Woza Weekend!

While we tend to take weekends for granted it is worth remembering that workers struggled hard for centuries for the luxury of two days off at the end of the week. New Zealand was the first country to officially adopt a two-day weekend in 1908, and thereafter more and more countries followed. Today, weekends are a part of life in many cultures, providing opportunities for recreation, family time, relaxation, including partying and listening to music. During the apartheid era, employed black South Africans relished any time in which they could escape from their employers’ hold over them, so weekends off work, if experienced, were especially cherished. This mixtape includes a selection of South African songs which celebrate the weekend, mostly from the apartheid era.

We start off with two of South Africa’s most iconic weekend celebratory songs: eVoid’s ‘Jiving To The Weekend Beat’ captures the sense of fun which the weekend jol promised, while Juluka sang a love song to the coming weekend, a worker viewing the weekend as they would a lover. Many of the songs here follow similar themes, either looking forward to the weekend or simply enjoying it when it arrives. Brenda and the Big Dudes, however, warn against being used by someone simply as their ‘Weekend Special’. As Brenda Fassie sings, ‘I’m no weekend, weekend special’. We end off with Seba Kaapstad’s ‘Friday That’s Good’: “Friday that’s good, uhm, that’s good, that’s good, uhm, that’s good, that’s good, that’s good, that’s good, that’s good, that’s good, that’s good, that’s good, that’s good, that’s good.” Indeed!

  1. Jiving To The Weekend Beat – eVoid
  2. Woza Friday – Juluka
  3. Phelaviki (Let The Weekend Come) – Irene And The Sweet Melodians
  4. Weekend Special – Brenda And The Big Dudes
  5. Friday (Zis’imali Yam) – Peto
  6. Woza Weekend – Respectors
  7. Weekend – Jazz Maniacs
  8. This Weekend (Vocal Version) – The Dynamics
  9. Saturday Night Special – Vairkweru
  10. Weekend – Springbok Nude Girls
  11. Welcome To The Weekend – The Parlotones
  12. Feels Like Friday – Louis And The Jive
  13. Friday Night – Vusi Shange
  14. Saturday Night – Supa Frika
  15. Saturday Fever – Jivaro
  16. Saturday Night – Pacific Express
  17. Saturday Night – Rebecca
  18. Woza Friday – Mapaputsi
  19. Friday Morning – Neville Nash
  20. Ready For The Weekend – MarcAlex
  21. Friday That’s Good – Sebe Kaapstad

Songs by South African artists on the UK and USA Top 100 singles charts

With Tyla’s ‘Water’ making it into the US charts, going viral on social media, and being awarded a Grammy, there has been some discussion in the media about previous songs by SA artists making the US charts. There haven’t been many, and there have been a few more that have made the UK charts. We decided to research the US Billboard and UK top 100 charts and put together a mixtape of songs which have charted in either country. They appear in the chronological order in which they charted. The list below indicates the peak position of each song, and the date on which it reached that position.

Interestingly there are no songs which appeared on both the USA and UK charts. In fact there isn’t even a single South African artist who has charted in both charts. One song charted twice on the UK top 100: ‘Scatterlings Of Africa’ – first the Juluka version, and four years later the Savuka version.

The mixtape selection is restricted to South African musicians and groups who are regarded as wholly South African (for example, this does not include songs by Manfred Mann who only began his musical career once he had emigrated to the UK, Yes when Trevor Rabin was a member, or Freshlyground doing a collaborative song with Shakira, and so on). Collaborations of those sorts can be a focus for a future mixtape!

Some of these are probably very familiar to you, and others you might have hardly ever heard at all. Give them a listen and enjoy!

  1. Pata PataMiriam Makeba no 12 on 25 November 1967 (USA)
  2. Up Up And AwayHugh Masekela No 71 on 13 and 20 January 1968 (USA)
  3. Master Jack – Four Jacks And A Jill No 18 on 8 June 1968 (USA)
  4. Grazing In The GrassHugh Masekela No 1 on 20 July 1968 (USA)
  5. Puffin On Down The TrackHugh Masekela no 71 on 19 October 1968 (USA)
  6. RiotHugh Masekela No 55 on 8 and 15 February 1969 (USA)
  7. He’s Gonna Step On You AgainJohn Kongos No 4 on 22 May 1971 (UK)
  8. Tokoloshe ManJohn Kongos No 4 on 20 November 1971 (UK)
  9. SubstituteClout No 2 17 June 1978 (UK)
  10. Scatterlings Of AfricaJuluka No 44 on 5 Feb 1983 (UK)
  11. She’s The Master (of the game) – Richard Jon Smith No 63 16 July 1983 (UK)
  12. ImpiJuluka No 87 on 6 August 1983 (UK)
  13. The ABC Of Kissing – Richard Jon Smith No 77 on 30 March 1985 (UK)
  14. Scatterlings Of AfricaSavuka No 75 on May 10 1987 (UK)
  15. LiesJonathan Butler No 18 on 1 August 1987 (UK)
  16. Holding OnJonathan Butler No 92 on 24 October 1987 (UK)
  17. AsimbonangaSavuka No 94 on January 24 1988 (UK)
  18. Take Good Care Of MeJonathan Butler No 89 on 13 February 1988 (UK)
  19. Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful WorldSavuka No 86 February 4 1990 (UK)
  20. World In Union ’95PJ Powers & Ladysmith Black Mambazo No 47 3 June 1995 (UK)
  21. Inkanyezi Nezazi (The Star And The Wiseman) – Ladysmith Mambazo No 33 15 November 1997 (UK)
  22. Ain’t No SunshineLadysmith Black Mambazo No 42 16 October 1999 (UK)
  23. Broken – Seether No 20 in 2004 (USA)
  24. When You Come Back 2010Vusi Mahlasela No 70 on 10 July 2010 (UK)
  25. Water – Tyla No 10 on November 28 2023 (USA)

