1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “eVoid”

Jiving To The Weekend Beat – éVoid

Jiving To The Weekend Beat -Various Artists width=

Jiving To The Weekend Beat -Various Artists

You know ‘Shadows’ and ‘Taximan’, but back in the day you may not have known ‘Jiving To The Weekend Beat’. It wasn’t on either of the original releases of éVoid’s first 2 albums but did appear on a limited edition cassette that was sold at gigs at the Springbok Bar in London after the Windrich brothers had relocated to the UK. Fortunately for those who didn’t manage to get across to London to grab a copy of the tape, Benjy Mudie came to the rescue by including it in the bonus material of the re-release of ‘éVoid’, the band’s debut album. And in case you didn’t catch it there, Mudie also released an album called ‘Jiving To The Weekend Beat’ which included material (mostly from the 80’s) of excellent SA music and the song opens that compilation.

The title pretty much tells you what the song will sound like as from the very first guitar notes you are jiving with an abandonment usually reserved for Friday and Saturday nights. It is a life affirming joyfest bouncing around like an ethno-punk on a nightclub stage. You can bop away to this track which mingles western pop and rock with township jive and a bit of punk attitude thrown in for good measure. It has all the energy of a shebeen on payday.

With its fresh sound, catchy rhythms and joie de vivre lyrics, this is a bit of a lost classic from those mad days of the 80’s when the white kids were ‘doing a Graceland’ before Paul Simon thought of it and jiving was leaking out of the townships and into the Hillbows and Braamfonteins of white suburban South Africa. It’s not as serious as ‘Shadows’, nor as punky as ‘Taximan’ but it is a great track and we owe a debt of gratitude to Benjy Mudie for helping prevent the song languishing and fading into obscurity on a rare cassette. And, I can let you into a little secret, it is possible to jive to this song during the week too (in fact almost impossible not to, if you just put it on).

Where to find it:
éVoid (re-release) – éVoid (2000), Retrofresh, FRESHCD106

Video:

Love In The Movies – Askari

Love In The Movies – Askari

Love In The Movies – Askari

When éVoid started singing about being a ‘fadget’ some would have immediately wondered if a ‘fadget’ had anything to do with Fad Gadget, the UK alternative synth band which was essentially a guy called Frank Tovey. However, as éVoid’s sound was too African, despite some of the bass synth lines sounding a little like something Fad Gadget would have done, there was not enough there to make the full link.

éVoid’s popularity peaked around 1983/84, then in 1985 the Windrich brothers decided to move to England to try their luck there. Around about this time Wayne Harker left the group and formed one called Askari with Rob Ashley and Ernest Milsom. The band’s name is the Swahili word for soldier and, as far as I can tell, they only recorded one single, ‘Love In The Movies’. Here one sees Harker losing the fadget and becoming more Fad Gadget. There is that slightly ominous synth bassline that persists throughout the song and the almost emotionless cold vocals that were Fad Gadget’s trademark.

Fans of éVoid may have been slightly disappointed with this change in direction for the ex-Voider, but there is something compelling about the coldness of the song that seems to suck you into a film noir kind of world. As Ernest Milsom sings, ‘There’s no love like love love in the movies’. The romance of Hollywood is a long way off what happens in the real world and leaving éVoid did not lead to a Hollywood type happy ending for Harker as his new venture barely caused a wave on the local music scene. Perhaps they should have chosen ‘Jive Monkey’, the b-side of the single as the a-side as it has more shades of éVoid to it, but then again, I can’t imagine he would have wanted to be an éVoid clone.

‘Love In The Movies’ is a sadly overlooked song from the 80’s. Drawing on the darker and less poppy synth sounds of the era, it lacked commercial appeal, but is well worth searching for and perhaps can be re-evaluated as a lost classic.

Where to find it:
Singles bins if you’re lucky

Videos:
Single version:

Live clip:

Turn On You – Matthew van der Want

Turn On You – Matthew van der Want

Turn On You – Matthew van der Want

‘Turn On You’ was Matthew van der Want’s debut album and the title track opened the album. And if this was your introduction to Mr van der Want, it’s not a bad one to start with. It has a sort of REM sound going on, which sounds uplifting and melancholic at the same time. It’s pop, but not pop. It’s rock, but not rock.

The song comes from that period in South African music where the big bands were no longer looking to local sounds like eVoid, Hotline and such like did in the 80’s, but were looking to the rock and grunge sounds coming out of the US. Bands such as Counting Crows, Hootie and the Blowfish and the Spin Doctors come to mind when listening to ‘Turn On You’.

