1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die”

Living For The City – Disco Rock Machine

Living For The City - Disco Rock Machine

Living For The City – Disco Rock Machine

When Stevie Wonder recorded ‘Living For The City’ it was a slick and funky song. When Disco Rock Machine got hold of it, they turned it into a rocking, floorfilling, stomp-a-thon with a killer female vocal that grabs hold of the song and shakes it by its commuters. While Wonders version is silky and somewhat laid back, rather like a drive through the suburbs, Disco Rock Machine’s version struts down a busy Wall Street, head held high.

As the band’s name suggests, they combined the burgeoning disco sound with a rock sensibility to create a hard-edged song that you can dance to. But who were the cogs in this machine. Well, the names of this studio outfit should ring a few bells as we had none other than Trevor Rabin (Rabbitt and later Yes in case you’ve been living on another planet for the last 40 years) on guitars and keyboards while Kevin Kruger (possibly better known for his production work) on drums and a certain Rene Veldsman (she of Via Afrika fame) providing those powerful vocals. It is quite difficult to picture the voice on this song going on to give us the earthy, ethnopunk of ‘Hey Boy’ which is a credit to the vocal versatility of Veldsman.

The band would also record a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’, but would not find any success on the Springbok Charts, perhaps it was lines like ‘To find a job is like a haystack needle/Cause where he lives they don’t use colored people’ from ‘Living For The City’ that put the old SABC off giving this cover version a good run in the public’s ears. However, you can get to hear it now if you can lay your hands on the ‘Disco Fever’ CD, otherwise, there is always Youtube.

Where to find it:
Disco Fever – Various Artists, (July 1999), Gallo, CDREDD 627 (Out of print, so you may struggle)

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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

Pambere – Mapantsula

Forces Favourites

Forces Favourites

Okay guys, we’re going to make an album for the End Conscription Campaign and we want your song to open it. Remember this was the eighties and the government of South Africa did not take too kindly to people trying to persuade young men not to go and fight. How would you have reacted? Well Mapantsula seemed to think, sod it, we’re up for the challenge and we will do something as upbeat and joyful as we can. Perhaps they wanted to persuade the youth of the country that not fighting was something to be happy about and that dancing was a far better idea.

The band featured Kenyan born musician, Simba Morri and one can hear a slight East African influence in the guitar work and in the use of the word ‘uhuru’ in the lyrics, this was the Swahlili word for ‘freedom’. They also draw on the Portugese of Mozambique chanting ‘a luta contuinua’ which means ‘the struggle continues’.

The End Consciption Campaign, could hardly have asked for a better song to open the album, it was political, it was life affirming and you could dance to it. It bounces around your speakers as if the band had given their instruments free rein to do what they pleased, and the instruments liked to make upbeat music. Thrown into the mix is a lively sax which gives the song a bit of a ska feel to it. Revolution and music often go hand in hand and in ‘Pambere’ we had a song that grabbed us by the hand and took us skipping through the times that were a-changing.

Where to find it:
Forces Favourites – Various Artists (1986), Shifty Records (SHIFT10)
Shot Down (Resistance Music from Apartheid South Africa) – Various Artists (2006),Shifty Records

Hear here: Shifty Records Bandcamp (artists listed as Simba Morri)

Makoti – Yvonne Chaka Chaka

Yvonne Chaka Chaka

Yvonne Chaka Chaka

Makoti is the Zulu word for a young married woman or a bride. Yvonne Chaka Chaka was young (the tender age of 16) but not married when she became the first black child to appear on South African television on a talent show called ‘Sugar Shack’. Since then she has gone from strength to strength, and in 2012, once she was married (and no longer that young), she publicly declared that she would not allow her husband to take a second wife.

But let’s forget the marital issues that the word makoti has conjured up and concentrate on the song as it has a beauty and innocence that its title suggests. Yvonne’s voice is strong and is underpinned by a choir of both male and female singers, the former adding a great bass to the higher pitched Chaka Chaka and the harmonies of the female singers. The music is a simple township bass, a beat that has one swaying gently on the dancefloor and a string effect synthesizer flitting in and out of the song.

Sometimes it pays to not understand the language a song is being sung in as the vocals and music can be misleading. Despite the beauty of the song, the makoti in question is not as prim and proper as one might think. She is apparently a gossip who spends her time on the phone trying to find out the latest juicy stories. This somewhat sullies the pure sound of Yvonne’s voice and the gentle lilt of the rhythm, but if you concentrate on the latter, you can forget about the faults of the makoti, the subject of the song, and just enjoy its loveliness.

