Tag Archives: South African music

Artist Profiles: Blackie Zandisile Mbizela

Blackie Zandisile Mbizela – Bass marimba, percussion, vocals, dance.

Blackie Zandisile Mbizela was born on 27 December 1961, in Langa. ‘Zandisile’ has no direct English translation, but is derived from the fact that he comes from a small family line. Blackie joined St Anthony’s church choir after leaving school, where he learned to play marimbas and met up with the other members of Amampondo.

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Artist Profiles: Nondzondelelo Fancy Galada

Born in 1970 in Langa, Nondzondelelo Fancy Galada started singing a repertoire of mainly African choral music at the age of eleven with the Thembani Lower Primary School choir. In 1987 she joined Heshoo Beshoo, a traditional marimba, song and dance group, and soon became the group’s lead singer.

Following successful tours of Canada in 1991 and 1993, she went freelance in 1994, continuing to work with Heshoo Beshoo, but also with the Township pop outfit, Chisa, (not to be confused with Achisa) and Amampondo.

In 1996, as one half of the female Township pop duo, La Fancy, she released a debut album on Polygram (SA), called Jazino.

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Artist Profiles: Lulu Lungiswa Plaatjies

Lulu Lungiswa Plaatjies

Dizu Plattajies’ niece, Lulu Lungiswa Plaatjies was born in 1973 and has performed with Amampondo since the age of nine. She appeared on the first Amampondo album, Uyandibiza, in 1983, while also involved with the school and church choirs and moved on to study music in Johannesburg for two years, then in Cape Town, where she formed a singing group with two other ladies to perform her own songs.

Lungiswa first met Robert Trunz at the legendary Outernational concert at the Baxter Theatre in 1994 and, through him met Tony Thorpe, who produced her debut solo album for M.EL.T.2000, Ekhaya. She also contributed to many MELT projects including ‘Madamax’, ‘Madosini’, ‘Skeleton’ and ‘Tribal Ethno Dance’.

Discography:

Uyandibiza (Claremont Records, 1983)
Searching for the missing link ‎(Teal Trutone Music, 1986)
State Of Emergency ‎(Assembly Records, 1988)
Feel The Pulse Of Africa (Claremont Records, 1989)
State Of Emergency ‎(ProJazz, 1990)
An Image Of Africa (EWM Records, 1992)
Drums For Tomorrow (M.E.L.T. 2000, 1997)
Inyama ‎(Mountain Records, 1997)
Vuyani ‎(M.E.L.T. 2000, 2000)
Raw And Undiluted ‎(M.E.L.T. 2000, 2005)
IntSholo ‎(Mountain Records, 2008)

Uyandibiza (Claremont Records, 1983)
Searching for the missing link ‎(Teal Trutone Music, 1986)
State Of Emergency ‎(Assembly Records, 1988)
Feel The Pulse Of Africa (Claremont Records, 1989)
State Of Emergency ‎(ProJazz, 1990)
An Image Of Africa (EWM Records, 1992)
Drums For Tomorrow (M.E.L.T. 2000, 1997)
Inyama ‎(Mountain Records, 1997)
Vuyani ‎(M.E.L.T. 2000, 2000)
Raw And Undiluted ‎(M.E.L.T. 2000, 2005)
IntSholo ‎(Mountain Records, 2008)

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Artist Profiles: Amampondo

Amampondo

Amampondo was formed in 1979 by Dizu ‘Zungulu’ Plaatjies, and was originally made up of seven young men from the same neighborhood in Langa Township, Outside Cape Town.

Dizu was raised in an environment of traditional dancers and singers, and both his father and grandfather were healers, which meant that he begun to realize the importance of his culture at a very young age.

Amampondo, which means ‘the people of Mpondo’, the fabled land of the Xhosa Kingdom in the Eastern Cape was founded with a strong desire to preserve and protect South African traditional music. Their goal has always been to carry traditional sounds into the future rather than see it washed away by the wave of westernization and the growing influence of American music amongst the African youth. Twenty years later Plaatjies, Mtzwandile Qotoyi, Mandla Lande, Simpiwe Matole, Xola Mbizela, Michael Ludonga together with the newer members are still bound by their dedication to African culture.

