1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Steve Newman”

Nada – Tananas

Tananas - Tananas

Tananas – Tananas

Tananas harnessed the incredible guitar skills of Steve Newman to the thudding bass of Gito Baloi and had it underpinned by solid drumming from Ian Herman and occasionally, just occasionally, added some vocals from Gito Baloi. ‘Nada’ was one of those were Gito’s high pitched and somewhat ethereal vocals got a work out.

While Steve plays a happy-go-lucky melody which is drenched in Africa, Gito with his Mozambiquean roots brings a soulful and echo-ey otherworldyness to the song. It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon stoll along a street in downtown Johannesburg clashing with a wind that whistles as a eagle soars through the clear blue African sky over the Kruger National Park.

The title of the song, ‘Nada’ is a bit of a misnomer and this is certainly not nothing. This is something of beauty, a well constructed song that opened Tananas’ eponyolusly titled debut album. It essentially would have been the first track you heard if you had bought the album based on reviews rather than hearing the band. And you could hardly ask for a better introduction. Maybe the ‘Nada’ was saying ‘there is nothing better than this’, although there is a sense of nothingness in the floating vocals that accompany the musicians.

Tananas were a remarkable group and their music still sounds fresh and interesting all these years later. They went from Nada to something in 0 to 1 songs.

Where to find it:
Tananas – Tananas (1988), Shifty, CDSHIFT(WL)26


Karoosin’ – Tony Cox

China - Tony Cox

China – Tony Cox

Tony Cox is known for his acoustic collaborations with Steve Newman, but on his 2002 album (sans Newman), ‘China’, we get to hear him picking up an electric guitar and playing some blues. While the rest of the album is African jazzy and laid back, ‘Karoosin’ brings in some organ sounds to accompany Tony who gives his guitar a good work out in a relaxed kind of way.

There is an insistent rhythm to the song that conjures up the swish of tyres on a hot Karoo road while the organ and guitar describe the open space of the well known desert. For those who like the purer acoustic sound that Tony is better known for, this may not sit too well with you, but give it a chance. It’s relaxed and chilled out blues that will accompany you on a long road. It’s as warm as friendship and as smooth as whiskey.

One may well ask why the album where this first appeared is called ‘China’. There is nothing Chinese, it’s not posh music, or brittle like your mother’s finest china which leaves us with the cockney rhyming slang ‘china’ as in china plate – mate. And this album should be one of your chinas because it’s a darn good album, but the stand out track, ‘Karoosin’ will take you on the trip of a lifetime.

Where to find it:
China – Tony Cox, Sheer Sound (2002), SLCD015

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Roger And Peter – Steve Newman & Tony Cox

About Time - Steve Newman & Tony Cox

About Time – Steve Newman & Tony Cox

Anyone who has followed the careers of these 2 guitar maestros from our fair shores will be familiar with this one as it is a staple of any live performance when the 2 of them play together. In fact, if you have seen them perform this piece live a few times, you can even visualise the actions the pair do while play, even if you are listening to a recording of it as the chuckles from the audience mark the places where these actions take place.

For those who haven’t a clue what I am talking about, then let me explain. ‘Roger And Peter’ is a piece that the 2 guitarist put together which is their idea of what would happen, musically speaking if Roger Moore and Peter Sellers had an affair. The result is the James Bond Theme Tune brilliantly weaved into a duet with the Pink Panther Theme. But not satisfied that Peter and Roger are seeing each other, Steve and Tony take them out dancing and they end up performing a tango before heading off to the circus with a fast paced ‘Circus March’.

Not only is this is a clever merging of the two theme tunes to good comic effect, it is always executed superbly by 2 guitarists who must have been playing guitar in the womb to end up be this damn good. When they play it live, they do the dramatic head turns of the tango and some little shoulder shrugs in time to the music.

This piece has been around at least since the duo’s 1983 live album ‘101 Ways To Use An Acoustic Guitar’ and probably from long before that. It has appeared on a number of recordings the 2 have made and is a part of South African guitar culture. Its plucking brilliant.

Where to find it:
About Time – Steve Newman & Tony Cox, 2001, Sheer Sound


Kanimambo – Tananas



On a first listen to this piece by one of our favourite instrumental groups, I guessed that Gito Baloi had a lot of influence in the writing of it. Why, you may well ask? Well, it seems to have a bit of a Latin sound going on there and being from Mozambique, Baloi would have had more of a Latin connection than his fellow band members. So I hauled out my copy of ‘SA Top 40 Hits Of All Time Volume 6’ to check out who wrote it and, well, it is credit to all three band member (Baloi plus Ian Herman and Steve Newman).

