In the last mixtape we commemorated Women’s Day by selecting a variety of songs which focused on women and issues affecting women in South Africa. While working on that selection we thought it would be fitting to compile a further mixtape which features some of the women’s voices which have formed part of the South African soundscape since the 1950s. Our initial aim was to select songs by twenty women singers but we soon realised that our task would be easier if we extended our latitude and made way for two mixtapes, rather than one. So this mixtape features the first 20 South African women singers in this two-tape series.
Songs chosen do not follow any particular theme, rather we chose singers and then selected songs by those singers which we think showcase their voices. We include some early veterans of the South African popular music scene (Miriam Makeba, Nancy Jacobs, and Letta Mbulu) and some who appeared on the music scene in the 1970s and 1980s (Margaret Singana, Sathima Bea Benjamin, Edi Niederlander, Laurika Rauch, Rene Veldsman – of Via Afrika, Lesley Rae Dowling, Brenda Fassie, Tara Robb – of The Spectres, Jennifer Ferguson, Heather Mac – of Ella Mental and Busi Mhlongo).
We also feature several more recent singers, who released their first recordings in the 21st Century: Simphiwe Dana, Karen Zoid, Zolani Mahola – of Freshlyground, Shannon Hope, Tailor (Anna Wolf) and Julia Church.
Enjoy your weekend listening and take time to find out more about those singers on this mixtape who you have not previously heard or heard of. There are some interesting stories to be discovered …
- Babhemu – Busi Mhlongo
- Isiphiwo Sam – Margaret Singana
- Mahlalela – Letta Mbulu
- Ndiredi – Simphiwe Dana
- Windsong – Sathima Bea Benjamin
- Meadowlands – Nancy Jacobs & Her Sisters
- Pata Pata– Miriam Makeba
- Weekend Special – Brenda & the Big Dudes
- Hey Boy – Via Afrika
- (See Yourself) Clowns – Ella Mental
- Teddy Bear – The Spectres
- Aeroplane Jane – Karen Zoid
- I’d like – Freshlyground
- Shiloh – Julia Church
- Ancient Dust – Edi Niederlander
- Suburban Hum – Jennifer Ferguson
- The Spaniard – Lesley Rae Dowling
- Kinders Van Die Wind – Laurika Rauch
- Daylight – Shannon Hope
- Where The Boys Are – Tailor
The eighties ended with a wide variety of South African music making the Capital Radio Top 40 Countdown (14 songs released in 1989 made the charts) and even more which did not chart. Of the songs we suggest should have charted, three are by artists who did make the charts but who had other songs worthy of radio play: David Kramer, Edi Niederlander and Savuka.
In a market where so many South African musicians packed in their musical ambitions after a single or an album or two it was reassuring to see so many musicians who were still releasing music who had been there at the beginning of the 1980s: Johnny Clegg (as part of Juluka), Dog Detachment (as Dog), Sipho Gumede (as a member of Spirits Rejoice and then with Sakhile), David Kramer, Sipho Mabuse (as a member of Harari), Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Sipho Mchunu (as part of Juluka) and Tim Parr (as a member of Baxtop and then with Ella Mental) all released significant music which either charted on Capital Radio in 1980 or which curiously missed out. There were also others who were performing in 1980 who released music in 1989: members of the African Jazz Pioneers, Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens and Edi Niederlander.
Shifty Records were still releasing poignant music for the times: Johannes Kerkorrel’s Gereformeerde Blues Band and Koos Kombuis, main attractions of the Voelvry Tour, as well as the Kalahari Surfers, Noise Khanyile & the Jo’Burg City Stars and Winston’s Jive Mix Up. There were also good tunes from Cape Town-based musicians, Amampondo and Niki Daly.
We recognise that even in our missed mixed tapes we have ironically missed other songs from the 1980s which you might think were worthy of airplay at the time. Some of these have already been pointed out to us. If you have noticed any songs which have been missed, either by Capital Radio or on Mixedtapes.ZA please leave your suggestions in the comments section and we will do out best to include them in next week’s double missed mixtape!
