1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Marvin Gaye”

Let’s Get It on – Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse

Let's Get It on - Sipho 'Hotstix' Mabuse

Let’s Get It on – Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse

No, this is not a cover of the 1973 Marvin Gaye song. That was a smoozy soul track that is certainly worth putting on if you want to get it on. No, this 1985 Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse track was the follow up to ‘Burnout’. ‘Burnout’ really introduced Sipho to a white South African audience as it featured on the Radio 5, Capital 604 and Radio 702 charts, although some may have been familiar with his work while a member of Harari.

‘Let’s Get It On’ lives somewhat in the shadows of ‘Burnout’, only making the Capital 604 charts (where it got to number 5). It is a more subdued track, somewhat soulful, somewhat seductive, somewhat dance-y, but there is the same catchiness to it that ‘Burnout’ had. The beat is a pretty simple 80’s township jive and it is accompanied by the synth sound that a lot of that genre featured.

The vocals are somewhat breathy and gentle which give the song its appeal. Sipho is backed up in the singing department by a group of three women (Marilyn Nokwe, Nonhlanhla Dlomo and Jean Madubane) who went under the name The Angels and who released some records in their own right. And The Angels almost steal the show with they sexy singing. They are super seductive when singing ‘I’m in love with you/you’re in love with me/let’s get it on’ and this pretty much sums up what the song is all about. It is a song of seduction. Even the sax that comes in later on has a late night making out feel to it.

Perhaps Sipho was influenced by the Marvin Gaye track of the same name as it his song is also about seduction and getting it on. One can’t help but wonder if Marvin Gaye had been born in Soweto in Sipho’s place, would we have got to hear this track, or something very similar. I think we would have. So when you want to relax with the one you love, maybe over a candlelit dinner, then dig out ‘Let’s Get It On’ by Sipho and put it on. For dessert you could put on Marvin’s song.

Where to find it:
Let’s Get It On – Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse (2007), Gallo, CDGPS3119

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Unfinished Story – Stimela

Unfinished Story – Stimela

Unfinished Story – Stimela

In case you din’t know it, Stimela means train as is steam train or high speed train or Thomas the Tank Engine train. However the Stimela that made the ‘Unfinished Story’ song were neither steam nor high-speed and none of them were called Thomas. One of them was called Ray and his surname was Phiri and he became a stalwart of the SA music scene and was one of those who was invited by Paul Simon to play on the ‘Graceland’ album.

Listening to ‘Unfinished Story’ one can’t easily make the leap to ‘Graceland’, well not from a musical sound point of view, but from a polished and accomplished musical point of view it would make sense. ‘Unfinished Story’ does not have a particularly ‘black South African’ sound to it as it could easily have rubbed shoulders with the jazzy Americans of the late 70’s early 80s such as Weather Report and Herbie Hancock and what the soulful funky chaps like Marvin Gaye and Rick James were doing around that time. The song mixes this jazzy-funk-soul into a polished six and a half minutes of laid back pleasure that would have found a good home being played in a smoke filled undergound club somewhere is the seedier areas of Joburg.

Stimela had been going since the late 70’s but this song which was the title track of their 1987 album of the same name, showed that they had become comfortable with their trade and were capable of fine nuggets like this. They continued to record and release albums up to 2011, so yes, the title of this track was true. Phiri sadly died in 2017.

Where to find it:
The Unfinished Story / Fire,Passion,Ecstasy – Stimela (1994), Gallo, CDGMP 40490 H

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Inner City Blues – Lungiswa

Lungiswa

Lungiswa

‘Inner City Blues’ is the closing track on Marvin Gaye’s masterpiece ‘What’s Goin’ On’. It’s a satin smooth song that has a street walking beat over which Gaye’s silky smooth vocals glide giving the impression of something chic and wealthy. But the lyrics tell a different story. There is a dirty underbelly to the song that tells you ‘Crime is increasing/Trigger happy policing’. Well, what do you expect from a song called ‘Inner City Blues’? A cover of a Rodriguez song? (No, Rodriguez recorded his in 1969, Gaye’s song was released in 1971).

Roll on 29 years and we meet a young lady who was not even born when Gaye was singing about the struggles in the American ghettos. Lungiswa Plaatjies (born in 1973) was the lead female vocalist for Amampondo for a while before making her eponymous solo album. On the album she put down two versions of Marvin’s ‘Inner City Blues’, one with the original English lyrics and one with a Xhosa lyric.

Lungiswa kept to the original version’s silky smooth instrumentation, not deviating too much from the sound but did made it slightly jazzier and little more funky than Gaye’s soulful version, but still retained that soul feel. So why bother listening to this version when you have one by the great Marvin Gaye? Well a few seconds into the vocal you’ll know why. Lungiswa is blessed with a beautiful voice. It sounds girlie and somehow mature at the same time and, dare I say it, seems to make the song more poingnant than Gaye did as it is almost as if the lyrics are coming from a child. It hits one harder when a young person recognises and articulates the horrors of the world around them and with her sweet innocent voice, Lungiswa drives the point home in a way that Marvin Gaye never could. And that’s saying something given that Gaye’s version had a huge impact in its own right.

Where to find it:
Lungiswa – Lungiswa (2000), Melt 2000, BWSA106

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