However, no matter how much input each band member had into the song, it  turned out to be an earthy piece with a cyclic relaxed rhythm circling around some fancy, yet understated guitar work while a female voice repeats the title and a somewhat thoaty male vocal adds some ‘way-i-i-o-i-i-o-ah’ into the mix for good measure. Then about two thirds of the way through, a 60s psychedelic organ wonders into the studio to give it a bit of a psychedelic feel.

This is a beautiful piece of music that seems to encapure the warmth and relaxed mood of both Africa and Latin America. It will make you want to go out and buy a hammock, string it up between two palm trees on a white sandy beach and gently sway to its rhythms while pretending to be able to play a guitar half as well as Steve Newman does.

Where to find it:
SA Top 40 Hits of All Time Volume 6 – Various Artists (2001), Sting Music, STIDFCD037

Your Kind – Pongolo

Jah Do That - Pongolo

Jah Do That – Pongolo

Who the heck are Pongolo I hear you ask. And you may well be justified in being mystified as they got almost no airplay (as far as I am aware) in 1989 when they released their album ‘Jah Do That’ which contained the song ‘Your Kind’. If memory serves me correctly, I did hear what could possibly have been the only airing of the song on Barney Simon’s Powerhaus show and was taken by this bright, breezy reggae tune.

When I finally stumbled across a vinyl copy of the album I found out that the band contained a certain Gito Baloi on bass. For those who need to be told this, Baloi was a member of Tananas alongside Steve Newman and who was tragically killed in 2004.

Joining Baloi (whose surname is spelt Baloy on the sleeve notes) in the band were Ilidio Matola, George Sunday, Morris Mungoy, Joe Mathseka (who was in Bayete) and John Hassan. Together they made gentle poppy reggae which could be filed alongside Inner Circle (remember ‘Sweat’) and Big Mountain (remember their cover of ‘Baby I Love Your Way’). ‘Your Kind’ is a laid back and catchy tune which may or may not be your kind of reggae, but it’s a bit of a lost gem which should get a bit of exposure.

Where to find it:
Only on vinyl: Jah do That – Pongolo (1989), Principal Records, NUBL5011

Shake – Tananas



I often wonder how musicians come up with names for instrumental pieces. I suppose it’s a bit like modern artists who put a few blobs of paint on a canvas and call it ‘Ash on a Moonscape’ or something equally bizarre. It is sometimes more about the feel of the painting that the artist wants to put over rather than what the actual visuals show. Similarly, the titles of instrumentals are about the feel that the musician has for the song.

That said, I am at a bit of loss as to why those Tananas dudes called this track ‘Shake’. To me it’s more thwacks and pops and bubbles and bangs and crashes than something that would make one shake in a ‘Shake Rattle And Roll’ sense. It is also earthy and funky and a little chilled to be make one shake in a ‘shaking in my shoes’ kind of way. Perhaps it is the sort of bubbling rolling sound that Steve Newman manges to extract from his guitar that makes it light and frothy in a milkshake kind of shake sense.

Whatever the reason behind naming the track ‘Shake’ it is a strutting piece of expert musicianship that blends bubbly beats with fruity flavours to give you a brilliant blend for slaking your thirst for cool sounds on. So get on down to the Tananas Roadhouse and order youself a delicious ‘Shake’.

Where to find it:
Tananas – Tananas (1988), Shifty, CDSHIFT(WL)26


Hard Hat Jive – Tananas

Hard Hat Jive – Tananas (Construction time again)



Steve Newman is a national treasure. Between him and Tony Cox (whom he often collaborates with), they seem to have sewn up the ‘classical’ style of guitar playing. I use the word ‘classical’ for want of a better word as it is more in the style of playing than in sound. When Steve was not producing solo material, or jamming with his mate Tony, he would get hold of Ian Herman and the late Gito Baloi to record under the name of Tananas.

As Tananas, he could flesh out his plucking with some bass and drums, giving the music a bigger sound. Their eponymous debut album appeared on the legendary Shifty label and contained ‘Hard Hat Jive’, a bouncy piece that is as good as any to introduce the uninitiated into the world of Tananas. The song was included in the addendum to a recent book called ‘1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die’. The addendum which included ‘Hard Hat Jive’ listed the 10,001 songs you must download.

It starts off with a jazzy intro of drums, followed quickly by Gito’s bass and Steve’s guitar joins in moments later. The version on the album ‘Tananas’ shows the simple beauty of what the band did, but another version can be found on the album ‘Alive In Jo’burg’. This is more polished and features a pennywhistle solo as well, so which version to choose? It really depends on whether you like your Tananas raw, or well done.

Where to find it:
Tananas – Tananas (1988), Shifty, CDSHIFT(WL)26
Alive In Jo’burg (2001), Epic, CDEPC8171
Great South African Performers (2012), Gallo, CDPS 035


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