The 23 Best of 2023

As another year fades out we have once again taken the opportunity to reflect on our favourite tracks of the year, as well as others that have caught our attention. We’ve included 23 new songs which capture a spectrum of South African musical styles.

Several of this year’s artists have appeared in our songs-of-the-year mixtapes over the previous three years and are back again: Stanley Sibanda (‘Clusters’), Julia Church (with a solo acoustic version of ‘Lullaby’, also released as an electronic track with PRAANA), Nakhane (‘Standing In Our Way’), Lucy Kruger & the Lost Boys (‘Burning Building’), We Kill Cowboys (‘Journey’), Alice Phoebe Lou (‘My Girl’), and the West Coast Wolves ‘Knuckles Tight’).

Two musicians who have been releasing music prior to the current century are back with new albums. Jonathan Butler released his first music as a solo artist back in 1975 and here we have included ‘Silver Rain’ from his Ubuntu album. Vusi Mahlasela released his first album with Shifty Records back in 1992, and returns with a new album, Umoya – Embracing The Human Spirit, from which we feature ‘Tsietsi La Letswalo’. In addition, veteran musician Gary Rathbone (with 1980s bands What Colours, Aeroplanes, and the Spectres) is back with his latest initiative, The Weathervanes (in collaboration with Nechama Brodie). Here we feature ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ from their debut EP.

We also include several musicians who have been on the scene for a while but who this year feature for their first time on our songs-of-the year list. These include East London-based Bongeziwe Mabandla (‘Soze’), Gauteng-based musicians Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness (BCUC, ‘The Woods’), Acid Magus (‘Caligulater’), Shameless (‘Victim of Data’), and Tyla (‘Water’). Also included are Kwazulu-Natal based musicians Wren Hinds (‘Dream State’), The Lion, The Bear, and The Panther (‘Something Real’), and Jim Neversink (‘Man’s Best Friend’). We also include Cape Town-based musicians Bhex (‘Demons’), Ethyl Ether (‘Dead Conversation’), Beatenberg (‘Don’t Call Her Over To You’), Matthew Mole (‘Good Thing’), and Asher Gamedze (‘Wynter Time’).

Much has been made of Tyla’s ‘Water’ being the first song by a solo South African musician (or South African group) to reach the USA Billboard Top 10 since Hugh Masekela’s ‘Grazing In The Grass’ in 1968. It has been viewed over 100 million times on YouTube. Which is crazy (by comparison the Weathervane’s ‘Heart-shaped Box’ has less than 30 views). Popular musicians keep putting their music out there, regardless of what might happen to it, hoping that at the very least some listeners will enjoy it. We hope we have introduced you to something that connects with you. Give this mixtape a listen, and support the musicians who catch your interest. More than ever they need your support – buy their music, go see them live, and tell your friends about them! Enjoy …

  1. Soze – Bongeziwe Mabandla
  2. Clusters – Stanley Sibande
  3. Lullaby (acoustic) – Julia Church
  4. Dream State – Wren Hinds
  5. Tsietsi La Letswalo – Vusi Mahlasela
  6. Silver Rain – Jonathan Butler
  7. Standing In Our way – Nakhane
  8. The Woods – BCUC
  9. Demons – Bhex
  10. Burning Building – Lucy Kruger & the Lost Boys
  11. Journey – We Kill Cowboys
  12. Dead Conversation – Ethyl Ether
  13. Something Real – The Lion, the Bear and the Panther
  14. Man’s Best Friend – Jim Neversink
  15. Don’t Call Her Over To You – Beatenberg
  16. My Girl – Alice Phoebe Lou
  17. Heart-Shaped Box – The Weathervanes
  18. Good Thing – Matthew Mole
  19. Knuckles Tight – West Coast Wolves
  20. Caligulater – Acid Magus
  21. Victim Of Data – Shameless
  22. Wynter Time – Asher Gamedze
  23. Water – Tyla

Sunny African Summer

Well, it’s been a while since our last mixtape, but the South African sun has emerged from a reclusive winter, beckoning us to compile a shiny, happy, compilation. So we decided to do something that celebrates the returning South African summer. We might have loadshedding, inflation, corruption, potholes and pot-bellied politicians, but at least we have the sun. And we can dance. As Harari sing, “In the summertime, everybody should be dancing.”

This mixtape is scattered with happy upbeat tunes, kicking off with Robin Auld’s tribute to James Phillips, “Sunny Skies”, a great way to get us up and jiving, followed by similarly buoyant songs by Bright Blue (“Living in Africa”), eVoid’s (“Under blue skies”) and Nude Red’s “Seaside Dreams”. Things turn a bit funkier with Phillip Mallela’s “Sunny Day”, Clout’s “Sunshine Baby”, Harari’s “In The Summertime” and Kabasa’s “African sunset”.

