1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Juluka”

Bullets For Bafazane – Juluka

Work For All - Juluka

Work For All – Juluka

One website I came across describes Juluka’s ‘Bullets For Bafazane’ as a ‘happy song’. Granted, the website was one which concentrates on the songs beats per minute and, if one ignores the lyrics of ‘Bullets For Bafazane’, then yes, one may regard it as a ‘happy song’ as it has an uptempo beat with a jaunty sax dancing round the track like someone let loose on a Friday night dance floor.

But surely the clue is in the title, and if you missed that, the first line of the lyrics goes ‘Shadow men from the outlands come to town/Looking for Bafazane, they want to gun him down’. Still feeling happy? While the music is uptempo with a feel good jive to it, the song is certainly not about a happy subject. So many South African’s during the 80’s lived in fear of ‘shadow men’ coming to gun them down. But like a lot of our music, particularly during the darkest years of aparartheid, it juxtaposes a cheerful ‘happy’ sound with serious lyrics, keeping spirits up with the beat, while remembering the darkness in the lyrics.

Listening to the opening flatly plucked guitar, one is reminded of the Asylum Kids’ ‘Fight It With Your Mind’. There is a certain ominous feel to the sound which warns one that this is not a ‘happy song’. However, while the Asylum Kids’ track stays in that vein and continues to explores the darkness in both word and sound, Johnny and Sipho keep us dancing through the darkness.

We don’t know if Bafazane survives the ordeal as the song ends with him still waiting for the ‘shadow men’ to come with their bullets. But along the way we are reminded that, while he is still alive, he celebrates this fact. ‘It’s the sky up above that he loves/’Cause he’s still alive and for him that’s enough’. So, no this is not a ‘happy song’, but it is a song about courage and finding strength in a time of adversity.

Where to find it:
Work For All – Juluka (1983), Rhythm Safari, RSMCD 1032 134

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African Trilogy – Samson

African Trilogy – Samson

African Trilogy – Samson

Cedric Samson (no relation) was a stalwart of the 80’s music scene in South Africa and even spent some time presenting the TV show ‘Pop Shop’ (which was the closest thing we had to a few minutes of MTV a week back then). He was a member of an early incarnation of Rabbitt and also featured in Morocko who brought us the awesome ‘Bow-Tie Boogaloo’.

However, one of his lesser known bands was one simply called Samson which produced, as far as I can tell, one solitary album called ‘African Trilogy And Other Curios’. The ‘African Trilogy’ in the title refers to an eight and a half minute epic track made up of ‘Sun Dance’, ‘Rain Dance’ and ‘Fire Dance’. Samson joined forces with Neville Paulson and a pre-Via Arika Renee Veldsman for the vocal force on the album and the track was written by Rodney Canes and Hilton Rosenthal. Rosenthal rose to fame producing most of Johnny Clegg’s work and this shows through in the African feel to the track. However, it’s not in the same vein as Juluka, but rather more akin to Hawk’s ‘African Day’ stuff. It is like an 80’s version of Hawk. It has the stomping African drums rhythms, but this is merged with a more synth sound.

This epic track could get one out there and dancing and singing along to it. It has a catchy tune and rhythm, and given the components of the song, you can dance to it in any weather – sun, rain or fire. If you enjoy the syncopated sound of Africa, then you would want to search out this not very well know track.

Where to find it:
Vinyl: African Trilogy And Other Curios – Samson (1980), WEA, WBC 9005

Woza Friday – Juluka

Woza Friday - Jonathan & Sipho

Woza Friday – Jonathan & Sipho

Way back in the day, before Juluka was invented, a guy called Jonathan and another called Sipho recorded a song called ‘Woza Friday’. Later on, when Juluka came into being, the band recorded a cover of that early Jonathan and Sipho track. Of course, you will all be telling me that Jonathan and Sipho were Juluka, so what the hang am I on about. Well, yes, the Jonathan and Sipho in question were Jonathan Clegg (Johnny to his fans) and Sipho Mchunu who were the mainstay of Juluka. However, in 1977, before they became famous, they released a single called ‘Woza Friday’ under the name Jonathan and Sipho. It was only the following year that they released the seminal album ‘Universal Men’ under the name Juluka and it took 5 years before ‘Woza Friday’ had an outing under the Juluka brand name when it appeared on their ‘Ubuhle Bemvelo’ album.
That early 1977 recording of the song was a beautiful rough diamond. It has that sort of urgency and racing quality of township jive with a natural rhythm allowing one to visualise Johnny doing that dance where he skitters to one side then the other. It also features a more prominent vocal from Sipho and was a joyful introduction (which most of us never heard) to what would become one of the most important bands the country has ever seen. The later version has 5 years of experience to draw on and is a more polished one, showing off Johnny’s western rock sensibilities.
However, both versions are life affirming affairs and how can they not be when they sing ‘Woza, Woza Friday, my darling’ (‘Come, come Friday, my darling’). The lyrics tell of the hardships of work, the yoke of poor wages, but the joy that arrives with Friday and the weekend. It’s time to party and enjoy life, freed from the shackles of work. How can a song about this subject not brighten anyone’s day?
The Easybeats sang about ‘Friday On My Mind’ (a cover by the band Chilly made the Springbok charts), the Cure said ‘Friday I’m In Love’, the Specials had a song called ‘Friday Night, Saturday Morning’ and in 2011 Rebecca Black became a Youtube sensation with her song ‘Friday’. All of these look at the one workday a week when life doesn’t seem so bad.

