1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the category “Mango Groove”

Move Up – Mango Groove

Move Up - Mango Groove

Move Up – Mango Groove

Way back in 1987 a group called Mango Groove decided to move up the Radio 5 and Capital 604 charts. They peaked at 6 on the former and topped the latter with a catchy tune called, erm, ‘Move Up’.  Not quite as fast paced as some of their other tracks but no less danceable to. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that you could sway rhythmically to the tune on the dance floor than actually show off your more frenetic moves as the song has a gentle lilt to it which takes pleasant to new heights.

And for those of you who have spent time studying the dance moves in the TV and film productions of Jane Austin novels, there is a neat little string quartet interlude to bow and curtsy to your partner to. But on the whole it’s a lekker piece of finger-clicking, foot tapping, laid-back, groovy music. Muted brass gives a warm bed for Claire Johnson to roll her vocals around on and a pennywhistle reminds us where the band is from. There is, also a slightly calypso sound to the song (a little like some of the Goombay Dance Band stuff, but less cheesy).

The video for the song firstly placed the band in a trendy bar with classily dressed Claire Johnson drinking cocktails, then moves on to Zoo Lake in Johanesburg where they go out on a rowing boat, dressed to the nines. Personally, I would have stuck Claire in a grass skirt and had her doing a hula dance under the palm trees on a beach down the South Coast of Natal as the song seems to fit that image. But then that may have been too raunchy for us way back in the 80’s.

Where to find it:
Mango Groove – The Essential Mango Groove (2008), Gallo, CDREDD 694 (AN)

Video:

Is It Any Wonder – Claire Johnston

 Is It Any Wonder – Claire Johnston

Fearless - Claire Johnson

Fearless – Claire Johnson

What do you do if you have built up a reputation as the lead singer of one of the most successful bands in the country that gained popularity playing afropop music and you want to do something a little different? Well firstly, to get away from the afropop sound, you need to get away from Africa and this is what the lead singer of Mango Groove, Claire Johnston, did to produce a solo album called ‘Fearless’. She relocated to London, roped in Vic Coppersmith-Heaven (who had worked with The Jam, Cat Stevens and Joe Cocker to name a few) to produce and got some of Peter Gabriel’s musicians to play on the record.

Is it any wonder then that ‘Is It Any Wonder’ is quite a step away from the African sounds of Mango Groove? Hardcore Groovies would probably have baulked at the seriousness of the song compared to the carefree pop she made with Mango Groove. It has a hard edge, a little akin to the sounds that Peter Gabriel makes. But vocally, Johnston is in good voice, at times sounding like another South African great – Lesley Rae Dowling.

There is a darker brooding feel to ‘Is It Any Wonder’ which highlights the versatility of Johnston. The lush production helps make this a strong song that would have won her new fans while perhaps losing her a few old ones.

Where to find it
Fearless – Claire Johnston, Sting Music (2001),  STIFCD021
SA Top 40 Hits of All Time Volume 6 – Various Artists (2001), Sting Music, STIDFCD037

Video:

Hometalk – Mango Groove

Hometalk – Mango Groove

Mango Groove - Hometalk

Mango Groove – Hometalk

After the success of their eponymous debut album, the difficult second album loomed for Claire Johnson and her band. South African music history is littered with bands who made a great debut album, but then we never heard from them again. But this was not to be the case with Mango Groove. They produced another album of catchy dance tunes that had everyone dancing and tapping their feet to. The title track quickly told us that the Groovers were not a one album wonder and, with its sassy brassy sound, literally bounced up to the top of the Radio 702 charts.

Taking inspiration from the big bands of the 50’s, they are an unusually large group (11 people are pictured on the album cover), but they updated the 50s into the 80s and 90s with this ‘big’ sound. Claire Johnson’s vocals glide sexily over a large collection of instruments, including at different times saxophone, trumpet, xylophone, penny whistle, piano and there is even a tingling triangle. It is a smorgasbord of sounds thrown together into one giant party pot.

Where to find it:
Hometalk – Mango Groove (1990) Tusk, TUCD 14, TUCD (F) 14
Mango Groove – The Essential Mango Groove (2008), Gallo, CDREDD 694 (AN)

Video:

Dance Sum More – Mango Groove

Dance Sum More – Mango Groove

Mango Groove

Mango Groove burst onto the music scene in the late eighties with their infectious brand of afropop.  They were slightly different to the rock oriented music of Hotline or the slightly punky sounds of eVoid in that they were pure pop. And what great pop songs they brought us. Their early hits ‘Love Is The Hardest Part’ and ‘Move Up’ both charted on the Radio 5 charts, reaching number 11 and 6 respectively. But it was with ‘Dance Sum More’ that they managed to top the Radio 702 chart. Strangely this song did not chart on Radio 5.

