Capital 604 – The Miss Parade: 1984

1984 was yet another poor year for South African artists charting on the Capital Radio Top 40 countdown: only nine songs in all. Two bands included in this week’s playlist did chart on Capital’s Top 40: Bright Blue with “Window on the World” and Juluka with “Work For All”.

1984 saw a continuation of some of the themes noted in 1983: there was a steady increase in musicians fusing South African neo-traditional and Western styles of music: Hotline, Juluka and Via Afrika all brought out new albums, eVoid recorded songs possibly for their next album and Bright Blue debuted with their first album. There was also a continuation of the post-punk/new wave scene with songs by Dog Detachment, Niki Daly, The Dynamics and Illegal Gathering. Happy Ships produced the quirky and catchy “Car Hooter” while there were yet again several artists with pop songs based in neo-traditional township forms: Brenda And The Big Dudes, Harari, Joy, Lumumba and Condry Zuqubu, Hugh Masekela, Sankomota and the Soul Brothers. There was also scope for musical styles not often included on our mixtapes thus far: A heavy metal song by Black Rose and Tighthead Fourie & The Loose Forwards contributed the lone country song on this week’s mixtape.

Among the musicians who appear on this week’s playlist there is a reminder of the repressive arm of the apartheid state. The Dynamics, Juluka and Harari were regularly stopped at roadblocks and questioned about people of different race groups travelling together (Harari’s manager was a white woman). Roger Lucey had found it increasingly difficult to find venues at which to perform and broadcasters were not interested in playing his music, and so he changed his name and musical style in an attempt to resurrect his music career. As Tighthead Fourie & The Loose Forwards he hoped to at least get airplay as a country artist. To no avail.

Meanwhile in 1984 Condry Ziqubu had begun to tour in Africa and the USA with Letta Mbulu and Caiphus Semenya, and in 1985 formed the Busa musical with several exiled and South African musicians and they toured several African countries including Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Libya, Senegal and the ‘frontline’ states of Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. On their return from the tour Ziqubu and the other members of the Busa cast had their passports confiscated and were harassed by the security police.

After releasing their debut album in 1984 Bright Blue were forced to take a two-year hiatus while two of their band members – Dan Heyman and Ian Cohen – underwent conscription against which they were strongly opposed. And while touring South Africa in 1984, eVoid’s drummer – Wayne Harker – was arrested by the Military Police because he had gone AWOL in order to participate in the tour. Former eVoid drummer, Danny De Wet, stepped in so that the tour could continue.

Uhuru were a Lesotho-based band who were banned from entering in South Africa because of their political lyrics (and the band’s name didn’t help). To get around this problem Shifty Records ingeniously took their recording studio to Lesotho (in the Shifty caravan) and recorded the band’s debut album there (it was also the first album Shifty recorded). The band in the meantime changed their name to Sankomota, which made it more likely that the album could be released in South Africa without repressive consequences. In time the band relocated to South Africa and continued to perform and release new music from their new base.

Once again, huge thanks to Marq Vas for helping us source a very hard-to-find track.

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Capital 604 – The Miss Parade: 1983

1983 was the year in which the fewest South African songs charted on the Capital Radio Top 40 countdown: only eight songs made it. Yet this week’s playlist reveals that there were many more chart worthy songs. As per usual, there artists who charted but who had further songs that could have been hits, for example eVoid, Juluka and Via Afrika. But there were several others who inexplicably did not chart at all, such as Brenda and the Big Dudes (with “Weekend Special”), Steve Kekana (with “Night Boot Control”), Sipho Mabuse (with “Rise”) and Stimela (with “I Hate Telling A Lie”).

