1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Via Afrika”

Living For The City – Disco Rock Machine

Living For The City - Disco Rock Machine

Living For The City – Disco Rock Machine

When Stevie Wonder recorded ‘Living For The City’ it was a slick and funky song. When Disco Rock Machine got hold of it, they turned it into a rocking, floorfilling, stomp-a-thon with a killer female vocal that grabs hold of the song and shakes it by its commuters. While Wonders version is silky and somewhat laid back, rather like a drive through the suburbs, Disco Rock Machine’s version struts down a busy Wall Street, head held high.

As the band’s name suggests, they combined the burgeoning disco sound with a rock sensibility to create a hard-edged song that you can dance to. But who were the cogs in this machine. Well, the names of this studio outfit should ring a few bells as we had none other than Trevor Rabin (Rabbitt and later Yes in case you’ve been living on another planet for the last 40 years) on guitars and keyboards while Kevin Kruger (possibly better known for his production work) on drums and a certain Rene Veldsman (she of Via Afrika fame) providing those powerful vocals. It is quite difficult to picture the voice on this song going on to give us the earthy, ethnopunk of ‘Hey Boy’ which is a credit to the vocal versatility of Veldsman.

The band would also record a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’, but would not find any success on the Springbok Charts, perhaps it was lines like ‘To find a job is like a haystack needle/Cause where he lives they don’t use colored people’ from ‘Living For The City’ that put the old SABC off giving this cover version a good run in the public’s ears. However, you can get to hear it now if you can lay your hands on the ‘Disco Fever’ CD, otherwise, there is always Youtube.

Where to find it:
Disco Fever – Various Artists, (July 1999), Gallo, CDREDD 627 (Out of print, so you may struggle)

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Hey Boy – Via Afrika

Hey Boy – Via Afrika

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Hey Boy – Via Afrika

In the sleeve notes to the CD release of Via Afrika’s eponymous debut album, Rene Veldsman is quoted as saying, ‘Via Afrika was a living force that encapsulated sex, politics, magic and imagination – a freedom of expression that was us. We didn’t make Via Afrika happen. It happened to us.’

One could perhaps change the quote to say ‘Hey Boy was a living force that encapsulated sex, politics, magic and imagination – a freedom of expression’. And we, the South African public, could reply that we didn’t make ‘Hey Boy’ happen, it happened to us for it did seem to come out of nowhere and was something that you not only listened to, but it was something you experienced. The punky vibe and township influence in the music, cried out that this was something not in tune with the system that tried to keep things apart, and therefor was political. Combined this with Rene’s earthy and alluring vocals and you have something sexy, dangerously sexy. It was magical and highly innovative.

Via Afrika always struck me as a sibling of éVoid. They both wore those crazy ethno-hippy outfits (Fadgets as éVoid called them), and they both made a sort of punky off the wall music that drew heavily from the music of the townships. It was live, vibrant music that you were obliged to dance to. ‘Hey Boy’ was one of the classics from that era. With its persistent keyboard tinklings, bouncing bass, clipped drumming and of course Rene’s vocal performances, it wound itself round the hearts and minds of young South Africans. The song reached number 6 on the Radio 5 charts and 11 on Capital 604 charts and garnered some international interest. Listen to it and blow your wee-sill.

Where to find it:
Via Afrika – Via Afrika (2000), Retro Fresh, freshcd 107
Various Artists – The Best of SA Pop Volume 2 (1994) GMP, CDGMPD 40486 (CD)

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