The journey of this eleven-man percussion ensemble has been a long one. Starting out on the streets of Cape Town, they busked to raise cash for more instruments and by 1981 were playing at the Scratch Club. During the same time they were also working with ethnomusicologists to study the traditions found in Nigeria, The Ivory Coast, Uganda, Zimbabwe and the Transkei. Working with the rhythms, dances and songs of the Xhosa, Zulu, Shangaan and Sotho people, the group created a pan African sound that soon won them critical acclaim.

In 1983 they traveled to Johannesburg where they played at the Market Theatre. Here they were reviewed to see if they were suitable for export as ambassadors of South African music. Planning on spending two weeks there they stayed six years, given work and subsequently sent to perform in Israel, Reunion and Taiwan. These travels however led to some amount of trouble for the band later on.

In 1988 Amampondo were asked to play at Nelson Mandela’s seventieth birthday concert at Wembley. This spectacular performance established their international reputation as one of the world’s best percussion groups, and seen by millions on television worldwide was a huge success for the band. All their fees were donated to the ANC demonstrating their political activism during this period, but unfortunately on their return the ANC’s cultural desk had banned them from performing either outside or inside South Africa. They claimed it was a result of them playing in Israel and Taiwan, but having just played at Mandela’s concert the boycott was somewhat surprising.

Unable to perform for four years, the band stayed in Langa and concentrated upon educational programs in an effort to teach South African culture in schools. These workshops and the satisfaction gained from giving something back to society helped keep the band together.

Eventually help arrived with the assistance of Archbishop Desmond Tutu with whom they had previously recorded an album ‘Give Praise Where Praise Is Deserved’ after he won the Nobel peace Prize. He wrote to the ANC complaining about the boycott, and it was shortly reversed unleashing Amampondo once more onto the international stage. Carrying their clearance letter they set off for Germany and France in 92 with five months grace before the boycott was reinforced! However by this time Mandela was about to walk free giving them his blessing. When he was released he started recommending them for work having seen one of their videos whilst in prison. He promoted them as ambassadors of South African music and to this day they remain his favorite band. It was he who nominated them to represent their country at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games held in Atlanta in 96.

In 1994 they met with Robert Trunz, owner of MELT2000, who became instantly enamored with their music. Due to other contractual arrangements he was unable to sign them until 96, but their debut album for MELT, ‘Drums for Tomorrow’ was certainly worth the wait. Produced by Cameroonian virtuoso Brice Wassy this album incorporates the familiar marimbas, drums, chants and a cappella singing as well as adding other African instruments alongside saxophones and trumpets. It also features guests from around the world such as Airto Moreira from Brazil and Changuito from Cuba, Emmanuelle Sejourne from France and Chris Stiefel from Switzerland on keyboard. Introducing global influences, the spirit of the album remains true to Africa.

Another important step in their career has been their collaboration with Gabriel ‘Mabi’ Thobejane, who since leaving Sakhile, has found a new spiritual home with Amampondo. From October through to the middle of November 1998, the fifteen Amampondo members braved the Scandinavian winter and toured extensively throughout Sweden, Norway and Finland, performing and running educational workshops at festivals, clubs and schools. Hosted by the School of Music at the University of Gothenburg, their goal was as much to heighten the interest in traditional African music, as it was to demonstrate the importance of such music and instruments as tools in the education of music students and teachers, thus redressing the previous reliance on Eurocentric music teaching methods in South African schools and worldwide.