While Juluka had been experimenting with a fusion between western and South African musical styles for several years and Hotline had begun to do so in 1982, 1983 saw such musical hybridity becoming more of a trend than something unusual, especially with the very noticeable arrival of debut albums from eVoid and Via Afrika. In addition, The Dread Warriors and Splash provided a South African influenced reggae sound while The Boyoyo Boys, Steve Kekana, Sipho Mabuse, Letta Mbulu, The Soul Brothers and Stimela performed pop songs based in neo-traditional township forms. Dog Detachment and What Colours released songs influenced by the UK new wave scene and Sue Charlton, Lesley Rae Dowling and The Insisters released more mainstream pop songs. James Phillips, in his Bernoldus Niemand guise, continued the satirical tradition of the likes of Jeremy Taylor and David Kramer by using his voice as a vocal costume, critiquing society from the perspective of what Randy Newman referred to as an untrustworthy narrator.

1983 was also the year in which two members of Splash – Jose Charles and Rufus Radebe – were sentenced to effective four-year prison terms (later reduced to 17 months) for singing ‘revolutionary songs’ at a Wits Free People’s Concert. One of the songs was a cover of Steel Pulse’s “A Tribute to Martyrs”, which included references to Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela. They were charged with promoting violence and supporting the ANC, even though they argued in their defence that they were Rastafarians and as such were anti-violence.

Indeed, it was difficult to perform as a South African musician with left-leaning sympathies in South Africa. Pete Spong of the Dread Warriors noted that it was difficult for a band with a white and black members to travel together, especially when it came to arranging travel documents (including to neighbouring countries). Sipho Mabuse and Johnny Clegg both spoke about being stopped at road blocks and interrogated because of whites and blacks travelling together while touring, with Harari and Juluka respectively (Harari has a white woman manager who travelled with the group).

All the artist here have their stories about how difficult it was to be heard at the time. Fortunately we can give them a listen now.

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Capital 604 – The Miss Parade: 1982

There were thirteen South African songs which charted on Capital Radio’s weekly Top 40 countdown in 1982 but for this week’s mixtape we recommend a further 22 songs which we think should have charted on the Top 40 countdown that year. Of these, three are performed by some the 13 artists who charted in 1982: songs by Steve Kekana & PJ Powers with Hotline, Juluka and Lesley Rae Dowling, all of whom were on a bit of an artistic roll at the time.

As with 1981 we see a wide variety of musical styles with the new wave, ska and post-punk sounds of the Asylum Kids, Corporal Punishment, Dog Detachment , Flash Harry, The Gents, Storm and The Usuals. Once again David Kramer was on song with satirical observations about South African life and there were an increasing number of African styled infusions from the likes of Harari, Joy, Juluka, Kabasa, Steve Kekana & PJ Powers with Hotline, the Malopoets, Marumo, High Masekela, Pett Frog, Sakhile and Caiphus Semenye. Ramsay MacKay contributed another quirky pop song while Lesley Rae Dowling and Mara Louw appear with more conventional pop songs, although not in any way formulaicl.

Some of these songs were playlisted on Capital Radio: “Girl Gone Solo” – Asylum Kids, “Shame on you” – Flash Harry “Nobody Nobody” – The Gents, “State of Independence” – Joy, “Can’t stop myself” – Mara Louw and “Angelina” – Caiphus Semenya. In addition, various other songs by these musicians were playlisted in 1982: “Machines” – Dog Detachment, “Mama’s Leaving” – Lesley Rae Dowling (a 1981 song), “Down At Marlene’s” – Flash Harry, “No Going Back” – Steve Kekana and “Without You” Caiphus Semenya.

Once again, huge thanks to Marq Vas for helping us source a couple of hard-to-find tracks.

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Capital 604 – 1986

The Info Song (as it was referred to) created strong division in South African musical circles. The government decided to distract people from its politically-motivated deaths, detentions and torture with a song encouraging everyone to get on and work together. To encourage musicians to take part they offered them tempting sums of money. The more politically enlightened musicians refused to take part and warned others not to do so, but there were those who ignored those warnings and got behind the government’s efforts. Musicians from both sides of the divide charted on Capital in 1986: Lesley Rae Dowling and Jonathan Selby (lead vocalist for Petit Cheval) took part, the rest did not.