South African summers would not be the same without some Dollar Brand/Abdullah Ibrahim, and his “African Sun” reminds us why. Miriam Makeba sings “African Sunset”, not related to Kabasa’s tune, but written by Sipho Mabuse. Apart from enjoying summery tunes, we also pause for a moment to remember Zahara, who died this week. Her “Brighter Day” fits very well with the theme of this mixtape.

Vusi Mahlasela’s “Africa The Sun Has Risen’ is hopeful that apart from getting brighter, things will get better. Here’s hoping! Hugh Masekela and Herb Alpert join forces to celebrate the “African Summer”, while Juluka sing their somewhat anthemic “December African Rain” which made a lot of us feel better about things forty years ago.

The mixtape ends with an assortment of sun-referenced songs, from Chris Letcher’s “The Sun! The Sun!” to “Happy Person” by the aptly named, The Sunshines, and McCully Workshop’s “(We All) Look For The Sun” and “Summer Journey” by the Soweto Licks.

Finally, Johannes Kerkorrel plays out on a very relaxed note announcing the arrival of the summer sun. Wherever you are – in the South or the North – turn up the volume and enjoy!

  1. Sunny Skies – Robin Auld
  2. Living In Africa – Bright Blue
  3. Under Blue Skies – eVoid
  4. Seaside Dreams – Nude Red
  5. Sunny Day – Phillip Mallela
  6. Sunshine Baby – Clout
  7. In The Summertime – Harari
  8. African Sunset – Kabasa
  9. African Sun – Dollar Brand
  10. African Sunset – Miriam Makeba
  11. Brighter Day – Zahara
  12. Africa The Sun Has Risen – Vusi Mahlasela
  13. African Summer – Hugh Masekela & Herp Albert
  14. December African Rain – Juluka
  15. Perfect Day – Robin Levetan
  16. The Sun! The Sun! – Chris Letcher
  17. Happy Person – The Sunshines
  18. (We All) Look For The Sun – McCully Workshop
  19. Summer Journey – Soweto Licks
  20. Somer – Johannes Kerkorrel

Shifty Budgie Beat Mixtape

In the early 1980s if you persevered, you could seek out marginal South African musicians playing politically subversive and musically innovative music in a few live venues in the major urban areas. Rarely were such musicians ever recorded by conservative record companies afraid to rock the apartheid boat. Into this void entered Shifty Records, a maverick indie record company co-founded by Lloyd Ross. The original studio was housed in a caravan, which allowed for mobility and hence the name Shifty – it could shift from here to there geographically and literally, as it outmanoeuvred state attempts to silence resistant voices.

Between 1983 and the end of the apartheid era in the early 1990s, Shifty recorded many politically outspoken and musically diverse musicians. Shifty was not interested in formulaic bands putting out music which did not in some way reflect their South African heritage. As such Shifty was pivotal in focusing the direction of much resistance music that might otherwise have remained unrecorded and largely forgotten. Some of these musicians, like Mzwakhe Mbuli and Vusi Mahlasela went on to gain national and even international recognition. Others, such as the Aeroplanes and Mapantsula, are only known to a marginal fan base. Nevertheless, their contributions have not been forgotten, as this compilation documents.

Budgie Beat was a compilation cassette released by Shifty Records in 1988 to introduce potential listeners to the Shifty catalogue. It included a cross-section of music released by Shifty, virtually none of which was played on South African radio. The most likely listener would have previously bought one or more Shifty albums, and with an interest in other releases. The title was a pun on ‘budget’, so Shifty hoped that the bargain price would tempt listeners to try it out. At the time of the Budgie Beat cassette release, Shifty ran a promotion on a special low price cassette series which they were referred to as ‘low budgie cassettes’.

If you are interested in any of this music (or in the Shifty catalogue more generally) you can stream or download most of these artists on the Shifty Bandcamp site. In the meantime, enjoy listening!

  1. Pambere – Mapantsula
  2. Hat Check Girl – Aeroplanes
  3. Chillompie – Isja
  4. Houghton Parents – Kalahari Surfers
  5. R45 Perm – Cherry Faced Lurchers
  6. Egg And Bacon Plantation – The Happy Ships
  7. Hakuna Matata – Simba Morri
  8. Wind Up Lollipop – Illegal Gathering
  9. In Detention – Koos
  10. Golden Days – The Kêrels
  11. Cara Monia – Stan James
  12. 1999 – Kalahari Surfers
  13. Slipping Away – The Softies
  14. Brain Damage – Corporal Punishment
  15. Piranha Pie – Draadloos
  16. Ek Gaap – Randy Rambo

Capital Radio 604 Listeners’ Top 25

During early lockdown in South Africa, in May/June 2020 former Capital Radio 604 listeners were invited to vote for their favourite South African songs of the 1980s. 18 people submitted their top 20 charts, in order of preference. For this mixtape we have decided to feature the top 25 songs from that chart. Songs were given 20 points if a number one on someone’s chart, all the way down to one point for a song listed at number 20.

Given that songs need to be known (and liked) by several people to be voted onto a chart like this, it is not a surprise that most of these songs are familiar to us, and are songs we would expect to see on an all-time-greatest chart. It is also not unexpected that many artists feature more than once: Bright Blue, Lesley Rae Dowling and eVoid all have two songs, and Juluka has three songs, with Johnny Clegg’s other band – Savuka – featuring a further song. Probably all of South Africa’s 1980s classics are included here. We hope you enjoy listening to them.

