1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Predictions – Hawk

Hawk (Aka Joburg Hawk)

Hawk (Aka Joburg Hawk)

To include or not to include, that seems to have been the question that surrounded Hawk’s ‘Predictions’. The song originally appeared on the original 1972 South African vinly release of ‘Africa She Too Can Cry’ but did not make it onto the 1973 European vinyl release (yes the album was released outside our borders with the band taking on the name Joburg Hawk). It reappeared on an unofficial Japanese CD release of the album (circa 1998) but disappeared again when Retrofresh released the album locally on CD. So, who can, erm, predict what the next release will bring.

The song itself is a dense affair with claustrophobic and booming guitars, tumbling drums that fuzz out of the speaker, just on the right side of distortion, but with enough haze about the sound to be slightly unnerving. And over this soaring like a, erm, hawk, is the voice of Dave Ornellas. Back in the day, Dave had a wild bush of hair on his head and a voice that sounded as of it had been dragged through a wild bush. Its ragged sound only offset by it boom and it sort of sits somewhere between Ozzy Osbourne and Joe Cocker.

‘Predictions’ is a song that pummels you into liking it by is sheer force. It is an intense affair that you can, thankfully, find on the Retrofresh compilation Astral Daze. Perhaps they realised the mistake they made in leaving it off the ‘Africa She To Can Cry’ CD and with the wonders of modern technology and playlists, you can put it back in it’s rightful place as track 3.

Where to find it:
Astral Daze – Various Artists, RetroFresh, (2005), FRESHCD148

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Here Comes The Sun – Hawk

African day - Hawk

African day – Hawk

Imagine, if you can, that John, Paul, George and Ringo had been born in Bloemfontein instead of Liverpool. And that they had been born about a decade later than they were. Apart from them not having scouse accents, and that they may have been called Jan Lennon, Paul Makhati, George Harrismith and Ringo Stêr they may have brought a different whole new sound to the world.

Have a listen to Hawk’s cover of the Fab Four’s ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and you’ll get an idea of what they may have sounded like. This cover version is a rare thing in that it has an Afrorock take on a Beatles Classic. Written by George Harrison, Dave Ornellas & Co take this pretty little tune, drag it through the African bush, let a few elephants trample on it, get a witchdoctor to chant some spells over it and then set it loose to roam the plains.

It’s a dusty take on the original that starts off calmly like and African sunrise, but as that great orange ball in the sky breaks loose of the horizon and the day begins to heat up, so does the song. Up till this point, it has kept closely to the original tune (tune, not style), but then it begins to speed up, Ornellas bursts out in a rant and the song become a herd of buffalo rampaging through the Kruger Park. It’s the aural equivalent of the great migration.

Where to find it:
African Day – Hawk (2001), Reftrofresh, freshcd 108

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Witchdoctor Of Hillbrow – Ramsay MacKay

Witchdoctor Of Hillbrow – Ramsay MacKay  (The Rolling Bones)

Ramsay MacKay - Suburbs Of Ur

Ramsay MacKay – Suburbs Of Ur

Ramsay Mackay was one of the (many) driving forces behind the great Freedom’s Children who produced what many regard as one of the greatest South African albums of all times (Astra, in case you were wondering). That was in the late sixties, early seventies. Then nothing, other than a brief appearance in the band Harambee in 1978 and a couple of solo singles.

But in 1982, he released the album ‘Suburbs of Ur’, the opening track of which is ‘Witchdoctor Of Hillbrow’. Those expecting those dense sounds that Freedom’s Children produced, may have been a bit disappointed with the sparseness of the track. It’s a stripped down affair featuring only guitar, bass, violin and Ramsay’s deep vocals. But what a combination these make. The violin is haunting, the guitar slightly African, the bass is solid and the vocals, brushed with Ramsay’s Scottish roots, bring a chill to the spine.

The music combines beautifully with the poetic language in the lyrics that paint a very different picture of Hillbrow to that which Johannes Kerkorrel did a good few years later. Ramsay’s Hillbrow has ghosts, black cakes, dead men and, of course, witchdoctors. Achingly beautiful, this may not appeal to hardcore Freedom’s fans, but you should give it a go, you may just be moved to tears.

Where to find it:
Suburbs of Ur – Ramsay MacKay (1982), Principal Records (Vinyl – not available on CD yet)

Orang Outang – Hawk

Orang Outang – Hawk (Primate Scream)

Orang Outang

Orang Outang - Hawk

A few entries back in this blog when talking about Magic Man by Neill Solomon, I said that that was one of the few songs that featured an mbira. Well, here’s another one. Hawk (known internationally as Joburg Hawk), used the instrument to have a quiet-ish start to a song that quickly begins to pound to the rhythm of African drums while Dave Ornellas’ powerful vocals battle with Audrey Motaung for supremacy. The result of the vocal battle is a draw with both singers coming out top.

The song was written by Freedom Children’s Ramsay Mackay and recorded by Harambee when he was in that group. Their version is also worth a listen if you can get hold of it. It’s less pounding, but features a nice sax. Margaret Singana also wrapped her vocal chords around the song for another worthwhile effort and Brian Finch’s version features a nice Zulu harp. I’ve yet to find a bad version of the song, but I still keep coming back to Hawk’s version for its sheer force of delivery.

Where to find it:

Africa She Too Can Cry (Official CD re-issue) (2004) RetroFresh, freshcd137

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