1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

Just another music list

I Wanna Go To Mauritius – Paul Ditchfield

I Wanna Go To Mauritius - Paul Ditchfield

I Wanna Go To Mauritius – Paul Ditchfield

Mauritius, in case you didn’t know, is an island on the other side of Madagascar and is famed for its white beaches and blue seas. Is it any wonder then that one time Bat man (no, I’m not talking about a masked superhero, but rather a member of the SA Fab Four, The Bats) wants to go there?

Released in 1981 and possibly cashing in on Ditchfield’s popularity as a TV presenter at the time, the song has waves of piano cashing around beaches of xylophone and with a sunny sax breezing in. Ditchfield’s voice has a slightly rasping quality to it, as if he’s been sipping a few too many cocktails the night before, but the beautiful surroundings let him forget about his hangover and he’s in Bermuda shorts and an Hawaiian T-shirt dancing a conga on the beach with anyone who want’s to join in.

There are hints of Madness’ ‘The Return Of The Los Palmos 7’ on this that come through in the honky tonk piano dancing a two step with the xylophone. Paul just missed out on a top 20 hit with this. It made it onto the programme ‘Bubbling Under’ on Springbok Radio which used to play the possible future top 20 hits, and even made it to the top of the ‘bubbles’, but sadly got the cold shoulder from the record buying public, although I’m not sure why. This is bright breezy pop, that is pumped full of feel good. Forget Madonna’s ‘Holiday’, take a trip with Paul.

Where to find it:
Singles bins


Makin’ out With Granny – Falling Mirror

Falling Mirror & Granny

Falling Mirror & Granny

There are two ways you can start makin’ out with granny, you can either       storm the loft and pound it out on the piano or head off to the chemist and howl and yowl. Now if that sounds a little cryptic, weird, or downright unsettling then let me explain. There are, as far as I know, 2 different recorded versions of the classic Falling Mirror track ‘Makin’ Out With Granny’. The first appears on the ‘Zen Boulders/The Storming Of The Loft’ 2for1 CD which starts with a ominous piano riff. Then there is the version that appears on the ‘Johnny Calls The Chemist’ CD which start with a yowl and howl of guitar.

Whichever version you chose, both are a bit weird and downright unsettling. And that what makes it such a great song. Nielen Marais’ vocals are edgy, dirty and quite frankly psychotic. The lyrics about a granny holding shotguns to your head, wounded minds and grannies filled with hate, do nothing to ease the sense of unease within the song. Throw into this Alan Faull’s searing guitars (in one version) or a hypnotic, slightly psychedelic but menacing repeated piano riff (in the other version) and you have a perfect mix for the perfect psycho-rock-pop song.

‘Makin’ Out With Granny’ is as tense and edgy as the name of the band. Falling Mirror counjures up images of slow motion scenes predicting impending disaster and bad luck if the mirror shatters. ‘Granny’ is not a slo-mo-vrou, but everything about her screams out a disaster about to happen. The song is the musical equivalent of a good horror movie.

Where to find it:
Johnny Calls The Chemist – Falling Mirror May (2001) RetroFresh, FRESHCD 112
Zen Boulders/The Storming Of The Loft – Falling Mirror (2002), Retrofresh, freshcd124

Born In A Taxi – Blk Sonshine

Blk Sonshine - Blk Sonshine

Blk Sonshine – Blk Sonshine

People born in a taxi are usually born before their time as invariably the mother is in the taxi with the express purpose to getting to the hospital on time. However, one would be hard pressed to say that Blk Sonshine and their remarkable song,’Born In A Taxi’ was before its time, and it certainly isn’t rushing to get somewhere.

The song fitted so perfectly into its time, a time when we were just beginning to settle into a post-apartheid South Africa and Malawian-born Masauko Chipembere and South African Neo Muyanga (who make up Blk Sonshine) seemed to encapsulate the sense of freedom and joy that the New South Africa was experiencing.

With just a guitar and some muted beats flitting around the beautiful harmonies of Neo and Masuako, the simplicity of the song is breathtaking. It is almost as if two street buskers have walked into a studio, pushed the record button and laid down the track in one take. But what a take! If you could record carefreeness, it would sound like this. This is Blk Sonshine at their brightest best and it is no wonder that ‘Born In A Taxi’ raced to to top of the SA Rockdigest charts. It was fresh and breathtakingly brilliant.

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


Die Trein Na Pretoria – Die Briels

Die Trein Na Pretoria - Die Briels

Die Trein Na Pretoria – Die Briels

Die Briels are a strange phenomena. They sound like a group that would be found singinG at a wedding reception at DiE Royal Hotel in some dorp in the the furtherest place from anywhere in the province of nowhere, surrounded by desert and where the nearest rusty windmill is a thousand miles away. And yet, they are much loved, especially amongst the Afrikaans community, and even some of the coolest Afrikaans rock musicians seem to dig them.

