You Play It Slow, They Won’t Dance

Various Artists

Shangaan Electro: New Wave Dance Music from South Africa (Honest Jon’s Records HJR 052CD, 2010)

There are many interesting things happening musically in South Africa. Shangaan electro is an exciting genre produced out of Johannesburg’s suburbs. The album Shangaan Electro presents some of the best cuts recorded between 2006 and 2009 at Nozinja studio in Soweto. Shangaan electro combines high speed electronic beats with traditional Shangaan music.

According to the producers of the compilation, Nozinja (also known as Dog) sells more than 50,000 records a year (DVD, cassettes, CDs), without digital distribution. All the music is marketed through Shangaan radio and newspapers to a relatively small ethnic group known as the Shangaan, who live primarily in Limpopo (South Africa) and Mozambique.

The album includes Zinja (Dog’s performance name); BBC; the famed mask-wearing dancing group, Tshetsha Boys, who are featured on the album cover; and Tiyiselani Vomaseve, two sisters who perform together as one of the most popular Shangaan traditional groups in South Africa.

The dances are wild, with films of them attracting more than half a million hits on YouTube. “You must be prepared to see the fastest dance ever,” Dog declares. The tradition grew out of the Shangaan disco movement, a music that was popular in the 1980s with artists like Penny Penny and Peter Teanet. Shangaan disco ran at 110 Beats per minute (BPM). Dog’s music is around 180 BPM and it’s getting faster. “We don’t use the sounds of the hip-hop guys, or the afro-pop, or whatever, we’re using Shangaan sounds,” says Nozinja. “The traditional Shangaan music is fast. You play it slow, they won’t dance.”

Shangaan Electro is a ferociously fast collection of artists that take you on a wild ride to the cutting edge of Shangaan music.

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