In no specific order, they are:

  1. Weeping – Bright Blue
  2. Clowns (See Yourself) – Ella Mental
  3. Shadows – eVoid
  4. Taximan – eVoid
  5. Scatterlings Of Africa – Juluka
  6. Man On The Moon – Ballyhoo
  7. Window On The World – Bright Blue
  8. Paradise Road – Joy
  9. Jabulani – Hotline
  10. Burnout – Sipho Mabuse
  11. Hey Boy – Via Afrika
  12. Here We Are – Face to Face
  13. Once In A Lifetime –Petit Cheval
  14. The Spaniard – Lesley Rae Dowling
  15. December African Rain – Juluka
  16. Slow rain – Celtic Rumours
  17. Johnny Calls The Chemist – Falling Mirror
  18. Ancient Dust Of Africa – Edi Niederlander
  19. Weekend Special – Brenda & the Big Dudes
  20. Baby You Been Good – Robin Auld
  21. Grips Of Emotion – Lesley Rae Dowling
  22. Mysteries And Jealousy – The Helicopters
  23. Lies – Jonathan Butler
  24. Africa – Juluka
  25. Asimbonanga – Savuka

Golden Sounds of the ’60s: South African Gems

Embark on a journey through the rich and diverse musical landscape of South Africa in the 1960s with this carefully curated compilation of 12 tracks. This era saw an incredible fusion of traditional and modern musical styles, showcasing the exceptional talents of South African musicians across various genres.

  1. Miriam Makeba – “The Click Song (Qongqothwane)”
    Affectionately known as “Mama Africa,” Miriam Makeba embodied hope and resistance against apartheid. “The Click Song (Qongqothwane)” showcases her vocal prowess, blending her native Xhosa language with an infectious Afro-pop sound that resonated with people worldwide.
  2. Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath – “MRA”
    Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath was a leading force in South African jazz, fusing African rhythms with avant-garde influences. Their lively improvisations in “MRA” pushed musical boundaries and contributed to a unique sound that remains influential today.
  3. The Flames – “For Your Precious Love”
    The Flames captivated audiences with their soulful harmonies and heartfelt renditions of popular songs. “For Your Precious Love” highlights their emotive vocals and the impact of American soul and R&B on South African musicians during this era.
  4. Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) – “Tintinyana”
    Cape Jazz maestro Abdullah Ibrahim, formerly known as Dollar Brand, combined African rhythms with jazz piano to create a distinctive sound. “Tintinyana” exemplifies this unique fusion, which continues to inspire musicians across generations.
  5. The A-Cads – “Down the Road”
    As one of the first South African bands to embrace rock music, The A-Cads drew inspiration from British and American rock bands of the era. Their lively track “Down the Road” captures the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll in 1960s South Africa.
  6. Spokes Mashiyane – “Banana Ba Rustenburg”
    Pennywhistle virtuoso Spokes Mashiyane pioneered the playful kwela genre. His skillful playing on “Banana Ba Rustenburg” showcases the joyous spirit and danceable rhythms that define kwela music, which remains a beloved South African tradition.
  7. The Invaders – “Shockwave”
    South African surf rock band The Invaders brought the energetic sounds of the California coast to their homeland. Their instrumental track “Shockwave” highlights the band’s skillful guitar work and demonstrates the global influence of surf rock during the 1960s.
  8. Letta Mbulu – “Hareje”
    Jazz singer Letta Mbulu began her career in the 1960s, enchanting listeners with her powerful voice and fusion of African and jazz elements. “Hareje” exemplifies her emotive singing and the rich musical tapestry of South Africa during this time.
  9. West Nkosi – “Mazuzu”
    Saxophonist, composer, and producer West Nkosi played a significant role in popularizing mbaqanga and jive music. His lively saxophone playing and infectious dance rhythms in “Mazuzu” showcase the energy and excitement of South African music during the 1960s.
  10. Winston “Mankunku” Ngozi – “Yakhal’ Inkomo”
    Renowned South African saxophonist Winston “Mankunku” Ngozi left a lasting impact on the country’s jazz scene with his emotive playing and soulful compositions. “Yakhal’ Inkomo,” meaning “The Bellowing Bull,” is a beautiful and evocative piece that showcases his mastery of the saxophone.
  11. The Bats – “Shabby Little Hut”
    The Bats were a South African pop and rock band whose catchy melodies and tight harmonies captivated audiences. Their popular song “Shabby Little Hut” demonstrates the group’s ability to craft memorable tunes that remain beloved classics in South African music history.
  12. Solomon Linda’s Original Evening Birds – “Mbube”
    Though originally recorded in 1939, Solomon Linda’s iconic song “Mbube” continued to have a significant impact in the 1960s. This choral masterpiece features intricate harmonies and a call-and-response structure, providing a glimpse into the rich tradition of African choral music that inspired countless musicians in the decades to come.

