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.

Show Playlist + Poll

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.

Show Playlist + Poll

Capital 604 – 1983

It was fairly slim pickings for South African music on Capital countdowns in 1983 but the year did produce some South African classics. It was the year when different forms of cutting edge music styles developed, alongside a hybrid of music, fashion and language, to create a new identity of openness and togetherness rather than apartheid separation and repression. As Rene Veldsman of Via Afrika described , “even though we had the apartheid laws and that sort of thing, we found freedom in music, and I think lots of groups felt that way, and that’s why we got some great music out in the ’80s. It was kind of like a club, a secret place to go where we could be free.”

Juluka had been around for a while, charting on Capital each year of the 80s so far, and they continued to produce excellent songs out of a mix of neo-traditional Zulu, Celtic folk and rock music, what Johnny Clegg described as “a fascinating adventure in trying to construct a meeting point between different forms of musical expression, rhythm, melody (and) tone.” Clegg also sustained his exploration of Zulu culture with Sipho Mchunu in several other ways, including language, dance and dress. Meanwhile eVoid had started out in Brakpan in the late 70s as Zennith, before becoming Void but by 1982 they were transformed into eVoid: fadgets adorned in a fusion of fashion styles and playing a vibrant form of what eVoid called ‘ethnotronics’, a combination of new wave, rock and mbaqanga grooves. They also developed their own style of new romantic fashion which incorporated Ndebele beadwork and other Southern African influences. At the same time Via Afrika were also expressing themselves through music and fashion. Rene Veldsman described the group as “an explosion of talented people getting together and expressing themselves”. Via Afrika’s ‘curio-pop’ ( a term coined by band member Lucas Crouse) was a combination of pan-African and western music styles, all done with the intention of partying and dancing against the system – of racism, homophobia and separation.

Veteran Billy Forrest and former Pop Shop presenter Karl Kikillus had fringe hits on the countdown, and the novelty act the Soft Shoes who had won the tv “Follow That Star” talent competition entered the charts on the back of that exposure. But 1983 can be remembered as the year in which a fresh fusion of African-western musical styles combined with broader elements of cultural bricolage entered the mainstream of South African music.

Of the most successful songs of 1983, eVoid reached number 1 with “Shadows”, and number 4 with “Taximan”, the Soft Shoes also reached number 1 with “Elvis Astaire”, Juluka spent two weeks at number 7 with “December African rain” but only reached number 17 with “Umbaqanga music” and Via Afrika’s “Hey boy” surprisingly only reached number 11, where it spent two weeks.

*Unfortunately we were not able to track down the original vinyl release of Billy Forrest’s “I loved ’em everyone” in time to include on this mixtape and we have had to rely on a later version.

Show Playlist + Poll