One just has to listen to the live version of ‘Die Trein Na Pretoria’ on the ‘Houtstok’ album to realise there is something about this group that connects with an audience. The audience at this music festival organised by Mr Cool himself, Anton Goosen, go mad for this boere waltz song which is sung in a slightly off key voice. This is particularly confusing to an Engelsman who enjoys the recent-ish boere blues and all post Voelvry Afrikaans rock music to see the heroes of that type of music digging Die Briels.

But when you listen to it, ‘Die Trein Na Pretoria’ (either the live version on ‘Houtstok’ or the studio version), there is something about the song which has an innocence and salt-of the -earth-ness about it that you can’t help but be intrigued by it. The popularity of this track (and indeed anything by Die Briels) will always remain a mystery to me, but it won’t stop me putting it on and listening to it every now and then because there is something about it, so get your ticket now.

Where to find it:
Die Briels Sing Vir Ons – Die Briels, Next Music


The Water Is Wide – Mel, Mel & Julian

Ethnic Shmethnic - Mel, Mel & Julian

Ethnic Shmethnic – Mel, Mel & Julian

If you wrote a song called ‘O Waly Waly’ would you expect it to be a hit nearly 400 hundred years later? Probably not, especially if you wrote it in the 1600s and you did not know what a ‘hit’ was back then. Anyway, whoever wrote ‘O Waly Waly’ ended up having (with a lyric change) the song sung by some of the modern world’s music luminaries including Bob Dylan, James Taylor and Joan Baez. These modern troubadours (I’m calling them that so that the dude from the 1600’s knows what I’m talking about) sang the song as ‘The Water Is Wide’.

And in South Africa (which hadn’t really been invented back in the 1600s), we bestowed the honour of recording this song onto the very accomplished trio of Mel, Mel And Julian and they did a jolly good job of it. What has always impressed me about Double Mel and Jules is the crystal clearness of the singing and with this folk classic they don’t disappoint. Aside from the beautiful voice of Mel (not sure which one), there is the wonderfully plucked guitar of Julian and a cello (if I’ve got my instruments correct) and the three of these elements weave a magical 2 minutes and 46 seconds that are as moving as the the flowing of the wide water.

Where to find it
Ethnic Shmethnic – Mel, Mel & Julian (2002), Mlg Limited

You can hear a decent length clip here (about half way down the page):

Who’s That Girl – Danny K

J23 - Danny K

J23 – Danny K

There was an entertainer way back in the 40’s and 50’s called Danny Kaye (some of the older readers of this blog may remember him. He played the original Walter Mitty which was recently remade with Ben Stiller in the title role). Well, other than sharing a phonetic name with Daniel Koppel (aka Danny K), and the fact that they were entertainers, there is little else to compare the two.

One thing that Kaye could not do that K was able to, was to call on Johnny Clegg to feature on a hit of his, and this is what K did with ‘Who’s That Girl’. The song has a bit of a feel of one of those collaborations between one of those fresh faced youngsters with whiny voices (like Justin Bieber) and a rapper (like Will.I.Am), but more from the point of view of a style-clash coming up with a catchy pop song. Danny K’s vocals are made for silky R&B singing while Johnny Clegg is, well Johnny Clegg. On ‘Who’s That Girl’ these diverse talents actually work together with the song swinging between sounding like a Savuka song and something by Usher.

This is an usual coupling and one that produced a classic R&B track that one would have to search long and hard to find something similar to it. It is something uniquely South Africa, yet sounds like an international hit.

Where to find it:
J23, (2003), RPM Dance, CDRPM 1821
Great South African Performers (2011), Gallo, CDPS 029


Atlantis In Jou Lyf – Koos Kombuis

Mona Lisa: Die Mooiste Love Songs - Koos Kombuis

Mona Lisa: Die Mooiste Love Songs – Koos Kombuis

Hand ups who remembers the TV show ‘Dallas’. Quite a lot of you I imagine. Now hands up who remembers that other TV show shown in South Africa sometime in the 80s that starred Patrick Duffy who played Bobby in ‘Dallas’. Not so many I guess. Well that show was the short lived series called ‘The Man From Atlantis’ (or possible ‘Die Man Van Atlantis’ – although I cmn’t remember if it was dubbed into Afrikaans).

Perhaps it was this show, which had Duffy swimming underwater for vast periods of time, that inspired The Bard of Gordon’s Bay to pick up his guitar and write the song ‘Atlantis In Jou Lyf’. Then again, given the strange, dolphin-like way Duffy would swim in the show, I have my doubts, especially as Koos’ song is a gentle affair with Koos singing in quiet, almost whispered tones over a simple guitar with a soothing sax interlude brought to you by the wonderfully named Koos Slaptjip.

