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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Special – Simba Morri Fundraiser

Mixedtapes ZA is calling on our listeners to support Simba Morri’s road to recovery from serious illness: by listening to his music, sharing this post far and wide and if you can afford it, by donating to the Shifty Simba Fund.

In addition, all funds raised from the sale of Simba Morri’s music downloaded on the Shifty Bandcamp page will also go directly to the medical fund.

See Simba Morri and Mapantsula releases a on Bandcamp.

Simba Morri was born in Kenya and came to Johannesburg in the early 1980s to study at Wits University. It was a vibrant time musically with an energetic alternative music scene, promoted by student radio and music magazines, the non-segregationist Jamesons music venue, political gigs and the newly established indie label, Shifty Records. It didn’t take long before Simba was part of up-tempo band called Mapantsula, playing at any non-racially segregated venue they could find, including Jamesons and several UDF and ECC jols. Simba met up with James Phillips, also studying at Wits at the time, and through James he was introduced to the Shifty crowd. Mapantsula went on to contribute a recording of their song ‘Pambere’ to the Shifty/End Conscription Campaign compilation album Forces Favourites and in 1986 Simba recorded his debut solo album, Wasamata, with Shifty. However, it was a harsh world for alternative musicians and fame and fortune were hard to find: the radio stations weren’t particularly interested in Simba’s music and corporate distribution networks were closed to music that they thought was unlikely to sell. Simba described the situation: “So eventually I even ended up selling the music myself, at the fleamarket: selling all the Shifty artists, now – music from the Lurchers, Mapantsula, the Wasamata, the – um – Isja, the Kerels albums, and all the Shifty – Warrick, Kalahari Surfers… I would go there every Saturday at the fleamarket.” In 1990 Simba recorded a second solo album Celebrating Life, this time with another indie label Third Ear Music but with similar marginal results.

He has since continued to play in South and southern Africa, making a living out of his music. However, for musicians on the margins like Simba, it is very difficult to set up a pension fund and contribute to medical aid. Back in the ’80s Simba was one of a minority of musicians who was more concerned with contributing towards the end of apartheid through his music and performance than making money and or stashing it away for retirement. As Simba explained, “cause we use music as the weapon, to conscientise, to move forward, ah – and – I think Shifty was the only – only record company that did that; when other people were in for it for the profits, despite of what was happening.”

Very unfortunately he has recently become ill, and Lloyd Ross and Shifty Records have started a fund raising campaign to ensure that Simba Morri receives the quality medical care he needs.

Mixedtapes ZA has put together this special mixedtape for you to enjoy some up-tempo music by Simba Morri and other Shifty and Third Ear musicians who capture the pan-African spirit that has been a core part of Simba Morri’s musical identity and his philosophy of life more generally.

This mixedtape includes songs on which Simba performed – as a solo artist and with Mapantsula and Mzwakhe Mbuli, together with songs by fellow musicians at Shifty Records and Third Ear Music: Winston’s Jive Mix-Up, Tananas, Noise Khanyile, Sankomota, Isja, Duncan Senyatso and the Kgwanyane Band, Sipho Mchunu and Salif Keita (who did not record with Shifty but whose album Soro was distributed by Shifty to the South African market).

Listen to the mixedtape, get up and jive and don’t forget to donate to the Shifty Simba Fund.