This compilation of South African gems from the 1960s offers a window into a vibrant and transformative era in the country’s musical history. As you listen, you’ll experience a range of styles that blend local traditions with global influences, showcasing the innovation and resilience of South African musicians during a tumultuous period. From the soulful melodies of Miriam Makeba to the groundbreaking sounds of Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath, each track on this mixtape offers a unique perspective on the golden era of South African music. So, sit back, relax, and let these timeless classics transport you to a world of rhythmic bliss and melodic enchantment.

Sounds of South Africa: A Musical Journey

As an experiment to find out how much South African musical knowledge it had, we asked the Artificial Intelligence system called ChatGPT to compile us this week’s mixtape. The following is a transcript of our conversation and the result:

Do you know what a “mix tape” is?
Yes, I’m familiar with the concept of a “mixtape.” A mixtape is a compilation of songs or music tracks, typically from different artists and genres, recorded onto a cassette tape or other medium. Mixtapes were especially popular during the 1980s and 1990s when cassette tapes were the dominant format for music distribution. People often made mixtapes to share their favorite songs with friends, or as a personalized gift for someone special. The term “mixtape” has evolved over time and can now refer to a digital playlist or a compilation album released by an artist, although the original concept of a mixtape remains rooted in the idea of curating a collection of songs for a specific purpose or theme.

We would like you to compile a 20 song mixtape to introduce an international audience to the music of South Africa, including a wide range of styles from that country, including – but not limited to – rock, pop, jazz, folk, reggae, mbaqanga, kwaito, and a range of styles to get a broad overview. It is important that all the artists are South African.
I have compiled a mixtape of 20 songs to introduce an international audience to the music of South Africa. This list includes a wide range of styles and genres to provide a broad overview of South African music:

  1. Miriam Makeba – “Pata Pata” (Afro-pop)
  2. Johnny Clegg & Savuka – “Asimbonanga” (Afro-pop, World Music)
  3. Ladysmith Black Mambazo – “Homeless” (Isicathamiya, Zulu A Cappella)
  4. Hugh Masekela – “Grazing in the Grass” (Jazz)
  5. Brenda Fassie – “Vuli Ndlela” (Pop, Kwaito)
  6. The Parlotones – “Push Me to the Floor” (Rock, Indie)
  7. Freshlyground – “Doo Be Doo” (Afro-fusion, Pop)
  8. Abdullah Ibrahim – “Mannenberg” (Jazz)
  9. Mafikizolo – “Khona” (Afro-pop, Kwaito)
  10. Simphiwe Dana – “Ndiredi” (Afro-jazz, Soul)
  11. Yvonne Chaka Chaka – “Umqombothi” (Afro-pop, Bubblegum)
  12. DJ Mujava – “Township Funk” (House, Kwaito)
  13. Mahlathini & the Mahotella Queens – “Kazet” (Mbaqanga)
  14. Die Antwoord – “Enter the Ninja” (Alternative Hip-hop, Rave)
  15. Jeremy Loops – “Down South” (Folk, Acoustic)
  16. Black Coffee ft. Bucie – “Superman” (House, Electronic)
  17. Spoek Mathambo – “Control” (Electronica, Afro-futurism)
  18. BLK JKS – “Molalatladi” (Alternative Rock, Art Rock)
  19. Lucky Dube – “Different Colours/One People” (Reggae)
  20. Mango Groove – “Special Star” (Afro-pop, Marabi)

This mixtape covers a variety of genres and eras in South African music, showcasing the country’s rich musical heritage and diversity. Enjoy!

Thank you. Do you know what “sleeve notes” are?
Yes, I am familiar with the term “sleeve notes” (also known as liner notes). Sleeve notes are the written material that accompanies a physical music release, such as an album or an EP, typically found inside or on the packaging of vinyl records, CDs, or cassette tapes. They can provide various types of information, such as:

  • Background information on the recording, composition, or production of the music.
  • Song lyrics.
  • Credits for the musicians, producers, and other personnel involved in the creation of the music.
  • Personal anecdotes or stories from the artist(s) or other contributors.
  • Artwork or photography related to the music or the artist(s).

Sleeve notes offer additional context and insight into the music, and they can help listeners form a deeper connection with the artist and their work. In the digital age, sleeve notes have largely been replaced by digital booklets, which can be accessed through certain music platforms, or by artist websites and social media.

Could you write (approximately 750 words) sleeve notes to accompany your 20 song selection?
Title: “Sounds of South Africa: A Musical Journey”
Welcome to “Sounds of South Africa,” a carefully curated compilation of 20 songs that showcase the rich and diverse musical landscape of South Africa. This mixtape is designed to introduce an international audience to a wide range of styles from this vibrant country, including rock, pop, jazz, folk, reggae, mbaqanga, kwaito, and more. We invite you to immerse yourself in these captivating sounds and explore the unique musical tapestry of South Africa.