Jonathan and Sipho tapped into that great ‘Friday Feeling’ and put it to music in a way that has you jiving round the office, or shop floor, or down in the mine or wherever it is that one may work. We all love Fridays, in fact we sometimes give thanks to God for the day like it is some sort of divine gift. A listen to ‘Woza Friday’ (either the 1977 or 1982 version) does feel like you are listening to something God given. Thank God for Fridays, without it we would never had had this song.

Where to find it:
Anthology – Johnny Clegg (1999), Rhythm Safari, VE150683

Video:

Africa – Juluka

Juluka

Juluka

Way back in the 80’s when Juluka were recording their early stuff, the internet had not yet spread to the common man, so recording a song called ‘Africa’ and then one called ‘Scatterlings Of Africa’ did not take into account the trouble one would end up having when Googling ‘Africa Juluka’ and then having to go through all the results for ‘Scatterlings Of Africa’ before finding a link to the one you are actually looking for (Oh and Johnny Clegg also went on to record ‘Africa (What Made You So Strong)’ with Savuka). But we can’t really blame Johnny and Sipho for that, now can we. Apart from the fact that not many could have foreseen the growth of the internet and search engines, Juluka would not have been the Juluka we came to love and know had they not sang about Africa.

The song simply entitled ‘Africa’ appeared on Juluka’s debut album ‘Universal Men’ in 1979, an album that was groundbreaking and probably could lay claim to being the springboard from which bands like éVoid, Hotline and Via Afrika took off from. Like many of the early Juluka songs, ‘Africa’, is a simple song which has Robbie Jansen’s flute fluttering gently around Johnny’s singing and Sipho’s guitar culminating in the catchy chorus of ‘Afrika kukhala abangcwele’ which Google translate tells me means ‘Africa Cries For Saints’.

‘Universal Men’ introduced us to a band and a talent in Johnny Clegg that would go on to become one of the biggest and most respected acts in the land. Their rootsy take on local sounds mixed with Western ones showed us what could happen if black and white worked together. ‘Africa’ is just one of many Juluka tracks that you should hear before you go deaf. It’s gentle, its powerful, its catchy, you can dance to it and it relates to the greatest continent on the planet. Sorry if you think otherwise, but you probably haven’t visited Africa (the continent or the song) if you disagree.

Where to find it:
The Best Of Juluka / Savuka Featuring Johnny Clegg – Juluka/Johnny Clegg & Savuka (1999), Primedia Record Company, CDVM(WL)22

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Kilimanjaro – Juluka

The International Tracks - Juluka

The International Tracks – Juluka

Whenever you talk to someone who has climbed or attemted to climb the highest mountain in Africa, all you hear is how terrible they felt due to the altitude sickness. And then, when you point this out to them, they go on to talk about a sense of achievement etc etc. Having spent a lot of time on the lower slopes of Kimlmanjaro, but never having climbed the mountain, I think I will avoid altitude sickness and a sense of achievement by doing 2 things. Firstly I will enjoy looking at this magnificent land form whenever she shows herself (she can be quite shy, hiding under clouds a lot) and secondly I will listen to Juluka’s song ‘Kilimanjaro’. Of course, some will say, that this is not as good as actually climbing the mountain, but hey, I’m a lazy git and besides which, the Juluka song is so cheereful and bouncy that frankly, I don’t give a damn.

The song comes from one of the final Juluka albums of Johnny Clegg & Sipho Mchunu’s first collaboration and it was entitled ‘The International Tracks’ which was a collection of singles that had been released internationally, but not in South Africa. Perhaps the line in ‘Kilimanjaro’ that went ‘what a strange strange freedom/only free to choose my chains’ had something to do with the lack of an initial release in South Africa.

The song also showed a leaning towards more of a ‘western’ sound and a keyboard (a popular instrument in the 80s) features quite prominently with a sound somewhat more akin to that being heard in the new romantic moment in the UK than in the townships in SA, but having said that, the song still has much of the South African sound that had endeared Juluka to us. There is a jangling township guitar, a penny whistle and a few ‘um-um-oh-um’s that remind us where the song comes from, even if the subject of the title is from somewhere a bit further north.

So sit back, relax, you don’t have to get hiking boots, big jackets and back packs to climb this ‘Kilimanjaro’. And like the majestic mountain in Tanzania, Juluka’s song will take you to new heights.