Taking part was not without its negative consequences. Steve Kekana’s house was burnt down and one of his friends staying there at the time was burnt to death. Others were simply shunned by the musical fraternity. It created divisions within some bands such as Petit Cheval. Selby explained that “there were artists like Steve Kekana, Papa and Blondie and these guys were part of the whole scene, so it didn’t really bother me that much and I really wasn’t tuned into what was going on in the townships, I really wasn’t tuned into the kind of oppression and suppression that was going on. I was raised on Springbok Radio. I was brought up in a protected, middle class Jewish environment. I was more interested in what was going on overseas and trends overseas, that sort of thing … My bent in life at that stage was really exploring myself, my ego, everything was a huge self-centred, I believe a huge self-centred sort of hedonistic journey.” Petit Cheval drummer Danny De Wet noted that Selby’s participation “basically split the band”.

Wendy Oldfield of Sweatband nearly took part but pulled out in the eleventh hour. As she explained:

“When I pulled out I really got a lot of flak from that side. There was a lot of pressure, like ‘Stop, don’t let those lefties influence you’ from that side. And then I had the lefties saying ‘Don’t be bloody mad’. And I was kind of stuck in the middle looking for advice.”

Another of the musicians to chart on Capital in 1986, David Kramer, went further than refusing to take part in the song. He was a witty and insightful satirical singer songwriter but the critique of society within his message was often not detected by a generally conservative audience. Kramer explained:

“I got to a point where I felt quite trapped by my popularity, and by the expectations of what people thought I was going to do and the potential for writing, moving more and more into the ra-ra-ra type of South African song. And I suppose at that point I was becoming quite disillusioned with people misinterpreting what I really was trying to do … and also I got involved with the Volkswagen commercials and I suppose people started seeing me much more as just a comedian. You know, a funny little guy … and I became more and more one-dimensional. And what I was saying there was that I felt people weren’t really listening. And I suppose the edge that I had in the early years – which was very powerful for me – I’d lost that … it was the time of the State of Emergency and the country was really in a bad, bad way – and suddenly I looked at myself and I didn’t like what I saw. This happy-go-lucky guy making everybody feel good, and I decided to try and get back to where I had started. And that’s what led me back to doing Baboon Dogs.”

The Baboon Dogs album included politically overt songs such as a cover of Roger Lucey’s “Dry Wine” and the song which charted on Capital, “Going Away’ which questioned people’s commitment to South Africa. In the process Kramer lost a lot of his conservative fan base but at least this was the first of his songs to chart on Capital.

Of the South African songs that charted on Capital in 1986, “This Boy” by Sweatband reached number 5, “Going Away” by David Kramer reached number 7, “Love Is Knocking” by Petit Cheval,which featured a guest vocal by Lesley Rae Dowling, who also charted this year, reached number 8, where it spent two weeks, and “We Are Growing” by Margret Singana reached number 20. The rest of the songs did not make the top 20.

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Capital 604 – 1982

Capital Radio began 1982 continuing to broadcast from the idyllic Port St Johns but with plans in place to move to Milpark in Johannesburg. This they did programme by programme so that gradually more slots were broadcast from Johannesburg and fewer from Port St Johns until the move had taken place in totality. While some listeners hankered after Capital broadcasting from the mystical Port St Johns, the deejays were mostly relieved to be back in the fast lane and urban civilization. Still, it was the end to the original dream, of a maverick station operating from the margins of apartheid South Africa.

The move to Johannesburg did not affect Capital’s eclectic choice of South African music, from debut singles by Angie Peach and the Insisters to the more established crossover sounds of Steve Kekana and Juluka. They also followed some trends, like promoting Bolland’s “You’re in the army now”, a song which the SADF were quick to pounce on and for years to come, play through loudspeakers on sports fields where new recruits handed themselves over. And as if an escape from that hell, John Ireland wistfully groaned about syrup apricot and cream and Hotline covered the Beatles’ “Help”. That was what we heard on Capital in 1982, this accumulating soundtrack to our lives.