Where to find it:
The Best Of – Yvonne Chaka Chaka (2008), Universal
The Great South African Trip – Various Artists (2007), African Cream

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Second husband article can be found here.

 

I Like… – John Ireland

I Like... - John Ireland

I Like… – John Ireland

Go on, admit it, you did titter like a naughty schoolboy/girl when you first heard this song. I mean “I like hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo with you”, That was soooo naughty! Especially in those verkrampter days in 1980’s South Africa. And then there were all those 9½ Weeks outside the fridge scene images “Cold ice cream taken with a sticky spoon/Apple slice, ooh custard and banana”. What a turn on.

Looking back from an age where everything is sex-saturated, these are pretty mild images and the song seems almost old fashioned in its approach. Despite this ‘aging’ of the content of the song, it is still a powerful piece of music. Extremely sensuous and sexy as Ireland’s voice slithers around naked on the satin sheets of a lush orchestral sound. It slowly builds to an orgasmic crescendo before fading slowly into post coital bliss. One almost feels one needs a cigarette for when you have finished listening to this (but smoking is bad for you now). While one may no longer feel the need to be immature about the content of the song, it has stood the test of time and was not a wam-bam-thank-you-mam encounter.

The song got to number 7 on the Capital 604 charts, number 5 on the 702 charts, 4 on Radio 5 and made number 2 on Springbok Radio which was quite a feat given the SABC’s penchant for banning anything remotely naughty. Listen to the song again and get drawn into its majestic-ness and downright sexiness, then hit the ‘I Like’ button. Oh, and don’t forget to remember its name in the morning.

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

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Night Of The Long Knives – Face To Face

Night Of The Long Knives - Face To Face

Night Of The Long Knives – Face To Face

While Face To Face’s ‘Here We Are’ made the Radio 5, 702 and Capital 604 charts in 1984, ‘Night Of The Long Knives’ the follow up single did not manage to emulate that success. And it is a little surprising as this song was as strong as its predecessor. Yes, ‘Here We Are’ was a slower ballad and ‘Night…’ is more upbeat, but it was still as fine a piece of New Romantic music to be made in South Africa as anything else from that time.

With their NewRo hairstyles and airbrushed album covers, Face To Face were set to be our own Duran Duran, but they disappeared after only the one album. They had the looks, and with ‘Night…’ they had the sound. Pulsing electric drums, rocking synths, the odd bit of guitar thrown in for good measure and a strong vocal. They also threw in a few French lyrics (which may possibly be the only ones to appear on an original South African song – but don’t quote me on that).

It was perhaps the fact that ‘Night Of The Long Knives’ was the name given to a Nazi purge operation in 1934 that prevented the song from gaining too much airplay. Interestingly though, while ‘Here We Are’ was their big hit, it was ‘Night Of The Long Knives’ from their set at the 1985 Concert In The Park in aid of Operation Hunger that made it onto the album from the event.

Where to find it:
Face To Face – Face To Face (2010), Fresh Music, FRESHCD180

Weeping – Erik Windrich

Erik

Erik Windrich

Okay, we need to start this one with a statement that this is not a cover of the classic Bright Blue song by the éVoid frontman. No this is a song which Erik wrote around the same time that Bright Blue were writing their song, however, Erik took about 26 years longer to release his song of the same name.

A lot had happened in that time. Erik, had re-located to London with his brother Lucien and the 2 of them were plying their trade as éVoid, performing live at The Springbok Bar in Covent Gardens. After years of that, things went quiet on the Windrich front till Erik decided to record a new album and when he did, he included this track which had been sitting around in his back pocket for a while. He found himself a few musicians to record with, including a guy called Mosi Conde from Guinea who brought a kora to the proceedings.

The result is a gently bittersweet song that has Mosi’s kora cascading around Erik’s guitar picking, the latter still having that South African sound that éVoid had managed to pluck from their instruments. It is a matured éVoid sound, no longer the manic bounce around the stage stuff, but a more refined take on life, but no less catchy. Like the éVoid track, ‘The Race Of Tan’, the lyrics ponder the fate of those whose ancestory was regarded as questionable and borderline acceptable under the apartheid regime. It looks at identity and racism.

This song should not be played next to the Bright Blue one to compare them just because they share a title. Both songs bring out the tears because of the injustices seen in the country back then, but while Bright Blue drag the extra sobs from you due to the dramatic beauty of their composition, Windrich seduces them from you using sheer gentle beauty.

