is not a political song, it’s jol-injected jive. To quote the seelvenotes of the CD once more ‘Time to switch it on and jive – again’

Where to find it:
The Dynamics – The Dynmaics (2001) Retrofresh, freshcd 111

Straight Ahead – Otis Waygood Blues Band

Straight Ahead – Otis Waygood Blues Band

Simply Otis Waygood

Simply Otis Waygood

‘Staight Ahead’ originally appeared on the 1971 album by The Otis Waygood Blues Band ‘Ten Light Claps And A Scream’ and eventually made it’s was onto the CD re-issue of ‘Simply Otis Waygood’ as a bonus track. Unlike most of the Waygood’s other material, this is an instrumental piece and Rob Zipper who normally tackled vocals, decided to put his mouth to good use, blowing away on a mean sax.

It does, however, sound as if Rob was sitting in a different room to the rest of the band as the sax is sort of muted and distant, but he does a wonderful job of running a three legged race with his brother Alan on bass as the two play the same tune and are essentially the driving force behind the song. Despite the bass and sax being the engine of the song, one must not forget the interludes where Leigh Sagar butts in with his guitars, adding some screech to the chatter of the Zipper brothers.

There is an overall down and dirty dub kind of sound which was not common in music back then, but did echo in a number of 80s indie bands like Pig Bag and A Certain Ratio. This song sounds like it is floating up from some dingy smoke-filled basement club, causing the pavement to vibrate to the beat. They weren’t just good these guys, they were waygood.

Where to find it:
Simply Otis Waygood – Otis Waygood Blues Band (2003), RetroFresh, freshcd 135


Don’t Play It No More – Don Stanton

Don’t Play It No More – Don Stanton

The Best Of SA Pop Vol 1

The Best Of SA Pop Vol

Don Stanton was born in Cape Town and was in a group called the Comrades. In 1969 he moved up to Johannesburg and toured with the African Follies show. After a car accident in 1971 he recorded some solo material which included the track ‘Don’t Play It No More’. The song made it on to the Springbok Radio charts, spending four weeks there and peaking at number 17.

According to the comments on the Youtube video of this song, he eventually moved to Portugal where he passed away sometime around 1994. There are 8 singles and 2 albums listed in his discography in Garth Chilvers & Tom Jasiukowics book ‘History Of Contemporary Music Of South Africa’ and they add that he managed the Casino nightclub in Durban for a while. And that is about it for the information available on Don.

Listening to ‘Don’t Play It No More’ you get the impression of someone who was passionate in a relaxed kind of way. The song is a lilting, slightly reggae-ish one that bounces along merrily like a stroll on a white sandy beach with the wind blowing gently. But on top of this you get Don’s yearning vocals begging you not to play ‘that song’ anymore. What that song is, we don’t know, but we do know it brings back painful memories to the singer.

Fortunately for Don, when it came to this song, the DJs ignored the instructions on the disc and played it all the way into our charts which ultimately had enough effect to be included in The Best Of SA Pop series.

Where to find it:
Various Artists – The Best of SA Pop Volume 1 (1994) GMP, CDGMPD 40485 (CD)


Delilah – Koos

Delilah – Koos

Delilah - Koos

Delilah – Koos

No, this is not Koos Kombuis, it a group called Koos who appeared at the Houtstok Rockfees which was an Afrikaan music festival that took place on 31 May 1990 in Pretoria. One of the main forces behind the festival was Anton Goosen who shocked the crowd by opening with his song ‘Die Wit Kaffers Van Afrika’.

Koos were made up of Marcel Van Heerden, Gys de Villiers and conceptual artist Neil Goedhals, who were joined at times by Velile Nxazonke, Megan Kruskal, Christo Boshoff and Kendell Geers. They were part of the Voelvry movement, with 2 of their songs (‘Cowboy’ and ‘Sing Jy Van Bomme’) appearing on the original ‘Voelvry’ album.

At the concert they performed a rather strange cover of the Tom Jones hit ‘Delilah’. There are snarling guitars, off key singing and a steady drum beat. Compared to the slick production and shiny gloss that Jones put on the song, this is a down and dirty, almost sinister take on it. Koos seem to be taking the piss out of the original. Where Jones makes a clean and shiny song about murdering an unfaithful lover, Koos show it up for what it really is, a vicious attack on another human being. Given their political leanings, there could be a wider context to the choice of this song to cover, making a comment on the violence that was rife in the country at the time.

