1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

Just another music list

Archive for the tag “Kwaito”

Amadlozi – Bongo Maffin

The Concerto - Bongo Maffin

The Concerto – Bongo Maffin

Bongo Maffin were one of the front runners in the Kwaito world. They were formed when Oscar Appleseed (DJ Appleseed) moved from Zim down to SA and hooked up with Stoan (Seate) and Thandi (Mazwai) to form the band. They threw dance, house, kwaito, techno, rap and reggae into a big township melting pot and ‘Amadlozi’ was one of the tracks that appeared on their 1998 debut album, ‘The Concerto’.

It’s a funky piece of dance music, with a steady beat underpinning some somewhat ethereal keyboard noodling that becomes almost hypnotic. Thandi’s vocals are light and, although not whispered, it feels like she is telling you a secret. This sounds like a natural progression from the Township jive sounds of the 1980s. You could lose yourself on the dancefloor with this without the aid of drugs.

‘The Concerto’ would win the band the 1999 Best African Pop Album at the South African Music Awards and in 2001 Bongo Maffin would be voted the Best African Group at the Kora Africa Music Awards. With tracks like ‘Amadlozi’ it is not too surprising that they did this. Kwaito was just beginning to mature when Bongo Maffin released ‘Amadlozi’ and this would go on to be one of the tracks of the genre.

Where to find it:
The Concerto – Bongo Maffin (1998), Columbia, CDCOL8080
Kwaito – South African Hip Hop – Various (2000), Earthworks, STEW42CD

Charlie (Ain’t Slavin’ 2 Da Habit) – Wonderboom

Charlie (Ain’t Slavin’ 2 Da Habit) – Wonderboom



When Rabbitt recorded ‘Charlie’ it was a ‘sleek Labrador with a shiny coat’ of a song. Wonderboom turned it into a snarling, growling pitbull. In the quarter of a century that passed between Rabbitt’s original and Wonderboom’ cover (yes it was that long), rock had been taken out the hands of the pretty boys and unceremoniously dumped into the laps of grungy, tat covered hardcore guys.

Another development in South African terms was the rise of kwaito in the townships and Wonderboom flavoured their hard edged rock sound with the kwaito beats to give us this pounding, snarling version of the old classic. Lead singer Cito and guitarist Martin Schofield battle it out in the vocal department, reaching their peak on the chorus with Cito taking control of the catchy chant of “Charlie! Charlie! Charlie!” while Martin’s blunter voice takes the rap-like “I ain’t slavin’ 2 da habit”.

Dad’s back in the 70’s would probably have worried about their daughters going out with those wild boys in Rabbitt, but after hearing this version, they would be crying out for a nice clean cut Rabbitt boy to take his daughter out, rather than letting these Wonderboom lads near her. However, musically, the ‘Booms took the classic song by the scruff of its neck and dragged it into the new millennium where it can now be heard kicking and screaming and having one helluva party. Apparently Patric van Blerk (who wrote the song) likes this version. And why not? It’s a great cover of a great song.

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


Mdlwembe – Zola

Mdlwembe – Zola

Umdlwembe - Zola

Umdlwembe – Zola

If you’ve ever seen the movie Tsotsi, you will recognise this tune from the opening credits. The lead character and his mates are in a shack. The mates are playing dice, while Tsotsi, his back to the camera stares out the window. The mates ask, ‘what are we doing tonight,’ and Tsotsi turns, an intense, mean look on his face. At the same time that you are introduced to this venom, you are hit with the first pounding beat of the heavy kwaito track ‘Mdlwembe’ by Zola. The harshness of the song compliments that of the surroundings as the film takes one into the tough underbelly of a township.

As the opening credits run, you get a glimpse of Zola himself, who plays one of the movies bad “baddies” (as opposed to the protagonist who is a baddie who comes good). His real name is Bonginkosi Dlamini, and has had a successful life as actor and kwaito singer as well as having his own TV show and clothing range.

If, like me, your first introduction to the song was through the movie, you may wonder whether it can hold its own when listened to without the movie. The synergy between the visuals of the film and music are powerful, but listening to the song on its own, you realise that it’s just as powerful and loses none of its pounding clout.

Where to find it:
Umdlwembe – Zola, Ghetto Ruff, (2000), CDGRUF019


Whito Kwaito – Oom

Whito Kwaito – Oom (White Men Can Kwaito)

Oom - No Loitering

Oom - No Loitering

Oom was a mysterious band that made a couple of albums that did nothing, and then disappeared. All that I have been able to ascertain is that the band probably involved producer Ian Osrin and a guy called Jon who used to run Street Records opposite Wits in Braamfontein, but I’ve never been able to confirm that.

The album of theirs that did make it to the shelves of CD shops in SA was ‘Beats And Peaces’ which sadly does not include the gem ‘Whito Kwaito’. This track used to be available on the now defunct Digital Cupboard website and appeared on an album called ‘No Loitering’ that was sold through the website called http://www.mp3.com, but is no longer available there. However, you can hear it on Youtube.

‘Whito Kwaito’ has an African guitar and sax wrapped around a funky kwaito beat with quirky ‘fake Jamaican accent’ vocals and Mahotella Queen-ish chorus. It’s reggae-ish and kwaito-ish and makes you go e-ish!


Kaffir – Arthur

Kaffir – Arthur (and then there was Kwaito)

Released in 1995, the song is not as politically incorrect as the title may suggest. In fact, a large part of the lyrics are a plea to ‘baas, don’t call me a kaffir’. which reflects the political freedom black people were experiencing under the newly elected ANC government.

Arthur Mafokate started out as a dancer, performing with the likes of Brenda Fassie, but it was with ‘Kaffir’, which is widely regarded as the first kwaito hit, that he made his breakthrough. Kwaito, has been likened to hip hop and garage music, but with its looped sounds, simple repetitive lyrics, and pounding baselines, it took on a life of its own and became hugely popular in the townships of South Africa.

‘Kaffir’ sold over 150,000 copies and allowed Arthur to set up 999 Music Record Label which promotes up and coming talent, mostly in the kwaito genre. This song’s refrain is catchy and will continue bouncing round your mind well after it has faded from your speakers. Subsequent kwaito hits were not as political as this, so it will be an uneasy bouncing.

Where to find it:

Kwaito: South African Hip Hop

Kwaito: South African Hip Hop

Kwaito: South African Hip Hop – Various Artists (2000), Earthworks, ASIN B00004WF17

Kaffir – Arthur (1995), CCP, CDCCP 1098


Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: