November '16

Heita-da! This is AFROSYNTH, the realest African selection...

This month we bring you classic pantsula grooves from CHAKA, AYOBAYO BAND, HARD WORKERS, FAST MOVE, THE SCOTCH BAND and VENDA KIDS. Also look forward to albums by OZIAS, SPOKES H, VOLCANO and more.

To purchase still-sealed copies of these and other albums, email djokapi[at]gmail.com!

THE HARD WORKERS - Ayoba-Yo (1988)

Music Team/CTV/Mbali/Red Label, RLLP(J)038
Producer: Tom Mkhize
Engineers: David Moloele & Tom Mkhize
Recorded at: Orange 338


Pantsula classic produced by Tom Mkhize, with Linn drums by David Moloele and keys by Joey. Heavy electronic grooves with sporadic vocal samples signal the birth of modern dance music in SA. Other albums by the Hard Workers include Kae Kapa Kae (also from 1988) and U-Turn (1990).




PAMELA NKUTHA - Xaniseka (Kokwana) (1993)

Music Team, CT103
Producers: Themba Mawelela & Fred Woods


Pamela Nkutha emerged near the end of the 80s as a rival to Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Mercy Pakela, Nomuntu and others. Following the success of her earlier albums Umntanami (Kidnapped) in 1988 and Manano (1990), Nkutha moved to the Music Team stable for 1993's Xaniseka (Kokwana). Synth specialist Mawelela aka Little Big Man arranges, co-composes (with Pamela) and co-produces (with On Record's Fred Woods). The album was followed by Sweet Mama. More recently Nkutha released Ingudu (2011) featuring the single 'Strong' , This is Africa featuring 'Muranziwa' (2014) and Balatedi Baka (My Fans) in 2015.


* Mint copies of this album are for sale here.

VENDA KIDS - Ditshiwana (1992)

Music Team/Leopard, WHR(C)104
Producers: John Galanakis & RF Gumbi
Engineers: John Galanakis & RF Gumbi


The Venda Kids were a big-selling boy band synonymous for most of their career with the Hit City stable under the stewardship of producer John Galanakis. The band consisted of the Singo brothers Ntango, Mahana and Ndivha, along with various friends. They released popular albums like Wake-Up (1985) and The Lord is My Shepherd (1986). For 1989’s Rambo they trimmed their name to simply The V Kids, but reverted to the full name for 1992’s Ditshiwana. By this time the kids were growing up, and thankfully this album no longer has their characteristic unbroken voices, making it arguably their finest effort.



* Mint copies of this album are for sale here.

SPOKES 'H' - Tamati 'So' (1987)

Black Talent, BTMR(0)009
Producer: Spokes I. Hlatshwayo
Engineer: Gerhard J. van Niekerk
Recorded at: Black Talent Music Studio


Early pantsula classic by Spokes H, credited as one of the originators of kwaito in South Africa. Besides the massive title track, the four-track album consists of ‘Stjwetla’, ‘Push Isitimela’ and ‘Ibhabhalazi’, another homage to the hangover.



“When I saw the name of Ishmael Hlatswayo for the first time it was on Pat Shange’s album Man Oh Man on Dephon’s Roy B label. He had written the title track and I liked him as a songwriter. One day in 1987 in the SABC record library amongst the received new releases I saw an album titled Tamati So by someone called Spokes H... This is the album that taught me a big lesson as a deejay - never to judge a book by the cover. I listened to this unknown newcomer once and put the album aside. As usual, I went to Dakota Record Bar in town for my routine consumer trend observations. Customer after customer was asking for Spokes H. One of the customers asked the seller to play the track for her and I was shocked when everybody in the store started dancing. I realised that the record in demand was the one I had pushed aside in the listening booth. The following week I put it in my charts and the fire just spread wider and wider - a star was born!” (Mojapelo, 2008:43).

Later albums include Magosha (1989), Under Control (1990), Finger Prints (1991), Wipe Her Tears Off (1992), On My Way Home (1994), Dirty Jozi (1996) and Rafifi (1997). He also produced other artists, such as Sea Bee’s kwaito hit 'I Wanda Why' (1994). He continued to release albums until his untimely death at 2013 at the age of 45.

FAST MOVE - Uzolala La (1989)

Music Team/Roi/Red Label, RLLP055
Producers: Danny Bridgens & ZE Magwaza (exec: Enoch Ndlela)
Engineers: Darryl Heilbrunn & Ralph Martin
Composer: ZE Magwaza
Recorded at: RPM Studio


Another winner from producer Eddie Magwaza, who was also behind V.O. and Ayobayo Band before his life was cut short in a shooting. Catching the tail-end of the bubblegum-era, tracks like ‘Jika Magogo’ and ‘Watch Out’ are inspired by the burgeoning pantsula trend that soon gave rise to pre-kwaito instrumental grooves, although vocals still feature prominently here on tracks like ‘No Smoking in the Taxi’ ("There was this gentleman who kept on bugging everyone, he really don't know the rules of the taxi, from the way he took out his cigarette...")


VOLCANO - Tshigubu Tshanga (1993)

Eric Frisch/ZMC, EFL1087
Producers: Doctor X & R. Makhubele
Engineers: L. Mokoena & M. Makume
Mixed by: L. Mokoena & M. Makume
Recorded at: Suite 3 Studios


One of the biggest bubblegum bands of the 80s, Volcano parted ways with Gallo in late 1990, joining Eric Frisch's label and recruiting new members to back frontman Richard ‘Poso’ Mhubele, ensuring that they continued putting out great music into the 90s. Most of this album, their sixth, relies on tried-and-trusted Shangaan-influenced synths similar to their arch-rivals Splash, but on ‘Vanonyana Lava’ and ‘Another 24 Hours’ the new-school kwaito groove is obvious. For vinyl lovers however by 1993 South Africa's pressing plants had shut down, with only limited stock manufactured in neighbouring Zimbabwe for the next few years. Followed by The Bold and the Beautiful (1994), Khegu (1997) and Mama Ka Sbongile (1999).


THE SCOTCH BAND - Mkongwana (1989)

RPM/Music Team/Red Fish/Red Label, RLLP(C)048
Composers: N. Selepe & P. Wright 


Another obscure classic finally gaining some international recognition 27 years after the fact. Packed full of hot synths and slick vocal interplay between a male groaner and female backing singers, the title track also gets a dub mix to show off the long-forgotten skills of unknown producers N. Selepe and P. Wright. Other highlights include 'Niya Kaya' and 'Cansane'.



* Mint copies of this album are for sale here.

AYOBAYO BAND - Phuza Face (1990)

Music Team/Roi/Red Label, RLLP070
Producer: Zenzele 'Sister Monica' Magwaza
Engineer: Danny Bridgens
Recorded at: Syntrax Studio


Composed by ZE Mtungwa and produced by Eddie Magwaza, here using the name Zenzele ‘Sister Monica’ (also the name of one of the tracks on this album), who was also behind V.O. and Fast Move but died in the early 90s. The band typified the new pantsula sound that prefigured kwaito, alongside The Hard Workers and others. Over 100% electronic grooves vocals relied of chanting and rapping rather than singing, hence the word ‘rap’ being prominent on the cover, despite this not being a hip-hop album. The term ‘Phuza Face’ refers to the effects of heavy drinking, as was also used by Banjo and others.

CHAKA - 5 Cases (1989)

Music Team/Roi/Red Label, RLLP050
Producer: Tsietsi Mafabatho (exec: Mannie Tulsie)
Engineer: David Moloele
Recorded at: Orange 338


Fantastic bubblegum grooves - not particularly original but better than most of the rest thanks in part to the Music Team’s production quality. Intelligent lyrics in English and isiZulu focus on topical issues that remain relevant today - for example the title track taking aim at alcoholism: “Somebody please help me, I’ve got a problem / My friend is too much into drinking / He drinks day and night / He used to play the keyboards… in Tembisa / Now every time I just need him so bad / I know I’m gonna find him right at the bar / Walking like a sheep,  moving like a ghost… / He’s calling for beer, 'Five cases', 'Six cases'.. / Well I don’t know what to do, and I don’t know what to say / 'Cos every time I tell him to stop it, He tells me to mind my own business / He used to be a good guy, I really liked him."

Another track, ‘Way To Hell’, is a firm criticism of gang life: “For as long as I live, and as long as I’m your brother / I’ll always keep on warning you, and always keep on telling you, but you won’t learn… Mum always told us to be a good boy / She never said anything about gang membership / Oh can’t you see, your life is influenced / Brother I’m warning you: you’re on the way to hell.”

Other titles  focus on geographical references - Koloni (Eastern Cape), Tembisa (east of Joburg) and Umtata (KwaZulu-Natal). Featuring largely unknown musicians Keiser Dipu on vocals, Charles Vilakazi on synths, Vusumuzi Mndawe (synths and percussion), Justice Mkhwanazi (bass) and David Thabeni (drums). Produced by Tsietsi Mafabatho, better known for his work with The Holy Spirits, while executive producer Mannie Tulsie also worked with the similarly styled Breeze in the same year.


* Mint copies of this album are for sale here.

GIFT BROTHERS - Mune Wanga (1990)

Tusk, QBH1128
Producer: Ananias Maphwanya
Engineers: Darryl Heilbrunn & Peter Pearlson
Recorded at: RPM


Produced by Ananias Maphwanya, Mune Wanga (my father) is great album of guitar-driven grooves from the often overlooked Venda region of South Africa bordering Zimbabwe, which from 1979 to 94 was a 'bantustan' puppet state. 


Mint copies of this album are for sale here.

V.O. - Mashisa (1990)

Music Team/Roi/Superbeat, ETL(J)5023
Producer: Eddie Magwaza
Engineers: Jan Smit & Lucky Matante


This relatively obscure album from 1990 has over the past year circulated internationally on the strength of the dub version of the title track, which has become a go-to for DJs and put the record at the top of the list of many new collectors of South African music, with demand high enough to ensure a re-issue later this year. The album itself showcases some of the coolest electronic sounds of the day, but is no better than countless other albums from the era still languishing in obscurity. Produced and arranged by the late Eddie Magwaza, with co-engineers Jan Smit handling drum programming and mixing while Lucky Matante oversaw sequencing and vocal recording. Other tracks include 'She's My Lady' and 'Mr Mechanic'.





ANGIE - Fela Ke Yaya (1989)

Leopard/Hit City, LEO(O)119
Producer: RF Gumbi
Engineer: RF Gumbi
Recorded at: Platinum


Angelinah Gumbi aka Ntombi Yomsuthu is the wife of multi-talented Richard Felani Gumbi (Volcano, Sgu, Spirro etc), who produced, arranged, performed and engineered this album and shares songwriting credits on all tracks with Angie, who coyly writes in the liner notes: "To the man in my life, you know who you are and how special you are! This is what we have been promised by you know who."

The album met the wrath of one critic at The Namibian newspaper, however, who on 16 February 1990 claimed that the album "appears to have been produced on a shoestring budget - she was only afforded one musician to play all instruments on the record and the result is bland overdubbing made even less interesting by the singer's flat and lifeless voice which a mediocre backing chore cannot rescue." Not one to let the negative criticism get to her, the duo teamed up again in 1991 for Skatana-Skatana and in 1994 for Xola Nhliziyo.


Mint copies of this album are for sale here