Sadly, Goedhals went on to commit suicide in the August of 1990, barely 3 months after the festival and the band called it a day. They did, however leave us a few bits and pieces of memories that one has to spend some time trying to find, but the results are worth it.

Where to find it:
The Black Tape – Koos (1986)
Houtstok Rockfees – Various (1996),Wildebeest/Gallo,WILD013

Koos Facebook page:

Download free from Sjambok Music here:


Building – Blk Sonshine

Building – Blk Sonshine

Blk Sonshine

Blk Sonshine


Masauko Chipembere and Neo Muyanga make up the wonderful band Blk Sonshine and when their eponymous debut album appeared on the scene, there was a lot of excitement. One music journo commenting something to the effect that the SA music scene had not seen an album as different and revolutionary (in a musical sense) since Juluka’s ‘Universal Man’. High praise indeed.

The album spawed 6 Top 20 hits on the SA Rockdigest Charts, one of which was ‘Building’ (AKA ‘Me And My People Building’) which peaked at number 4. Blk Sonshine played stripped down acoustic music, relying on the great harmonies of Masauko and Neo. The songs are full of life and sonshine. In some ways it was the antidote to kwaito that was building in popularity at the time, and it did for black music what PM Dawn and De La Soul did for rap music.

‘Building’ was a positive anthem for the New South Africa, with the lyrics talking about rebuilding the country. The vocals are emotional without being annoyingly so and they are underpinned by a staccato stum of the guitar. There is a scat choir that joins in as the song, err..,  builds and adds some handclaps for extra effect. If Jack Johnson had been a black South African, he may have sounded like this.

Where to find it:
Blk Sonshine – Blk Sonshine (2000), Fresh Music, FRESHCD105


Charlie (Ain’t Slavin’ 2 Da Habit) – Wonderboom

Charlie (Ain’t Slavin’ 2 Da Habit) – Wonderboom



When Rabbitt recorded ‘Charlie’ it was a ‘sleek Labrador with a shiny coat’ of a song. Wonderboom turned it into a snarling, growling pitbull. In the quarter of a century that passed between Rabbitt’s original and Wonderboom’ cover (yes it was that long), rock had been taken out the hands of the pretty boys and unceremoniously dumped into the laps of grungy, tat covered hardcore guys.

Another development in South African terms was the rise of kwaito in the townships and Wonderboom flavoured their hard edged rock sound with the kwaito beats to give us this pounding, snarling version of the old classic. Lead singer Cito and guitarist Martin Schofield battle it out in the vocal department, reaching their peak on the chorus with Cito taking control of the catchy chant of “Charlie! Charlie! Charlie!” while Martin’s blunter voice takes the rap-like “I ain’t slavin’ 2 da habit”.

Dad’s back in the 70’s would probably have worried about their daughters going out with those wild boys in Rabbitt, but after hearing this version, they would be crying out for a nice clean cut Rabbitt boy to take his daughter out, rather than letting these Wonderboom lads near her. However, musically, the ‘Booms took the classic song by the scruff of its neck and dragged it into the new millennium where it can now be heard kicking and screaming and having one helluva party. Apparently Patric van Blerk (who wrote the song) likes this version. And why not? It’s a great cover of a great song.

Where to find it:
Rewind – Wonderboom (2001), David Gresham Records, CDDGR 1533


Killer In The Crowd – Carte Blanche

Killer In The Crowd – Carte Blanche

Far Cry -Carte Blanche

Far Cry – Carte Blanche

After Flash Harry disbanded, Keith Berel went on to form Carte Blanche (2 years before the TV show of the same name hit your sceens) with Dieter Smith. They called in Kevin Kruger to produce their only album ‘Far Cry’ which spawned two magnificent singles – ‘Walk Away’ and ‘Killer In The Crowd’.
The story goes that to get round the SABC censorship, Berel submitted slightly adjusted lyrics to the actual ones, for their consideration, changing the line “I’m just a policeman, a martyr in blue” to “I’m just a please man, a tomato in blue” (from ‘Censorship & Cultural Regulation In The Modern Age’ edited by Beate Müller). This was because, in 1986, the SABC did not like policemen being mentioned in songs.

‘Killer In The Crowd’ is a juggernaut of a song. Staring with its dramatic guitar chords and ominous drums, it tumbles into a full on rock pop song that hurtles along, Berel’s voice bouncing in the cab, while the guitars and drums pound the tar. The whole thing is heading into the heart of a burning 1980’s township. But strangely the message being screamed from this hurtling machine is the message “Stop the fighting”.