While preserving the spirit of tradition, they also want to carry this forward and make it more accessible to the masses. This is demonstrated in their collaboration with techno outfit, Juno Reactor whom they met in 97. Dizu Plaatjies, Simpiwe Matole, Mandla Lande, Michael Ludonga, and Mabi Thobejane toured with Juno Reactor supporting Moby on a five-week tour of the US bringing the music of their homeland into the realms of contemporary dance music. Clad in body paint and full costume Amampondo wowed the crowds with their acrobatics whilst beating out their percussive rhythms alongside Ben Watkins’ techno and guitar riffs. They have since collaborated on Shango, Juno’s new album and will be touring the album internationally.

In October 2000 six members of the band performed with the great British jazz saxophonist, Alan Skidmore, around Great Britain and in Berlin, continuing their creative collaboration that begun in 1999 when they guested on Skidmore’s album ‘The Call’, released on Provocateur Records.

In addition to this Dizu and Mzwalinde Qotoyi also work together as DZM Projects, which is dedicated to recording and advancing the cause of traditional South African music. They featured on the bootleg.net release, Ethno Trance Live (BNET002) and worked on an album from Madosini. Educating people about the importance of preserving their heritage, Dizu also teaches African instruments and dance at the University of Cape Town’s College of Music.

“We believe that music is a unifying force and our task is to unite people and encourage them to appreciate Africa” explained Dizu, “We started Amampondo because of the lack of African music in our country. The kids are now influenced musically by America and we need to change that.”

Having traveled the world transporting their music to over thirty countries on every continent, their dynamic display traverses cultural and historical boundaries and has made them the popular percussion ensemble that they are today. The closing of the millennium marked a milestone in the life of Amampondo, celebrated in the release of ‘Vuyani’ in October 2000. Completed at the end of 1999, ‘Vuyani’ is a celebration of twenty years of music making in the life of this exceptional group. The album included some of the band’s favorite past tracks revamped and performed in different ways with some superb new tunes as well, and is guaranteed to carry you through Africa to the heart of the motherland, lifting spirits and awakening the dancer within everyone. ‘Vuyani’ not only celebrated the coming of age of the group, but also the immense talents of Simpiwe Matole, as a multi- instrumentalist and fine producer of the new album.

Amampondo Musicians:

Dizu Zungulu Plaatjies – Leader, lead vocals, percussion, dance.
Mzwandile Qotoyi – Bass &piccolo marimba, African drums, percussion, vocals, and dance.
Simpiwe Matole – Soprano marimba, vocals, dance/acrobatics.
Michael ‘Nkululeku’ Ludonga – African drums, tenor marimba, vocals, dance.
Mandla Lande – African drums, percussion (jembe/congas), vocals, dance/acrobatics.
Blackie Zandisile Mbizela – Bass marimba, percussion, vocals, dance.
Lulu Lungiswa Plaatjies – Lead and backing vocals, percussion, dance.
Nondzondelelo Fancy Galada – Lead and backing vocals, percussion, dance.
Nonhtle Sylvester – Backing vocals, dance, percussion.
Mantombi Matotiyane – Lead and backing vocals, umrhumbhe, isitolotolo and dance.
Madosini Manqineni – Lead and backing vocals, umrhumbhe, isitolotolo, uhadi and dance.

Amampondo joined former South African President Nelson Mandela & some of the world’s top super stars at the 46664 Concert held on 29 November 2003. The event, one of the biggest ever in media history, aimed to push the awareness of the world to the human catastrophe that is HIV/Aids.

Discography:

Uyandibiza (Claremont Records, 1983)
Searching for the missing link ‎(Teal Trutone Music, 1986)
State Of Emergency ‎(Assembly Records, 1988)
Feel The Pulse Of Africa (Claremont Records, 1989)
State Of Emergency ‎(ProJazz, 1990)
An Image Of Africa (EWM Records, 1992)
Drums For Tomorrow (M.E.L.T. 2000, 1997)
Inyama ‎(Mountain Records, 1997)
Vuyani ‎(M.E.L.T. 2000, 2000)
Raw And Undiluted ‎(M.E.L.T. 2000, 2005)
IntSholo ‎(Mountain Records, 2008)

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Artist Profiles: Bakithi Kumalo

Bakithi Kumalo

South African composer, vocalist, and bassist Bakithi Kumalo (Bah-gee-tee Koomah-low) first came to the attention of the American public following the release of Paul Simon’s influential Graceland album.