  • Miriam Makeba – “Pata Pata” (Afro-pop)
    Known as “Mama Africa,” Miriam Makeba was a legendary singer and activist who brought South African music to the world stage. “Pata Pata,” released in 1967, remains her most famous song and features her distinctive vocal style alongside a danceable Afro-pop rhythm.
  • Johnny Clegg & Savuka – “Asimbonanga” (Afro-pop, World Music)
    Johnny Clegg, often referred to as the “White Zulu,” was a British-born South African musician and anthropologist. “Asimbonanga,” released in 1987, is a powerful anti-apartheid anthem that pays tribute to Nelson Mandela and calls for unity among South Africans.
  • Ladysmith Black Mambazo – “Homeless” (Isicathamiya, Zulu A Cappella)
    Formed in 1960, Ladysmith Black Mambazo is an award-winning male choral group that specializes in isicathamiya, a traditional Zulu a cappella style. “Homeless” was co-written with Paul Simon for his “Graceland” album and showcases the group’s intricate vocal harmonies.
  • Hugh Masekela – “Grazing in the Grass” (Jazz)
    Hugh Masekela was a renowned South African jazz musician and trumpeter. His 1968 instrumental hit, “Grazing in the Grass,” combines elements of jazz with South African rhythms, creating an uplifting and timeless tune.
  • Brenda Fassie – “Vuli Ndlela” (Pop, Kwaito)
    Brenda Fassie, dubbed the “Madonna of the Townships,” was a beloved South African pop and kwaito singer. “Vuli Ndlela,” released in 1997, is a high-energy track that showcases Fassie’s incredible vocal range and infectious charisma.
  • The Parlotones – “Push Me to the Floor” (Rock, Indie)
    The Parlotones are a South African indie rock band known for their emotive lyrics and anthemic sound. “Push Me to the Floor,” released in 2009, features driving guitar riffs and a soaring chorus, making it a standout track in the South African rock scene.
  • Freshlyground – “Doo Be Doo” (Afro-fusion, Pop)
    Formed in 2002, Freshlyground is a multiracial South African band that blends elements of Afro-fusion, pop, and folk. “Doo Be Doo,” released in 2005, is a catchy, feel-good song that celebrates life and the power of music to bring people together.
  • Abdullah Ibrahim – “Mannenberg” (Jazz)
    Abdullah Ibrahim, formerly known as Dollar Brand, is a celebrated South African jazz pianist and composer. His 1974 composition “Mannenberg” is considered a cornerstone of Cape Jazz and serves as a symbol of hope and resilience during the apartheid era.
  • Mafikizolo – “Khona” (Afro-pop, Kwaito)
    Mafikizolo is a South African duo that combines Afro-pop and kwaito elements to create infectious dance tunes. Their 2013 hit “Khona” showcases their signature harmonies and energetic beats, making it an irresistible addition to the mixtape.
  • Simphiwe Dana – “Ndiredi” (Afro-jazz, Soul)
    Simphiwe Dana is a talented South African singer-songwriter known for her Afro-jazz and soul fusion. Her 2004 song “Ndiredi” highlights her emotive vocal delivery and thoughtful songwriting, earning her a place among South Africa’s most respected artists.
  • Yvonne Chaka Chaka – “Umqombothi” (Afro-pop, Bubblegum)
    Dubbed the “Princess of Africa,” Yvonne Chaka Chaka is a South African music icon whose career spans over three decades. “Umqombothi,” released in 1988, is a catchy, upbeat song that showcases her powerful voice and a lively bubblegum pop sound.
  • DJ Mujava – “Township Funk” (House, Kwaito)
    DJ Mujava is a South African producer and DJ known for blending house music with kwaito influences. His 2008 track “Township Funk” features hypnotic beats and syncopated rhythms, making it a dance floor favorite in South Africa and beyond.
  • Mahlathini & the Mahotella Queens – “Kazet” (Mbaqanga)
    Mahlathini, known as the “Lion of Soweto,” and the Mahotella Queens were a groundbreaking mbaqanga group that combined powerful vocals with driving rhythms. Their 1987 hit “Kazet” showcases their unique sound, which helped popularize mbaqanga music both locally and internationally.
  • Die Antwoord – “Enter the Ninja” (Alternative Hip-hop, Rave)
    Die Antwoord is a controversial and provocative South African group that blends hip-hop, rave, and performance art. “Enter the Ninja,” released in 2010, captures their edgy aesthetic and confrontational lyrics, making them a standout act in the South African music scene.
  • Jeremy Loops – “Down South” (Folk, Acoustic)
    Jeremy Loops is a South African singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist known for his folk-infused sound. “Down South,” released in 2014, features catchy melodies, heartfelt lyrics, and a laid-back acoustic vibe that showcases Loops’ diverse musical talents.
  • Black Coffee ft. Bucie – “Superman” (House, Electronic)
    Black Coffee is a renowned South African DJ and producer known for his soulful house music. His 2010 collaboration with singer Bucie, “Superman,” combines deep, groovy beats with Bucie’s sultry vocals, creating a captivating dance track.
  • Spoek Mathambo – “Control” (Electronica, Afro-futurism)
    Spoek Mathambo is a South African musician and producer who pushes the boundaries of electronic music with his Afro-futuristic sound. “Control,” released in 2011, is a haunting and experimental track that showcases Mathambo’s innovative approach to music.
  • BLK JKS – “Molalatladi” (Alternative Rock, Art Rock)
    BLK JKS is a South African alternative rock band known for their genre-defying sound that blends rock, jazz, and traditional African music. “Molalatladi,” released in 2009, features intricate guitar work and powerful vocals, making it a standout track on this mixtape.
  • Lucky Dube – “Different Colours/One People” (Reggae)
    Lucky Dube was a South African reggae musician and one of the country’s most successful artists. His 1993 song “Different Colours/One People” is a call for unity and understanding, reflecting the spirit of the post-apartheid era and showcasing Dube’s distinctive reggae sound.
  • Mango Groove – “Special Star” (Afro-pop, Marabi)
    Mango Groove is a South African band that fuses marabi, kwela, and pop music to create a lively and upbeat sound. Their 1989 hit “Special Star” features catchy horn arrangements and infectious rhythms that capture the essence of South African music.

