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”

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

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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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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

No Easy Walk To Freedom – Tighthead Fourie & The Loose Forwards/Roger Lucey

No Easy Walk To Freedom – Tighthead Fourie & The Loose Forwards/Roger Lucey

No Easy Walk To Freedom

No Easy Walk To Freedom

Roger Lucey must have caused huge consternation at the censor’s offices when he decided to call his band Tighthead Fourie & The Loose Forwards. How could those keepers of our morals possible ban anything rugby related? It must have been with shaky hand and sweaty palm that they (surely) signed off the banning order for this record.

I have not seen confirmation that it was banned, but as it was written in 1986 by Roger Lucey and echoed the words of Nelson Mandela before he was incarcerated and the mere fact that it was Roger Lucey and it refers to Mandela, it must have been banned.

There are two recorded versions of the song that I know of, Tighthead Fourie’s on the Shifty Records compilation ‘Shotdown’ and Roger’s solo version on his ‘21 Years Down The Road’ and both are worth listening to. The former has a country feel to it, both in the dom-dom 1-2 time of the bass as well as in the western twang to the vocals. The latter has a more laid-back acoustic rock sound to it with a Lekgodilo flute giving it a rootsy African flavour.

Despite the anger of the lyics, neither version sounds particularly angry. In fact if you are able to turn off the lyrics in your mind, you might find the songs pleasant listening, but, and this is a big but, if you do manage to ignore the lyrics, you’ve missed the whole point.

Where to find it: Tighthead Fourie version: Shot Down (Resistance Music from Apartheid South Africa) – Various Artists (2006),Shifty Records Roger Lucey Version: 21 Years Down The Road – Roger Lucey (2000), 3rd Ear Music

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Hard Hat Jive – Tananas

Hard Hat Jive – Tananas (Construction time again)

Tananas

Tananas

Steve Newman is a national treasure. Between him and Tony Cox (whom he often collaborates with), they seem to have sewn up the ‘classical’ style of guitar playing. I use the word ‘classical’ for want of a better word as it is more in the style of playing than in sound. When Steve was not producing solo material, or jamming with his mate Tony, he would get hold of Ian Herman and the late Gito Baloi to record under the name of Tananas.

As Tananas, he could flesh out his plucking with some bass and drums, giving the music a bigger sound. Their eponymous debut album appeared on the legendary Shifty label and contained ‘Hard Hat Jive’, a bouncy piece that is as good as any to introduce the uninitiated into the world of Tananas. The song was included in the addendum to a recent book called ‘1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die’. The addendum which included ‘Hard Hat Jive’ listed the 10,001 songs you must download.

It starts off with a jazzy intro of drums, followed quickly by Gito’s bass and Steve’s guitar joins in moments later. The version on the album ‘Tananas’ shows the simple beauty of what the band did, but another version can be found on the album ‘Alive In Jo’burg’. This is more polished and features a pennywhistle solo as well, so which version to choose? It really depends on whether you like your Tananas raw, or well done.

Where to find it:
Tananas – Tananas (1988), Shifty, CDSHIFT(WL)26
Alive In Jo’burg (2001), Epic, CDEPC8171
Great South African Performers (2012), Gallo, CDPS 035

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