He was born in the Alexandria Township of Johannesberg. Abandoned by his father as a toddler, he was raised by his mother, who was a singer, and his family in nearby Soweto. He was exposed to local musical styles such as mbaqanga (a groove peculiar to the townships), mbube (a cappella vocal music), and jive (electric, urban pop) while he was very young.

At an early age, he decided to become a musician and at seven, was already performing in his uncle’s band. Due to his persistence, he quickly became a regular on the wedding and party circuit around the township. At ten, he went on a tour into Zululand where he remained for a year and a half. During that time, he practiced the bass tirelessly. It was at this time that he developed his unique approach to bass playing.

With a reputation as a prodigy now established, Bakithi started to get recording session work, but the record companies were exploitative (he was paid as little as $2.50 per side) and money remained scarce. He did any work he could do to get by, including selling newspapers. As an only child, he felt a profound sense of responsibility towards his mother, but never doubted that he would someday become a famous musician and would be able to take good care of her.

In addition to economic hardships, Bakithi was also dealing with an oppressive political system, Under Apartheid, the police could commit any atrocities they pleased against people of color and never be held accountable. When Bakithi had a recording session in the city proper, he had to carry papers that authorized his presence in town. Without them, he would have risked needy certain arrest and detainment.

Bakithi’s fame grew, but his musical career was still a terrible struggle and he was seriously considering taking a job as a car mechanic at the time Paul Simon came calling in 1985. Simon was in South Africa to assemble a band for his “Graceland” album. A well-known Johannesberg producer suggested Bakithi for his unique ability. Simon was entranced by his sound and, after some preliminary sessions in South Africa, he flew Bakithi to New York City to complete the tracks.

Bakithi Kumalo

Bakithi was both thrilled and terrified to be in New York City. He had always longed to go to New York, but he barely spoke English and was understandably overwhelmed by this sudden dramatic change in fortune. However, his misgivings did not affect his playing and his indelible contributions to the Grammy-winning “Graceland” album gave him major visibility in the American music industry. He found himself in much demand for recordings and tours with many great artists such as Chaka Khan, Harry Belafonte, Cyndi Lauper, Laurie Anderson, Jon Secada, and Gloria Estefan.

Bakithi put down roots in Long Island, New York with his wife, American singer Robbi Hall Kumalo, and two children. They went to the new South Africa during 1997, and again in 1998 where Bakithi and Robbi performed at the Capetown Jazz Festival with Regina Carter, Carl Anderson and Donald Harrison. Having been in South Africa as a free man, Bakithi is relieved that his people will never suffer the oppression of apartheid again.

Discography

Graceland (1986)
Paradise in Gazankulu (1988)
A Night To Remember (1989)
Step on the Bass Line (1996)
Sanibonani (1998)
Supralingua, with Mickey Hart and Planet Drum (1998)
In Front of My Eyes (2000)
This Is Me (2005)
Transmigration (2006)
Change (2009)
Stranger to Stranger (2016)

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Artist Profiles: Brenda Fassie

Brenda Fassie

Over a career of 21 remarkable years, Brenda Fassie – or Ma Brrr as she was affectionately known by her fans – delivered everything that was ever required of her, and so much more: there were the recordings (from the early releases like Too Late For Mama to her 2003 album, Mali), the hit songs (Weekend Special is just one of many), the energetic and always surprising performances, the songs (Brenda was a special songwriting talent), the rock and roll lifestyle, the mother’s love (she left a son, Bongani), the heartfelt connection with her fans, the global recognition.

