1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Shifty Records”

Mission To Cairo – The Softies

Mission To Cairo – The Softies

Mission To Cairo – The Softies

The Softies were a band fronted by Mark Bennett from Corporal Punishment. It also featured Hannepoort van Tonder who had been in the Gerformeerde Blues Band and would work with The Radio Rats. With these two included in the line up one would expect a far more punky sound akin to their other bands than what ‘Mission To Cairo’ actually brings us.

And looking at the track’s title, one might perhaps expect something with a more Arabic sound. But what you get is something akin to The Dynamics with much more of a ska sound than punk. But is is also not pure ska because the beat is not quite right for it to be, rather it is the brass sounds that warms the track that give it this sort of feel. So, what are we left with?

Well its kind of poppy, slightly ska-ish, a little bit punky, somewhat afro-pop and totally enjoyable. If you want to classify it by its sound, perhaps best to sit it next to your Aeroplanes tracks as it is catchy, but not mainstream. In a piece I found on the band, they talk about trying to make clever pop. They were influenced by the smarter UK pop bands of the 80’s such as ABC, Dexy’s Midnight Runners and Haircut 100 and these influences show through, but don’t dominate as Bennett drags some of his Corporals’ experience with him into the track.

‘Mission To Cairo’ was a single the band released in 1984 and they followed it up with the album ‘An Evening With The Softies’ and that was it for this polished and thoughtful pop band, which was a pity as they should have (and could have) done so much more.

Where to find it:
https://shiftyrecords.bandcamp.com/album/an-evening-with-the-softies

Video:

Don’t Dance – Kalahari Surfers

Own Affairs - Kalahari Surfers

Own Affairs – Kalahari Surfers

Contrary to the beliefs of the authorities of the day, the Kalahari Surfers were not people running around using a certain brand of washing powder to try and turn everyone in the Kalahari whiter than white. However, those dudes (for of course all surfers must be called dudes) were about as far away from the Kalahari Surfers I have just described as the Kalahari is from Parliament in Cape Town, in fact even further than that.

The first clue to realising this if ‘Don’t Dance’ was your first exposure to the Surfers (as it was mine), is that it was included on the End Conscription Campaign compilation album ‘Forces Favourites’. The song has a persistent synthesizer bass line that reminds me of an instrumental remix of The Human League’s ‘Hard Times’, but unlike the clinical sound the League create, there is a slight fuzz to the Surfers’ sound which gives it a certain rawness and grittiness, as if it is coated in a layer of Kalahari dust. It it is aural equivalent of a soldier coming back to base after a week or two in the bush.

And from the word go you are told not to dance. But this is not telling you not to foxtrot, pogo, tango, floss, boogie or even to do the Mashed Potato, it is quickly made clear that the song is a call to people not to dance to the tune of the government’s conscription policy. The rapped lyrics basically were saying, ‘open your eyes man, this situation is not right’ and towards the end of the song you get the sounds of an army drill just to remind you what you should not be dancing to. The persistent bass line becomes almost oppressive as the song continues, asking if you really want to dance to this monotonous message that you keep getting. It’s not easy listening, even now that conscription and apartheid are a thing of the past, but give it a listen. Just don’t dance to it. But you can Surf.

Where to find it:
Forces Favourites – Various Artists (1986), Shifty Records (SHIFT10)

Hear here:
https://kalaharisurfer.bandcamp.com/track/dont-dance

Zen Surfing In The 3rd World – Robin Auld

Zen Surfing In The 3rd World – Robin Auld

Zen Surfing In The 3rd World – Robin Auld

After his 1991 album ‘Love Kills’, Robin Auld moved across to the innovative and essential Shifty Records label, a label known for its political and renegade attitude. With Lloyd Ross on the production desk, Auld recorded and released his 5th album ‘Zen Surfing In The Third World’. Those who may have been worried about Auld changing record labels, expecting a totally different sound and style would have been put at ease almost from the first note of the title track which opens the album as within a few beats there is that jaunty jangling guitar sound fans would have known and love.

They would have been further put at ease when a few second later Robin’s distinctive vocals come through like a gentle wave singing ‘We’re all going on a summer holiday/anywhere where the sky is blue’. And that’s the Robin we know and love. When you put this track on, the sun shines, the surf is perfect, and you feel your spirit lift. And there doesn’t appear to be a heavy political message that was an integral part of the Shifty ethos. But then this was 1993. Things were changing in the country and there was a lot of optimism and worry sloshing around as we transitioned.