Both the earlier hits were perfectly good dance pop tunes, but they were trial runs for the real McCoy. ‘Dance Sum More’ was where Mango Groove pulled everything together and you realised that this was a band that was going places. ‘Up, up, get up, up, up, get up and dance,’ Claire Johnson appeals to you in this brassy, breezy number and she hardly needs to persuade one as the music is so full of the joys of the dance floor.

Where to find it:
Mango Groove – The Essential Mango Groove (2008), Gallo, CDREDD 694 (AN)

Video:

Lyrics:
Dance my pretty, dance some more
get clever, whenever you feel your body moving
Dance my pretty, across the floor
discover a lover and get the party grooving
Up, up, get up, up, up
get up and dance
Dance, dance dance
dance some more…….

Dance my pretty, dance some more
get clever, whenever you feel your body moving
Dance my pretty, across the floor
discover a lover and get the party grooving
Up, up, get up, up, up
get up and dance
Dance, dance dance
dance some more…….

Written by: John W.H. Leyden, K Botha, J Lerole, B.G. Lewis & M Mtswala

Mango Groove - Dance Sum More

Tom Hark – Elias & His Zig Zag Jive Flutes

Tom Hark – Elias & His Zig Zag Jive Flutes

Tom Hark - Elias & His Zig Zag Jive Flutes

Tom Hark – Elias & His Zig Zag Jive Flutes (image from 78RPM Collectors’ Community)

Perhaps the most famous kwela song to emanate from South Africa, ‘Tom Hark’ is a bouncy, joyous, pennywhistle driven tune that peaked at Number 2 in the UK charts on 24 May 1958 and stayed there for 4 weeks, being kept off the top spot by Connie Francis’ ‘Who’s Sorry Now’.

The leader of the band was Elias Shamber Lerole a leading kwela artists of the time. He had also been the leader of Black Mambazo in the 50s (I don’t think this was the group as Ladysmith Black Mambazo). Elias and his brother Jack started playing pennywhistle when Elias was 10 and Jack 7 when their uncle gave them each one as a Christmas present. Elias went on to compose over 300 songs. ‘Tom Hark’ is erroneously attributed to R Bopape on the record label, but he was apparently only the producer of the record, it was Elias who wrote the song.

The word ‘kwela’ comes from the Zulu and means get up. ‘Kwela-kwela’ was township slang for a police van and when you listen to ‘Tom Hark’ before the music starts, you hear someone saying, ‘hier kom die kwela-kwela’ and some think that this was how kwela music got its name.

Such was the appeal of this simple ditty that it has been covered by various artists including Ted Heath, Georgie Fame and The Piranhas in the UK and even gained popularity in the West Indies where Millie Small (of My Boy Lollipop fame) recorded a version with lyrics and a group called the Dynamites had a version that went under the titles of ‘John Public’. In South Africa it’s been covered by Mango Groove (in 2000) and The Zig Zags (in 2010, as Footie Footie). It is also a popular tune for football chants in England.

‘Tom Hark’ does seem to live in the shadow of Solomon Linda’s ‘Mbube’ which was used in the myriad of versions of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, but it is an instantly recognisable tune which has been as accepted by the world as ‘Mbube’ was.

Tom Hark - Elias & His Zig Zag Jive Flutes

Elias Lerole (Thanks to Thembi Lerole for the picture)

Where to find it:

Cafe Africa – Various Artists,  (2010) Not Now Records, NOT2CD376

Video:

Elias & His Zig Zag Jive Flutes:

The Piranhas:

Millie Small:

Georgie Fame:

Island Boy – Mango Groove

Island Boy – Mango Groove (No, not Mandela)

The Best of Mango Groove

The Best of Mango Groove

In the late 80’s and early 90’s, Mango Groove became one of the biggest bands in the country, finding that perfect blend of western pop and indigenous kwela and jazz. Granted, they did not have the political edge that Bright Blue and Johnny Clegg had, but hey, does it always have to be about politics?

Taken from Mango Groove’s second album ‘Hometalk’ released in 1990, Island Boy is a jaunty, Caribbean tinged tune replete with a brassy horn section and classical strings. It bounces along at a nice pace, with the sassy vocals of Claire Johnston and the sing a long ‘a-woo-a-oh’ chorus, getting you tapping your feet and singing along.

‘Hometalk’ carried on from where the debut album ‘Mango Groove’ left off and, with tracks like ‘Island Boy’, it ensured the band became a firm favourite for many.

Where to find it:

Hometalk – Mango Groove (1990) Tusk, TUCD 14, TUCD (F) 14
The Best Of Mango Groove (2000) Gallo, CDRED 667
The Essential Mango Groove (2008), Gallo, CDREDD 694 (AN)

Video:

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