It was the buzz around Brenda’s voice that first prompted legendary producer, Koloi Lebona, to make the trip, at Christmas 1979, from Johannesburg to the Cape Town township of Langa to hear her sing. Then just 16, Brenda, who had been the star of the Tiny Tots group, was something of a legend among the mother city’s musicians. Recalls Koloi: “I had five or six musicians raving to me about her voice and so I decided to hear it for myself. I had no trouble finding her mother Sarah’s house in Langa – everyone was talking about Brenda. And when I got there Brenda sang several standards for me while her (now late) mother played the piano. There was something special about her voice. It was different than anything I had heard until then and was very mature for a teenager. I knew it was the voice of the future.”

And that “voice of the future” came with a self-belief well beyond Brenda’s years. “When she’d finished singing for me, she quickly sussed how impressed I was,” Koloi said. “She turned to me and said ‘so when are we going to Joburg’!” That comment pointed the way to another key to Brenda’s career: her incredible drive, her unswerving belief in herself, and her total individuality.

Reluctant to interfere with her schooling, Koloi, with Sarah Fassie’s permission, took the young singer to live with his family in the sprawling Johannesburg township of Soweto with the idea that Brenda would complete her studies and then pursue a singing career. But events overtook Kaloi’s plans when Joy singer Anneline Malebo left to go on maternity leave and Brenda temporarily joined the highly successful singing trio. As Koloi puts it: “The bug was too strong to resist after that, and Brenda’s professional singing career was launched.”

When her Joy contract expired, Brenda took up an offer from Blondie and Papa to appear as a solo artist on their road show. It was through this that the Big Dudes were formed and Brenda’s career soared to a new level as part of the group, Brenda and the Big Dudes. Nevertheless, the singer had yet to record – a situation which changed, pretty dramatically, when ?Weekend Special?, already a wildly popular live song, was released in 1983 as a 12″ Maxi through CCP Record Company, the South African record company started by Clive Calder. A funky, disco-grooved track that provided the perfect vehicle for Brenda’s crystalline and potent voice, ?Weekend Special? became the fastest selling record of the time. The song, which today remains a highly-influential track in the history of South African music, entered the Billboard Hot Black singles chart in March 1986, enabling Brenda and the Big Dudes to appear in the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, and Brazil. The single was remixed in New York by Van Gibbs and released by Capitol Records. It remained on the US charts for a full eight weeks and enjoyed significant radio play, including throughout southern Africa. ?Weekend Special?’s success ignited a dwindling homegrown music scene. “It sold around 200,000 copies,” remembers then CCP MD, Ken Haycock. “The rest of the ’80s saw an unbelievable run of local hits, and there’s no doubt Brenda played a huge part in stimulating that trend.”

With a provocative stage show, and a well publicized rivalry with the likes of fellow township pop superstar, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, the 1980s saw Brenda vaulting rapidly into solo superstar status, releasing records, with Malcolm Watson in the producer’s seat, like Cool Spot, which included It’s Nice To Be With People} and scoring hits with songs like No No No Senor.

Firmly established as a solo artist (Brenda originally signed her record deal as part of the Big Dudes and initially had an equal royalty split with the rest of the group), the late 1980s saw Brenda team up with producer Sello “Chicco” Twala, a creative coupling that has proved the most spectacular in South Africa’s music history. Brenda and Chicco’s explosive musical interaction culminated in the monster album Too Late for Mama, which became a multi-platinum seller in 1989 and rose to the top of most South African charts.

For the next several years, Brenda’s career continued apace and, in 1996, she revealed her abilities as a producer with the album Now Is the Time. Defining a new level of maturity for Brenda, the album features two duets with Papa Wemba and astonished even her most loyal fans. 1997, too, proved to be an important year for Brenda with the release of Paparazzi, in spite of talk of Brenda’s “demise.” The album, produced by talented newcomer, Godfrey Pilane, featured a duet with Bayete’s Jabu Khanyile, and was a diverse offering with everything from kwaito to to slow groove tracks.

But little could prepare South Africa for Brenda’s spectacular comeback album – the 1998 release, Memeza. The album, which saw the singer again team up with producer Chicco, became South Africa’s best selling release of the year, shifting 500,000 copies and earning Brenda several South African Music Awards as well as young and old fans all over again through hit tracks like “Vul’indlela.” The latter – hugely popular throughout Africa, as Brenda’s 1999 Kora award for best female artist revealed – has its origins deep in African gospel, with much of its appeal in the rhythm of Zion church music.

