Not too many South African cities have been the subject of songs. I can think of Ballyhoo’s ‘Take Me Down To Cape Town’, David Kramer’s ‘Bloemfontein Blues’, Valiant Swart’s ‘Bloemfontein’ and the somewhat obscure ‘Durban And Me’ by Babadoll (found on the C-Weed’ compilation album and will appear on this list at some point). There is also the traditional song ‘We Are Marching To Pretoria’. But our cities seem to lose out to the little dorps and suburbs of our country as we have hits mentioning Matjiesfontein (Sonja Herhold’s ‘Trein Na Matjiesfontein’), Weltevreede (The Bats ‘Weltevreede Stasie’), Montagu (David Kramer’s ‘Montagu’) and Durbanville (Valiant Swart’s ‘Die Son Sak In Durbanville’).
However, we do have a song about our biggest city. The song started life in 1977 when it appeared on The Julian Laxton Band’s ‘Celebration’ album and around the same time Laxton along with Patric van Blerk produced a version with Margaret Singana on lead vocals. There is very little to choose between the 2 versions, in fact it almost sounds like the same backing track is used and just different vocals overdubbed. So it will depend on whether you enjoy Eugene Havenga’s wailing, heavy rock vocals which are found on the Laxton Band version, or Margaret’s disco (a la Donna Summer) delivery. There is not much in it though and I could as easily have gone for the Laxton Band version, but felt that Margaret just edges it.
Either way, both version feature a pounding, almost primal, beat with grunted chants that brings to life the heartbeat of eGoli with its busy-ness, its vibrancy, the density of activity. It’s a fast moving in-your-face song to match the pace of life of the city. It would certainly have been heard at many a Joburg disco in the late 70’s. The song appears on Margaret’s ‘Tribal Fence’ album which also features her cover of the Freedom’s Children’s ‘Tribal Fence’ and Hawk’s ‘Orang Outang’ both of which, like ‘Johannesburg’, are powerful, dense sounding disco tracks that brought the power and energy of Joburg to the dancefloor.
Where to find it:
Great SA Performers – Margaret Singana (2011), Gallo CDPS085