Where to find it:
backyard Discovery – Erik Windrich (2003)

Video:

Hear here:

Lisa Se Klavier – The Parlotones

Unplugged - Parlotones

Unplugged – Parlotones

Comparing The Parlotones version of ‘Lisa Se Klavier’ to Koos Kombuis’ is a bit like comparing the piano playing of Richard Clayderman to that of Jerry Lee Lewis. Now, I can already see you have one foot in the stirrup of you high horse and are getting ready to blast off a riposte that Koos Kombuis is nothing like Richard Clayderman, so let me explain. I am not saying that Koos did a boring,bland version, I am just trying to highlight the difference between Koos’ quiet, gentle and highly moving version and the ‘Tones racing, bouncing one.

There will also be those who say that The Parlotones have destroyed the song by speeding it up and making it rock and you are welcome to be like that if you want. However, if you want to live a little and break out of the mould and see things from a different angle, then follow me down this review. The rest of you go back to your bland old covers of this song and marvel at how much like the original they sound.

If you’re still with me then let’s us take a tumbling, foot-tapping Afrikaans-sung-with-an-English-accent roll through the song. Replete with ‘da-da-da-da-da-da’s’ and (heaven help us!) drums and (gulp!) rock guitars. The ‘Tones throw in a bit of klavier and some organ for good measure (although renaming it ‘Lisa se Organ’ would not be a good idea). They have taken a great tune, given it a great injection of rock, scared off the sissy’s who can’t bear to hear their sacred cow being taken for a run round the meadow, and produced an interesting cover of a classic. This is their own version of it and they did it their way. Enjoy it.

Okay, you can let those worshiping at the shrine of Koos back into the room now.

Where to find it:
Unplugged – The Parlotones (2008), Sovereign, SOVCD 036

Video:

Oyebisi Nga – Egyptian Nursery

New Anthem - Egyptian Nursery

New Anthem – Egyptian Nursery

‘Oyebisi Nga’ finds Egyptian Nursery in a quiet mood, with an almost lullaby lilt to the song it floats gently along on a fluffy cloud as Mojama’s and Ariane’s sweet vocals make slow passionate love to each other, moving slowly on a bed of relaxed beats and scratches that Cragie Dodds provides. This is a sensual lights-down-low song. It lights a hundred candles to create a misty soft light.

The lyrics are sung in a mixture of English and Lingala (a language spoken in Mojama’s native Congo). The language should not sound too unfamiliar to the South African ear as it is part of the same “Bantu Languages” that Zulu comes from. While the shapes and sounds of the words are not completely foreign, the meaning may escape us. But, there is no misinterpreting the emotion in the voices.

This is chill-out at its best. In fact this song could be the one you finally drift off to after the hectic night of clubbing, followed by a time back home sitting around listening to quieter music to calm the pulse before eventually heading off to bed. It’s the chill-out track for chilling out to after listening to the rest of your chill-out music.

Where to find it:
God’s Window – Egyptian Nursery (2000), Fresh Music, FREDCD100

Saved – Chris Chameleon

Saved – Chris Chameleon

Shine - Chris Chameleon

Shine – Chris Chameleon

After Boo! finally called it a day, it was not too surprising to see Chris Chameleon changing colours from a lead singer into a solo artist. With a voice like his, it would be a crime for him not to be singing. His first solo album ‘Ek Herhaal Jou’ was an Afrikaans offering, but with his second, ‘Shine’, we saw the ever changing Chameleon switch into English.

In the addendum to the book ‘1 001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die’, they give the 10 001 songs (that’s 9 000 extra songs in case you misread the “0”s) you must hear for those, like me, who just can’t get enough of lists. In amongst the extra songs is ‘Saved’ by Chris Chameleon, so it’s not just me that says you should hear this.

And why should you? It’s nothing like the quirky Boo! you came to love. Nor is it the more serious and quieter affairs that one found on ‘Ek Herhaal Jou’. And it doen’t feature some of the vocal gymnastics that he can get up to. It is a straight forward pop rock song with a slightly heavy beat, a foreboding voice on the verse which soars on the chorus and production tighter than some of the trousers that Chris wears. Perhaps not the most interesting track that he has produced in his various guises, but it is a song bursting with pop sensibilities, great hooks and as always, a sublime vocal performance. It is yet another side to this everchanging national treasure.

Where to find it:
Shine – Chris Chameleon (2006), Rhythm Records, RR070

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