Where to find it:
The International Tracks – Juluka (1990), MINC, CDM 4064772

Video:

Fever – Juluka

Fever - Juluka

Fever – Juluka

Could one ever get sick of listening to Juluka? Well the answer to that is probably ‘no’, but you could well get a bit of a fever, especially listening to this little gem from their ‘The International Tracks’ album. The song finds Johnny Clegg ‘walking through the night street’ and if you have ever walked down a night street in Africa you may well understand what he in on about when after singing about ‘walking through the night street’ the chant goes up ‘Fever! Fever!’ There is something feverish about the scene. The air is warm and, depending on exactly where you are, there could be mosquitoes buzzing about with their malarial threat, and, most importantly there is a sense of life happening, the streets are alive and active.

This is Juluka at their best as they mash together the beats and exotic sounds of Africa with western synths and dance sounds. The result is a thumping great song that has you wondering around Clegg’s ‘night street’ having the time of your life and feeling somewhat intoxicated with it all. And as you wonder along, you spot a previous England Cricket captain and Clegg sings out ‘Ian Botham-ham-ham’ (okay it’s actually yum-bo-hum or something like that). Still, it would make for a good evening out, feverishly drinking in the sighs and sounds of a vibrant African night street and spotting a celeb!

Where to find it:
The International Tracks – Juluka (1984), MINC, CDM 4064772

Video:

December African Rain – Juluka

December African Rain - Juluka

December African Rain – Juluka

One of the set works I had in English at school (a long time ago) was a book called ‘I Heard The Owl Call My Name’. So when Johnny Clegg and Sihpo Mchunu came along singing about December African Rain and ‘I hear the owls calling my name’, I had some idea of what the song was about. The book was set in British Columbia where the native Kwakwaka’wakw people believed that if you heard the owl call your name then death was imminent.

But Juluka were not about to die. This was 1983 and they still had a few more years in them yet. However, the song is about a person facing their demise, but it is not a morbid farewell he is saying to the world. He is accepting of his fate as a natural progression. Yes, there are some regrets – “where did the time go?” and taking leave is not easy – “It’s so hard to say goodbye to eyes as old as yours my friend”, but we are told to “wipe away those tears and remember the good times”. This is a much more upbeat song for a funeral than the dirges we usually have. It celebrates life rather than mourning the loss of it.

‘December African Rain’ was one of those rare things, a Juluka chart hit. It got to number 7 on Capital 604’s chart and 15 on Radio 702. In amongst all the imagery and ‘Yum-um-um-um-bo’s’ there is one line that stands out for it pure beauty and imagery and that is, ‘The firelight has danced its last across your face my friend’. That may well have been the case for the friend, but for the song, I am sure it will be a long time before it dances it’s last across your sound system.

Where to find it:
Original vinyl: Work For All – Juluka (1983), Minc, MINC(L)1070 (also available to download from iTunes)

Video:

 

Impi – Juluka

Impi – Juluka (Impi – Zulu for very successful song)

Impi - Juluka

Impi by Juluka

History lesson: Just one day before Michael Caine bravely fended off the Zulu army, the poms took a frightful beating at the Battle of Isandlwana (possibly because they were concentrating on how to say Ee Sandal Wanna). Such was the beating they took, that Johnny Clegg became so frightened of the Zulus that he decided if you can’t beat them, join them and thus the song Impi was born.

Why history lessons at school were never as tuneful as this can only be blamed on apartheid (why not, everyone’s doing it), and dull history teachers.  Footstomping, high kicking, drum poundingly brilliant, the history lessons at school were not, but Juluka took the Battle of Isandlwana and turned it into a victorious war cry that had us dancing in the aisles. It has become a firm favourite amongst Johnny Clegg fans.

Where to find it:
African Litany – Juluka (1981 ) Sony Music, RSMCD 1025
The Good Hope Concerts (live version) – Juluka (1986)
The Best Of Juluka / Savuka Featuring Johnny Clegg – Juluka & Savuka (1999) EMI, CDVM (WL) 22

Lyrics:

Impi! wo ‘nans’ impi iyeza (Here comes the army)
Obani bengathinta amabhubesi? (Who can touch the lions?)

All along the river Chelmsford’s army lay asleep
Come to crush the Children of Mageba
Come to exact the Realm’s price for peace
And in the morning as they saddled up to ride
Their eyes shone with the fire and the steel
The General told them of the task that lay ahead
To bring the People of the Sky to heel

Impi! wo ‘nans’ impi iyeza
Obani bengathinta amabhubesi?

Mud and sweat on polished leather
Warm rain seeping to the bone
They rode through the season’s wet weather
Straining for a glimpse of the foe
Hopeless battalion destined to die
Broken by the Benders of Kings
Vainglorious General and Victorian pride
Would cost him and eight hundred men their lives

Impi! wo ‘nans’ impi iyeza
Obani bengathinta amabhubesi?

They came to the side of the mountain
Scouts rode out to spy the land
Even as the Realm’s soldiers lay resting
Mageba’s forces were at hand
And by the evening the vultures were wheeling
Above the ruins where the fallen lay
An ancient song as old as the ashes
Echoed as Mageba’s warriors marched away

(Written by Johnny Clegg)

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