But there is a dark side to the lyrics which talk of ‘rummaging through your private things’ and which go on to say ‘I’m not sure what’s wrong with me’ and ‘I turn you on, I turn on you’. Given van der Want’s history, its not too difficult to see why he is insecure. He’s had a tough life and, from what I read somewhere, was living in a tent at some stage. However, the boy come good and produced some seriously good music once he started recording. He would go on to make even more polished and probably more immediate music alongside Chris Letcher, but this track marked him as someone to watch.

Where to find it:
Turn On You – Matthew van der Want, Tic Tic Bang records

Buy:
https://shiftyrecords.bandcamp.com/album/turn-on-you

Video:

Vice In Bombay – Via Afrika

Vice In Bombay – Via Afrika

Vice In Bombay – Via Afrika

Via Afrika’s big hit was ‘Hey Boy’ but there was another track which came from their second album ‘Scent Of A Scandal’ which, although not as well remembered, was just as good. Like ‘Hey Boy’, ‘Vice In Bombay’ had an earthy Africa feel without being overtly African and it is as easy to dance to as its predecessor.

There is Rene Veldsman’s alluring vocals which are infected with the sleaziness of the subject matter of the song as the ‘s’ sound is hissed out while a witchy vocal seems to weave itself in and out of the song. Occasionally a woman ululates and it conjures up images of women dancing round a fire (or it might be because the video for the song has women dancing round a fire?).

There is also the punky aspect to the song that bands like Via Afrika and éVoid brought to their music and at times there are hints of Siouxsie & The Banshees in this track. It’s a seductive dance track, exotic and dusty.

Where to find it:
Via Afrika – Via Afrika (2000), Retro Fresh, freshcd 107

Video:

Shadows – Wonderboom

Wonderboom

Wonderboom

When you take on a classic, you often take a huge risk. ‘It’s not as good as the original’ or even, ‘why don’t they just leave the old songs alone, you can’t make it better’ will often be thrown at you, invariably by the older generation who grew up with the original. And I must admit, I am like that sometimes with cover versions or remakes of films that I grew up liking.

However, with Wonderboom’s take on arguably the best South African track of the 80s, I am quite content to sit back and enjoy one of my favourites being given a update, and I did my growing up in the 80s. Wonderboom are one of a handful of South African acts who could have pulled this off in this style, injecting the the old ‘bundu bush’ ethno-punk original with a hard edged rock swagger and the result is an in-yer-face, wall-of-sound song that retains the feel and tune of the original, but has dragged it through the bush backwards into the naughties.

It is a much more straight forward cover than their take on Rabbitt’s ‘Charlie’ where they took that one and turned it into a heavy kwaito track and I would have to say it is not as good as the original (because I am old), but it certainly shows respect to the éVoid version and as one who grew up with the original, you can’t ask for more than that. Like nearly every cover of a classic, this will live in the, erm, shadow of the original, but it is not so pale that you can hardly make out the details shadow. It is a clear, well-defined one created by a sharp African sun, it is one that demands to be noticed.

Where to find it:
Rewind – Wonderboom (2001), David Gresham Records, CDDGR 1533

Video:
Audio:

Santana Sessions:

Maid In Africa – Electric Petals

Polynation - Electric Petals

Polynation – Electric Petals

This is the second song from the solitary Electric Petals album, ‘Polynation’, to appear on this list. The punny title is a trademark of Danny de Wet, who was in early eVoid and went on to be one of the driving forces behind Wonderboom, and he also supplies the bittersweet lyrics.

The song is essentially a conversation between a white western tourist and a black South African ‘maid’. The tourist arrives in the country and buys up all the souvenirs on offer, even wanting to have the beautiful sky. But the ‘maid’ answers that, even if you were born and bred here, the sky is not ours to give. The the plight of the black people is raised and the tourist asks what can she do? But again the answer is that she can’t know that, even if she had been born and bred in Africa. The song then goes on to say that despite being down trodden, they still ‘shine through the ugliness’.

This bittersweet contrast between the ugliness of apartheid and the way that people can still ‘shine through’ brings a poingnancy to this song which subtly weaves a thin thread of township guitar into the predominantly western sounding song. This effect is further enhanced when the song moves into the ‘shines through’ section and a then, not very well known, Vusi Mahlasela delivers what the sleeve notes to the CD describe as a ‘one in a million vocal’ which underscores the ability to shine.