This is a love song that, like The Man From Atlantis, floats around gently in a deep blue sea through beautiful underwater scenes, almost as if Koos himself is swimming along behind the woman he is singing about, a woman who has ‘die Sahara in jou oë/en Atlantis in jou lyf.’ This must be one impressive woman.

Koos Kombuis has the ability to write seriously funny satirical songs, blistering rock songs and then he can churn out a song as beautiful, both musically and lyrically as ‘Atlantis In Jou Lyf’. Slip into the ocean with him and immerse yourself in this little pearl of a song.

Where to find it:
Mona Lisa – Die Mooiste Love Songs, (1999) Wildebeest Records, WILD014

Goema – The Genuines

Goema - The Genuines

Goema – The Genuines

There came a time in South African music when Afrikaans musicians were breaking free of the shackles of sugar candy coated music that sang of innocent things, and began to rock and sing of things political. This was the Voelvry movement. Slightly lost in this ‘Afrikaans’ revolution was a Cape Coloured band called The Genuines. Led by Samuel ‘Mr Mac’ McKenzie on banjo, this band were doing a similar thing with the traditional music of the Cape Coloureds. And in ‘Goema’, the title track of their debut (I think) album they really broke the mould.

‘Goema’ is a thrashy, punky piece that races along at a blistering pace (completely out of sync with life in the Cape) with Gerard O’Brien’s searing guitar trying to out pace Ian Herman’s (he of Tananas fame) machine gunning drums while Mr Mac’s throaty vocals cascade over the top of this. It last a mere 3 minutes this song, but it would take some stamina on the listener’s behalf to cope should the song be longer as it leaves you quite exhausted.

Parallel’s could be drawn with The Pogues and Les Negresses Vertes who took the traditional music of their respective cultures and punked it up. The Genuines did this with their ‘Cape Carnival’ style of music with 2 of their songs appearing on the original Voelvry album (‘Blikkie Se Boem’ and ‘Ou Klein Jannie’). With ‘Goema’ they took things a step further and nearly did away completely with any traces of their roots – there is just a trace of the Cape Coloured accent in the vocals – and stepped out of their comfort zone to give us probably the best punk song ever by a band of Coloureds.

Where to find it:
Goema – The Genuines (1986), Shifty Records, SHIFT22



Your Kind – Pongolo

Jah Do That - Pongolo

Jah Do That – Pongolo

Who the heck are Pongolo I hear you ask. And you may well be justified in being mystified as they got almost no airplay (as far as I am aware) in 1989 when they released their album ‘Jah Do That’ which contained the song ‘Your Kind’. If memory serves me correctly, I did hear what could possibly have been the only airing of the song on Barney Simon’s Powerhaus show and was taken by this bright, breezy reggae tune.

When I finally stumbled across a vinyl copy of the album I found out that the band contained a certain Gito Baloi on bass. For those who need to be told this, Baloi was a member of Tananas alongside Steve Newman and who was tragically killed in 2004.

Joining Baloi (whose surname is spelt Baloy on the sleeve notes) in the band were Ilidio Matola, George Sunday, Morris Mungoy, Joe Mathseka (who was in Bayete) and John Hassan. Together they made gentle poppy reggae which could be filed alongside Inner Circle (remember ‘Sweat’) and Big Mountain (remember their cover of ‘Baby I Love Your Way’). ‘Your Kind’ is a laid back and catchy tune which may or may not be your kind of reggae, but it’s a bit of a lost gem which should get a bit of exposure.

Where to find it:
Only on vinyl: Jah do That – Pongolo (1989), Principal Records, NUBL5011


Fever – Juluka

Fever - Juluka

Fever – Juluka

Could one ever get sick of listening to Juluka? Well the answer to that is probably ‘no’, but you could well get a bit of a fever, especially listening to this little gem from their ‘The International Tracks’ album. The song finds Johnny Clegg ‘walking through the night street’ and if you have ever walked down a night street in Africa you may well understand what he in on about when after singing about ‘walking through the night street’ the chant goes up ‘Fever! Fever!’ There is something feverish about the scene. The air is warm and, depending on exactly where you are, there could be mosquitoes buzzing about with their malarial threat, and, most importantly there is a sense of life happening, the streets are alive and active.

This is Juluka at their best as they mash together the beats and exotic sounds of Africa with western synths and dance sounds. The result is a thumping great song that has you wondering around Clegg’s ‘night street’ having the time of your life and feeling somewhat intoxicated with it all. And as you wonder along, you spot a previous England Cricket captain and Clegg sings out ‘Ian Botham-ham-ham’ (okay it’s actually yum-bo-hum or something like that). Still, it would make for a good evening out, feverishly drinking in the sighs and sounds of a vibrant African night street and spotting a celeb!

Where to find it:
The International Tracks – Juluka (1984), MINC, CDM 4064772


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