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In 1985 seventeen South African songs featured on the Capital countdown: the most of any year in the 1980s. Although most of the songs could be described as some or other variation of pop or rock there was some variety: the township pop of Sipho Mabuse and Steve Kekana; the smooth pop of Jonathan Butler, the Afro-rock of Tribe After Tribe, the slightly rock-edged pop of Robin Auld, the more mainstream pop of Lesley Rae Dowling, Syndicate, Ella Mental, Stewart Irving and The Helicopters and a turn towards a more international sound from both Juluka and the solo Johnny Clegg.
The top artist on the Capital Countdown in 1985 was Sipho Mabuse with two songs reaching the top 10: ‘Let’s Get it On’ peaked and number 5 and ‘Burn Out’ reached number 6 where it spent three weeks. ‘Fever’ – Juluka reached number 8 where it spent two weeks, as did Lesley Rae Dowling with ‘Give a little’. Also peaking at number 8, but for just one week, was Jonathan Butler with ‘I’ll Be Waiting for You’ while ‘See Yourself (Clowns)’ – Ella Mental reached number 9. Robin Auld peaked at number 10 with ‘After the Fire” and number 15 with ‘All of Woman’. Steve Kekana peaked at number 11 with ‘Paradise’ (Tip Of Africa)’ while ‘Only for you’ – The Helicopters spent two weeks at number 14 and ‘Don’t Go Into Town’ – Syndicate also reached number 14, but just for one week. John Irving’s ‘Superstar’ peaked at number 15. None of the other South African songs made the Top 20.
We would like to thank Marq Vas for his help in tracking down a copy of Lesley Rae Dowling’s ‘Give a Little’. This is not the first time Marq has come to our assistance. We recommend his YouTube channel of South African music – some very rare songs that you are unlikely to find anywhere else. He also has a Facebook page which is a wealth of information.
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As with 1983 there were less than 10 South African songs on the Capital Countdown charts of 1984. No artist charted more than once and there was a far more commercial imitative character to the songs that charted than in 1983, with Juluka’s “Work For All” and Bright Blue’s “Window on the World” being the only songs that didn’t sound like the performers were copying USA or UK sounds. Indeed, Benjy Mudie at WEA is proud of the part he played in signing innovative South African bands like National Wake, the Asylum Kids and eVoid but he admits that the Working Girls were “the one time in my life to my absolute and internal disgrace I actually signed a band to make money.”
Juluka and Bright Blue on the contrary involved musicians exploring musical ideas, infusing South African and western musical influences. As Tom Fox of Bright Blue described, he listened to performers like the Soul Brothers and he “wanted to find out about the style, but not in a commercial sense. More like, really interested in the guitar interplay and the vocal harmonies, the chord structures and the rhythms and things like that.”
Many of these musicians were regarded as part of the cream of the crop of South African music at the time. In January 1985 the Concert in the Park (Ellis Park) was arranged to raise money for Operation Hunger to help children affected by hunger in South Africa. To attract a large audience the top acts of the time were invited to participate. Of those who charted on Capital in 1984, Pierre de Charmoy, Ella Mental, Face To Face, Feather Control, Juluka and the Working Girls all performed at Ellis Park. Bright Blue were invited but could not make it and instead wrote the song “Hungry child” and donated it to the cause. On the day it was performed by an ensemble of the performers at the concert and it was released as a single.
It was a generally poor year for South Africa musicians on the Capital Countdown in 1984. Of the most successful South African songs charting on Capital in 1984, Face To Face reached number 1 with “Here We Are”, Juluka spent two weeks at number 7 with “Work For All”, “Working Girls” by the Working Girls and “Mysteries and Jealousies” by The Helicopters both peaked at number 10 and “Window on the World” by Bright Blue reached a disappointing number 11. “Footprints” by Feather Control reached number 17 and the rest failed to make the top 20 at all.
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Darren Scott is the first guest DJ on Mixedtapes ZA, offering us his choice of South African music; in this case his Top 20 South African songs of the 1980s, including songs from 1979 which were around at the beginning of 1980.
This is the first of our occasional series of Guest DJ mixed tapes compiled by former Capital Radio DJ s.
These are ranked from No 20 through to number 1 on the mixed tape. Enjoy!
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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