The trick of the lyric sheet meant that ‘Killer In The Crowd’ managed to get some airplay, but not enough to propel it into any of the local radio station charts.

Where to find it:
Singles bins or a vinyl or cassette of ‘Far Cry’


Censorship & Cultural Regulation In The Modern Age

We’ve Got The Love – Dale Stephens

We’ve Got The Love – Dale Stephens

We’ve Got The Love - Dale Stephens

We’ve Got The Love – Dale Stephens

Dale was born in PE and spent some of his youth in Holland where he had limited success in the music biz with a band called Malta. He returned to South Africa and formed Freeze, eventually leaving them to go solo. He went on to become a two hit wonder, scoring firstly with ‘We’ve Got The Love’ and then again about 7 months later with ‘Slipping Out The Back Way’.

‘We’ve Got The Love’ was the more successful on the Springbok Radio Top 20, climbing to number 8 and spending 11 weeks on the chart. ‘Slipping Out The Back Way’ manged 7 weeks and peaked at 14. However, ‘Slipping…’ did mange to get onto the Radio 5 charts (peaked at 4) where ‘We’ve Got The Love’ didn’t chart.

The song has a Barry Manilow quality to it with a quieter, piano driven verse, building to a crescendo and chorus complete with strings and soaring vocals. Dale is joined on the vocals by an unknown female voice (anyone know who?) who at times threatens to take over as the star of this love song duet.

Stephens went on to produce more music, but none got the attention that ‘We’ve Got The Love’ and ‘Slipping Out The Back Way’ did.

Where to find it:
Various Artists – The Best of SA Pop Volume 3 (1994) GSP, CDREDD 610

Liberal Man – Jeremy Taylor

Liberal Man – Jeremy Taylor

Jeremy Taylor

Jeremy Taylor

Because of ‘Ag Pleez Deddy’ we sometimes forget that Jeremy Taylor was actually a pom. But, because of ‘Ag Pleez Deddy’, the people of South Africa have made him an honorary Saffa (the government back in the day had other ideas, but that’s another story). Occassionaly Jeremy’s songs were more British than South African and ‘Liberal Man’ is one of these. However, the sentiments are international.

The song is from the point of view of a ‘tolerant liberal’ who hates his neighbour with a passion. The neighbour is a “racist, a jingoist, a white man to the core”. Our liberal man, however let’s his emotions overflow occassionaly and shows his true colours, “I hate him/I loathe him/And I don’t know what to do/I bet he isn’t even English/He’s just another loody Jew”. Then we suddenly see him backpedalling, realising what he’s just said “oo-eer, not that I care” he adds quickly. One person commenting on the Youtube video mentioned below sums up the song nicely – ‘Nothing more intolerant than a Secular Liberal.’

Taylor was a master of satire and ‘Liberal Man’ shows how culturally aware he was, both in South Africa and in England. He is a very funny singer whose brilliance went well beyond ‘Ag Pleez Deddy’.

Where to find it:
The Very Best Of  – Jeremy Taylor (1996 & 2004), Prism Leisure Records

Here it here:



Bad Habit – Fat City

Bad Habit – Fat City

Bad Habit - Fat City

Bad Habit – Fat City

Fat City were Toni Gozza, Johnny Blundell and Jiggs Downing. For ‘Bad Habit’ they drafted in Mike Faure on sax and Wendy Oldfield, Jo Day and Julie & Caroline Blundell for backing vocals.

The song is a broody one, with Gozza’s vocals sounding whiskey-drenched. It is the kind of song you’d expect to hear when a down and out hero in a movie is sitting in the bar choosing to drink his life away (usually just before the love interest walks in and gives him ‘what for’ for being a loser and this miraculously turns his life around). This is reinfornced by the repeated line “life is slipping away” and the lonely sax that Faure brings to the party.

There is a bit of a Neill Solomon sound going on here. A song from the heart, sung in a desperate voice that drags you into the misery of the singer’s life and seems to offer no way out. Sometimes it’s good to wallow in sadness and despair, and you can do so with this song. Take comfort from the fact that you are not alone, but don’t make listening to it a bad habit. Have something cheerful and life affirming like Mango Groove or Juluka next on your playlist.

Where to find it:
SA Top 40 Hits of All Time – Various Artists (2001), Sting Music, STIDFCD037



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