‘Zen Surfing In The Third World’ was a great anthem for the time. It is soaked in positive vibes, rejoicing in the changes and looking forward to better times, but also acknowledges the past and high level of emigration, especially in the lines ‘Do you maybe want to sing a freedom song/it don’t matter where you stay/the world gets smaller every single day’. But he goes on to add later in the song ‘There’s no battle to fight now baby’.

According to Wikipedia, ‘Zen’ emphasises rigorous self-restraint, meditation-practice, insight into the nature of mind and nature of things’ and on ‘Zen Surfing In The Third World’ Robin perhaps doesn’t do too much rigorous self restraint (he’s too busy being happy) but he does sort of meditate on what has just transpired. The song is a study on the nature of mind and nature of things, but it is also a thing of the mind and a thing of nature as he conjures up sunny skies and white beaches. So grab your cozzie and board, surf’s up!

Where to find it:
The Best of Vol 1 – Robin Auld (1999), TicTicBang, BANGCD888
Zen Surfing In The Thrid World – Robin Auld, Shifty Records (1993), CDSHIFT (WL) 53

Video:

Hey Where’s The Jol – Aeroplanes

Greatest Hits - Aeroplanes

Greatest Hits – Aeroplanes

I don’t know about the youth of today, but certainly when I was growing up, the phrase ‘Hey where’s the jol?’ would have been used quite a lot, especially on a Friday or Saturday night. It was really only a matter of time before someone brought out a song that used that phrase in it. Cue the Aeroplanes, a bunch of industry misfits whom, back in those days, only Shifty could love. And thank goodness they did as they enabled us to enjoy this quirky song which spliced together all the fun of a jol with an almost vitriolic rap about the state of the country and the local music industry back on the 80’s

‘Hey Where’s The Jol’ has a punky, anarchic feel to it right from the start with its funky guitar intro  and almost random organ which tumbles into the vocals which sound a little like the singer has been on the jol for a little while and lost any inhabitions. But you hardly have time to settle into this joyful chaos before the rap comes along and reminds us about how the state controlled all the radio and in particular the music. ‘I’m music, pop music/I’m a vehicle of the state’.

But just before it becomes too political so as to ruin the jol, the original singer bounces back into the the room to remind you that he’s ‘daaancing, oh yeah!’ and everthing seems alright again. But is it? The vocals just sort of stop and the music continues to wonder around, feeling slightly uneasy with itself.

This was protest music that didn’t just use the lyrics to get a message across. The contasting feelings the music brings out in you makes you swing between comfortably have a great night out with your mates and having to face up to the realities of apartheid that seemed to sit side by side in the country at the time. It’s a jol, a really serious jol.

Where to find it:
Greatest Hits – The Aeroplanes, (1986), CDCJM001

Video:

Too Much Resistance – Nude Red

Too Much Resistance – Nude Red (Don’t Google the band name)

Forces Favourites by Various Artists

Forces Favourites by Various Artists

Very little is known about the band Nude Red. Well, very little is known by me. In fact, all I know is that they are called Nude Red and their song ‘Too Much Resistance’ featured on the classic compilation album ‘Forces Favourites’ which was put together by Shifty Records in conjunction with the End Conscription Campaign.

I also know that ‘Too Much Resistance’ is an energetic, sax fuelled three minute and fourteen seconds of pure pleasure. The song bounces along on a bed of punk ska beats with a joie de vivre that makes you happy to know a few French phrases. Unfortunately it is all over far too soon, leaving you wanting more. I don’t know if there was any more to be had from Nude Red. I’m sure it would be worth hearing if there is.

Where to find it:

Forces Favourites – Various Artists (1986), Shifty Records (SHIFT10)

Lyrics (with apologies for any mistakes):

So much to do
Too much to say
So much to do
Too much to say

Clowny Frowns has lost his crown
In the days of certainty
Freedom lurked behind the mask
Condemned to obscurity

Five years for instigation
Keep control of the population
Don’t need no edification
Just don’t see the justification
There’s
Too much resistance

So much to do
Too much to say
So much to do
Too much to say

Mad man laughs he rides first class
On the wheels of destiny
Its hard to believe what you could see
In the 20th century

Five years for instigation
Keep control of the population
Don’t need no edification
Just don’t see the justification
There’s
Too much resistance

So much to do
Too much to say
So much to do
Too much to say

Clowny Frowns has lost his crown
In the days of certainty
Freedom lurked behind the mask
Condemned to obscurity

Five years for instigation
Keep control of the population
Don’t need no edification
Just don’t see the justification
There’s
Too much resistance

Video:

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