The album and the song were largely ignored by the general public at the time and that probably had more to do with the uncomfortable politics in the lyrics than the music itself as it is packed with great tunes with ‘Maid In africa’ being one of the standout ones.

Where to find it:
Polynation – The Electric Petals (1995), Teal Records, MMTCD-1906

I Am A Fadget – éVoid

I Am A Fadget - éVoid

I Am A Fadget – éVoid

If by some weird twist of fate you had not already heard ‘Shadows’ or ‘Taximan’ and then decided to buy this strange looking LP (because they were LPs back then) with an opening track called ‘I Am A Fadget’ thinking that it some how related to British Indie band Fad Gadget (Fad + Gadget = Fadget), you would probably have gone ‘Blimey,’ (because you are a fan of British music and the poms say ‘blimey’) ‘that Frank Tovey’ (the front man of Fad Gadget) ‘has gone all ethnic and funky.

On ‘I Am A Fadget’ the Windrich boys took those serious-sythn-sounds-from-the-lower-notes-on-the-keyboard sound that bands like Fad Gadget were playing and injected it with some earthy Africa rhythm and threw in a funky guitar over the top of it to create a jerky, fashion conscious slice of ethno-pop-punk. Erik’s voice stretches across the quirky beats giving an overall effect of something unsettled and nervous, tightly wound and full of pent up energy.

The song did not do as well ‘Shadows’ and ‘Taximan’ and its easy to see why. It is not as catchy as those two, it is a little too edgy for the mainstream, but it is a great song that probably would be better remembered if it didn’t have to live in the, erm, shadow, of its bigger brothers.

Where to find it:
éVoid – éVoid (2000), RetroFresh, freshcd 106

Video:

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:

Taximan – éVoid

Taximan - éVoid

Taximan – éVoid

The main force behind éVoid were the Windrich brothers Erik and Lucien. And behind the massive hit ‘Shadows’ there was the little brother ‘Taximan’ a song which has had to live in the, erm, shadow of it’s big brother all these years. Had they not written ‘Shadows’ éVoid would have always been remember as the band that brought you ‘Taximan’.  There may be some out there who prefer this younger brother to the older statesman hit and that is perfectly acceptable because, well, ‘Taximan’ is such a brilliant song in its own right.

The song itself is a bit like a taxi ploughing its trade between Soweto and Jozi. It’s overloaded with great ideas, it doesn’t obey the usual rules but choses to plough its own furrow, there is a great dance beat booming away, someone is leaning out the song shouting ‘heya!heya!’ and then it comes to an abrupt stop without much warning.

‘Taximan’did not fare (no, not what you pay for the ride) quite as well as ‘Shadows’ but reached a respectable 6 on the Springbok Charts in comparison to the latter’s 3. That said, it did manage number 3 on the Radio 5 charts where ‘Shadows’ stalled at 4. One can just imagine the sibling rivalry that went on in the LP sleeve way back when. Both songs have grown up and matured, yet both sound as vibrant and youthful as they did in 1983/4. So come out of the shadows for a bit, head out on that highway and head into town with the most loveable ‘Taximan’ in South African musical history (with Karen Zoid’s ‘Taxi’ coming a close second).

Where to find it:
éVoid (2000), RetroFresh, freshcd 106
SA Top 40 Hits of All Time – Various Artists (2001), Sting Music, STIDFCD037

Video:

Kwela Walk – éVoid

Kwela Walk – éVoid

I Am A Fadget (12" single) (1984) WEA, WIM 415

I Am A Fadget (12″ single) (1984)

‘Kwela Walk’ was on the B-Side of the ‘I Am A Fadget’ single, but was not included on éVoid’s 1983 eponymous debut album. It also didn’t feature amongst the bonus material on the 2000 Retro Fresh release of that album, so lovers of this joyfully bouncy track had to wait till September of 2001 when it was included in the CD re-release of ‘Here Comes The Rot.’

Quite why this song was relegated to a b-side is still a mystery to me. Yes, it’s not quite in the same league as ‘Shadows’ (but then that song is in a league of its own) but it certainly is as infectious as ‘Taximan’ or ‘I Am A Fadget’. It has enough township joie de vivre, whistles and mbaqanga rhythms to lift the soul and get the feet tapping. I think few can deny that ‘Kwela Walk’ can stand shoulder to shoulder not only with éVoid’s output, but with any song to have come out of the southern tip of Africa.

Where to find it:

I Am A Fadget (12″ single) (1984) WEA, WIM 415
Here Comes The Rot (CD re-issue) – éVoid, (1986, 2001), Retro Fresh, FRESHCD117

Video:

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