1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Bert Kaempfert”

Afrikaan Beat – Shangaans

Jungle Drums - Shangaans

Jungle Drums – Shangaans

Now here’s a strange one. This is a band named after an African tribe, but made up of white guys. And on top of this they are perfoming a cover of a song written by a German guy who was trying to make music that sounded African.

The Shangaans were a 5 piece South African band whose line up included Grahame Beggs (who had great success with his band Charisma), Alain D. Woolf and a guy called Glen Muller (one wonders if they were ever tempted to call themselves the Glen Muller Orchestra). ‘Afrikaan Beat’ was a cover of a track by Bert Kaempfert who had had some internation success with his ‘African’ styled music. The local lad’s version of it appeared on their album ‘Jungle Drums’ which garnered some international interest and was released in The UK, Germany, Australia, France and Spain and probably a few more countries.

The Shangaans substituted the trumpet that Kaepfert used to carry the tune with a penny whistle type keyboard sound and while it lacked the warmth of the brassy version Kaempfert produced, this gave the song a more home grown feel as it trips along merrily, dragging tapping feet in its wake. There is an innocence to the song which gives it a 50s feel despite it being released in 1965. But it is this bright and breezy pop feel that gives the tune its appeal.

Where to find it:
Jungle Drums (Vinyl) – The Shangaans (1965)

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Little Lemmy – Little Lemmy

Little Lemmy - Little Lemmy

Little Lemmy – Little Lemmy

Kwela and the pennywhistle are almost synonymous with the townships in the 50s. It is a sort of jazzy sound with a big dose of joie de vivre thown in. It brings up images of Saturday night dances in town halls where well dressed people do polite dances in black and white. Little Lemmy Special was one of the luminaries of this style of music (and was the subject of Mango Groove’s song ‘Special Star’).

Not too many acts produce songs that have the same title as their name (‘Talk Talk’ by Talk Talk and the lesser known 80s his in South Africa ‘Hey You’ by ‘Hey you’ come to mind), but Lemmy Mabaso decided to call this jaunty little stroll down a friendly street on a Saterday arvie, ‘Little Lemmy’. It will have you smiling and whistling along with it as you listen, but there will be a little something in the melody that will bug you. ‘Where have I heard this before?’ you may well ask. Then you put on Bert Kaempfert’s ‘A Swinging Safari’ and you realise that the latter is ‘Big Lemmy’ except Kaempfert has given it a fuller sound compared to Little’s sparse, yet cheerful tune. Yes, it’s not exactly the same notes being played, but they are darn close. But here’s the rub, Little Lemmy was our special star, whereas Bert was just a German bloke doing what is now referred to as ‘a Graceland’.

Where to find it:
South African Souvenirs – Various Artists (1993), Teal Records, TELCD 2346

Video:

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