“Sounds of South Africa” aims to provide a comprehensive introduction to the music of this incredible country. The tracks on this mixtape represent a broad spectrum of genres, each with its own unique flavor and cultural significance. South Africa’s music scene is a testament to its rich history, resilience, and diverse heritage, and we hope that this collection inspires you to delve deeper into the sounds and stories of South Africa.

As you listen, you may notice themes of unity, resistance, and hope woven throughout the mixtape. These themes reflect the struggles and triumphs of South Africa’s past and present, showcasing the power of music to connect people across borders and cultures. Whether you’re dancing to the upbeat grooves of kwaito, swaying to the soulful melodies of Afro-jazz, or losing yourself in the hypnotic rhythms of house music, “Sounds of South Africa” offers a musical journey you won’t soon forget.

We encourage you to explore the works of the artists featured on this mixtape, as well as other musicians from South Africa who continue to shape the country’s diverse and evolving musical landscape. Thank you for joining us on this journey, and enjoy the sounds of South Africa!

Thank you. That is excellent work. Could you suggest a prompt to feed to an image generating tool to create a cover image for this mix tape?
Certainly! To generate a cover image for the “Sounds of South Africa” mixtape using an image-generating tool, you can use the following prompt:

“Create an album cover for a mixtape titled ‘Sounds of South Africa.’ The cover should evoke the rich cultural diversity and vibrant musical heritage of South Africa. Incorporate elements such as traditional African patterns, musical instruments, and the South African landscape, blending them together in a visually striking and harmonious composition. The color palette should be warm and inviting, reflecting the energy and spirit of South African music.”

This prompt should provide enough detail and context for the image-generating tool to create an engaging and visually appealing cover image for the mixtape.

Thank you
You’re welcome! If you have any more questions or need further assistance, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m here to help. Enjoy your South African mixtape, and have a great time exploring the music!

April Who’s Fooling Who?

Our April Who’s Fooling Who mixtape focuses on South Africa songs which in some way or another reflect the theme of ‘fooling’. In some songs musicians set out to make fun of others, usually through satire or parody, while on occasions they humorously simply fool around, often in the form of novelty songs which they hope will amuse the audience in some way or another. There are cases where musicians simply make fools of themselves, most often without meaning to, by releasing a song which audiences think is simply cringe-inducing.

Stimela kick off this mixtape with “Who Is Fooling You”, a song which warns people that those who laugh at others as part of their attempt to control them, calling them fools, could in the end be the ones who are laughed at. On this mixtape some musicians have used their songs to poke fun at stupidity, using laughter as a weapon, for example Roger Lucey’s response to Jacob Zuma refusing the Dalai Lama a travel visa so that he could attend Desmond Tutu’s birthday celebrations. The Gereformeerde Blues Band change the words of a Christian hymn to poke fun at and criticize apartheid-era State President, PW Botha, while the Kalahari Surfers point out the foolishness of the extreme arguments made by Christians spouting ideas about backwards masking making people do things they don’t want to do, such as taking drugs. The Aeroplanes make fun of the majority of white South African males in the 1980s, who ended up expressing their individuality in the same foolhardy ways.

The Happy Ships have fun hooting about with “Car Hooter” while in “Country And Western” Matthew van der Want and Chris Letcher make fun of rival South African bands and of themselves. As for the rest, well … whether a song is regarded as a clever or fun novelty song or as a cringe-inducing or offensive failure, is in part a subjective process. Most of these songs fit in their in some way or another. They should all bring a smile (at least intellectually) or grimace to your face, but whatever you think of these songs, we will leave it up to you decide who’s fooling and who’s being fooled.

  1. Who Is Fooling You? – Stimela
  2. Car Hooter – Happy Ships
  3. Country And Western – Matthew van der Want & Chris Letcher
  4. Nik Nik Nah – Nik Nik Nah Band
  5. It’s Amazing – Pocket Lips
  6. I Like – John Ireland
  7. Play It Backwards – Kalahari Surfers
  8. Wat ’n Vriend Het Ons In PW – Gereformeerde Blues Band
  9. Stay In Grahamstown – Daniel Friedman
  10. My Broken Heart – Bernoldus Niemand
  11. South African Male – The Aeroplanes
  12. Dalai Lama – Roger Lucey
  13. Susannah Van Agulhas – Koos Kombuis
  14. Fatman And Bobin – The Bats
  15. No Way – BJ and the Koek Sisters
  16. Strip Tea – Glenda Kemp
  17. Da Da Da – Amanda Strydom
  18. Ek Soek Die Lekker Ding – Oom Hansie
  19. Bloemfontein Blues – David Kramer

The Bright Blue Mixtape

In February this year four members of the original line-up of Bright Blue performed a reunion concert in Scarborough on the Western Cape Peninsula. The sold out show was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience, mostly people who attended their concerts back in the 1980s and 1990s. For many Bright Blue fans, they were more than the group who had hit songs with “Window On The World” and “Weeping”.