There might be a few raised eyebrows at the inclusion of Bolland and Cindy Dickinson in this week’s Mixtape of South African music. We decided to broaden the criteria out of fondness for Port Elizabeth, which is where the Bolland brothers grew up before pursuing a successful music career in Holland. In the words of another Capital countdown song in 1982, by Juluka, they qualify as scatterlings of Africa. And although Cindy Dickson was British and started her career there, it was only when she moved to South Africa that she fully launched her career as recording artist in her own right, initially as a solo artist and then as part of two groups, Syndicate and People Like Us. In the process she established herself as a South African musician.

Of the most successful South Africans songs on the Capital countdown in 1982, Steve Kekana’s “The Bushman” spent one week in the number 1 spot, Bolland’s “You’re in the army now” peaked at number 5, where it spent two weeks, John Ireland’s “I like” reached number 7 where it stayed for two weeks and Juluka’s “Scatterlings of Africa” peaked at number 10.

This mixtape plays from number 13 through to the number 1 South African song of the year as per performance on the Capital Radio weekly countdowns. If you want to see the play listing prior to listening to the countdown you can view the order of the songs in this week’s poll below.

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Capital 604 – 1981

In 1981 Capital Radio was still broadcasting from Port St Johns in the Wild Coast, and still charting a new way forward with music policy. They continued to select songs from a broad spectrum including reggae (still not played on Radio 5), funk, soul, disco, pop, rock, country and post-punk influenced new wave. Juluka , whose ‘Africa’ was playlisted on Capital from the outset , offered a unique combination of Celtic folk rock and mbaqanga to add to the already eclectic mix of music Capital listeners got to hear on their radios.

Some of the South African acts which charted on Capital in 1980 did so again in 1981: City Limits, Joy, Juluka, Lastique and Peach but 1981 offered up songs by artists new to Capital Radio. Margaret Singana was already well-known to the South African audience but Capital introduced several musicians and groups on the release of their debut albums and singles. These included Lesley Rae Dowling, Hotline, Kariba, Morocko and Neill Solomon & The Uptown Rhythm Dogs.

Such was the difficult and transient nature of the South African music industry that on occasion some groups shared musicians who were either trying their luck with two or more bands at once or who had jumped ship in the hope of something more successful and lucrative. On many occasions a musician’s group broke up and they sought a new group to play in.

For example, of the groups who charted on Capital in 1981 Jethro Butow was a member of both Kariba and Morocko and Mike Faure was a member of Morocko but after they broke up he briefly joined the Uptown Rhythm Dogs (in 1982). By 1981 one-time Ballyhoo drummer Cedric Samson had become initially drummer and then vocalist for Morocko. After Clout broke up in 1981 Bones Brettell became the keyboard player for Hotline and Gary van Zyl became the bass player for Juluka, who were expanding from a duo to a fully-fledged band. Another member of the newly expanded Juluka was keyboardist Rick Wolf who had been a member of City Limits until their demise earlier that year. In turn, Wolf was replaced in 1983 by former Clout keyboardist Glenda Millar (formerly Glenda Hyam).

In 1981 no South African songs reached number one or two in the Capital charts. Of the top performing songs on the Capital Top 40 countdown “When you gonna love me” – City Limits peaked at number 3, “Nightmare” – Peach reached number 4, “Love chain reaction” – Joy spent two weeks at number 6 and “Impi” – Juluka spent two weeks at number 7. “Bowtie boogaloo” – Morocko reached number 10.

This mixtape plays from number 14 through to the number 1 South African song of the year as per performance on the Capital Radio weekly countdowns. If you want to see the play listing prior to listening to the countdown you can view the order of the songs in this week’s poll below.

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