When they formed in Cape Town in 1983, Robin Levetan (vocals), Tom Fox (guitar, vocals), Ian Cohen (bass, vocals), Dan Heymann (keyboards) and Peter Cohen (drums) captured the sound and expressed experiences – and sometimes struggles – shared by their mostly young South African fanbase. Most poignantly, through their lyrics they expressed their views about the conscription of white males into the South African Defence Force. Songs like “Window On The World”, “Who Is The Enemy” and the David Bruce tribute song, “The Rising Tide” expressed the sentiments of many of their white male fans. To add to this, Bright Blue often performed on End Conscription Campaign platforms. They occupied a special place in many fans’ hearts. Between the release of their first album, Bright Blue, in 1984, and their second album, The Rising Tide, in 1987, the band’s progress was indeed interrupted by the conscription of some members, and in addition, Levetan left. The four remaining members rose to prominence with the chart-topping success of the anthemic “Weeping”, but the band was soon reduced to three members when Heymann left to live in the USA.

The remaining three members released the 3-song e.p Open Your Eyes in 1996 and then in 2003 (with Dan Heymann) they released the song “Madiba” as a free-to-download single (recorded in 1990). In 2008 the original five members reunited to play at an End Conscription Campaign concert at Spier Estate in the Western Cape. The recent (second) reunion was a long time coming, and unfortunately did not include Dan Heymann, but it marks such an important moment in South African music history that we decided to celebrate the event with a mixtape dedicated to Bright Blue’s music, and the bands’ influences.

We have included several of their songs: “Window On The World” and “Living In Africa” from their first album, with Robin Levetan on vocals; “Weeping” off their second album (featuring Tom Fox on vocals); and further singles, “Wouldn’t Miss It For The World”, “Madiba”, and “World Turns” (again featuring Tom Fox on vocals). We have also included several songs which in some way feature Bright Blue members: “Hungry Child” was written by Robin Levetan to be sung by a combination of musicians at the Operation Hunger Concert In The Park in 1985 (at which Bright Blue were unable to perform); two songs by The Usual (who featured post Bright Blue Tom Fox on guitar): “Like A Vision” and “I Believe You”; two songs off Robin Levetan’s 2010 solo album A Far Country: “You and I” (featuring Dan Heymann on keyboards) and “Perfect Day” (featuring Ian Cohen on bass and Tom Fox on guitar); “Jerusalem” by the Usual’s vocalist James Stewart (written by Dan Heymann and featuring him on keyboards), and “Working Class” by Freshlyground (featuring Peter Cohen on drums).

Interspersed among these songs are ten tracks which Tom Fox listed as songs which reflected the spirit of Bright Blue, politically and musically. In 1999 Tom Fox was asked to compile a list of Bright Blue’s Top 10 anti-apartheid songs for the Cutting Grooves Censorship of Music Exhibition in Grahamstown. In response he submitted a list of tens songs about racism, apartheid and the spirit of South African music. These songs were “Skokokoro” by Condry Ziqubu, “Burn Out” by Sipho Hotstix Mabuse, “Hellfire” by the African Jazz Pioneers, “Bring Him Back Home” by Hugh Masekela, “Isiphiwo” by the Soul Brothers, “African Sky Blue” by Juluka, “Toasted Take Aways” by the Cherry Faced Lurchers, “Mannenberg” by Abdullah Ibrahim, “Kazet” by Mahlathini and the Mohatella Queens, and (the only non-South African track on this mixtape), “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley & The Wailers. Although it must be pointed out that Tom didn’t list particular songs by the African Jazz Pioneer, Mahlathini and the Mohatella Queens, and the Soul Brothers, but simply pointed to their music in general. Appropriately, Basil Coetzee, who performed saxophone on “Mannenberg”, agreed to play the sax on Bright Blue’s “Weeping”, a performance which adds to the anthemic feel of the song.

We hope you enjoy this mix, and we hope Bright Blue meet up for another reunion before too long!

  1. Window On The World – Bright Blue Featuring Robin Levetan
  2. Skokokoro – Condry Ziqubu
  3. Burn Out – Sipho Hotstix Mabuse
  4. Hellfire – African Jazz Pioneers
  5. Living In Africa – Bright Blue Featuring Robin Levetan
  6. Bring Him Back Home – Hugh Masekela
  7. Isiphiwo – Soul Brothers
  8. African Sky Blue – Juluka
  9. Where Would I Go – Bright Blue
  10. Toasted Take Aways – Cherry Faced Lurchers
  11. Hungry Child – Concert In The Park Artists (Written By Rob Levetan)
  12. Weeping – Bright Blue
  13. Mannenberg – Abdullah Ibrahim
  14. Kazet – Mahlathini And The Mohatella Queen
  15. Wouldn’t Miss It For The World – Bright Blue 3rd Line-Up
  16. Like A Vision – The Usual
  17. I Believe You – The Usual
  18. Madiba – Bright Blue
  19. You And I – Robin Levetan (Featuring Dan Heymann)
  20. Jerusalem – James Stewart (Written By Dan Heymann, Also On Keyboard)
  21. Perfect Day – Robin Levetan (Featuring Ian Cohen And Tom Fox)
  22. Working Class (Or Fire Is Low) – Freshlyground
  23. World Turns – Bright Blue 3rd Line-Up
  24. Redemption Song – Bob Marley & The Wailers