Tell everyone Brenda’s back,” she said at the time – and that statement has proved to be true.

This landmark album – which dug deep into this country’s musical roots – was produced by Chicco who says he knew early on during the 1998 recording sessions that Memeza would rapidly propel Brenda back into the musical stratosphere at supersonic speed.

I thought people might have forgotten about Brenda because her previous albums were pretty low-key. When it came to the sound of the album, we looked around the world and saw that those people having huge successes were going back to the old music and so we decided to do the same. But a great deal of Memeza’s success is due to Brenda’s excellent voice, which we kept dominant throughout the album.”

When it came to Brenda’s 1999 follow-up, Nomakanjani?, Chicco was once again at the helm as producer, engineer, and chief songwriter. Again Brenda’s voice, in fine form, was the musical pivot of the album. Her 2000 release, Amadlozi, featuring hits like Thola Amadlozi and Nakupende (I Love You) again proved what a dazzling match the Brenda-Chicco one was. The second half of 2001 saw the release of Mina Nawe, with Chicco in the producer’s seat for the fourth time in recent years.

Reclaiming her status as South Africa’s queen of pop was not without its difficulties, and the late 1990s and early years of the 21st century saw the at times mercurial and capricious singer earn many tabloid inches about her personal life.

2002 saw the release of Myekeleni, Brenda’s most accomplished and impressively diverse album so far. She followed that up with Mali, released late in 2003 and already past platinum status and unleashed several radio hits including Pond Pond and Ntsware-Ndibambe. Like all of Brenda’s recordings, alongside the upbeat, danceable tracks are several tender, gentle ballads like Siyobonana, My Baby, and Ngizilahlela Kuwe – trademark Brenda recordings that might never reach the top of the charts but touch the hearts of her loyal fans throughout Africa and, consequently, are part of the reason why she remains so beloved.

It may come as a surprise to many people that hit songs like Ntsware-Ndibambe were written and produced by Brenda herself. Over the last few years of her life, when her personal life became the focus of attention in the press, many forgot that, alongside a voice that remained one of the strongest in South Africa, Brenda had an intuitive feel for songs that are beautifully revealed in the several that she wrote and recorded for Mali. Longtime creative partner and producer, Sello “Chicco” Twala also contributed to the songwriting on the album.

Writing songs is what I do whenever I feel a melody coming,” Brenda said in 2004. “I have a small studio at home and I am in there often, writing music and lyrics. It’s an important part of my creative life.”

That Brenda remained beloved by her fans and able to pursue a dynamic career littered with hit songs, multi-platinum sales, and sparkling performances for so long (she was born in 1964 and was about to turn 40 when she died on May 9, 2004), speaks volumes about the magic that dwelt deep within the woman’s soul. So it was no surprise when Time magazine chose to showcase Brenda Fassie in a three-page spread in its December 17, 2001 issue. Featuring a stunning picture of Brenda against a purple background and the headline “The Madonna of the Townships,” Time profiled the singer, focusing on a recent trip to America, and made no bones about Brenda’s proclivity for attention-grabbing antics. But at the center of the piece was a focus on her extraordinary talent and the tale of a woman who has overcome adversity and triumphed in her chosen career.

Brenda certainly achieved triumph throughout her career. In 2002, at the 8th South African Music Awards, Brenda once more scooped – for an incredible and record-breaking fourth year in a row – the SAMA for Best Selling Release, for the album Mina Nawe. The album’s success in outstripping sales of any other domestic release in the year 2001 followed on the heels of her previous three albums — Memeza, Amadlozi, and Nomakanjani? – all of which earned the title of the country’s most popular album in the year of their release. Since then, her 2002 Myekeleni and 2003’s Mali have both scorched their way to multi-platinum status in South Africa, and unleashed chart-topping songs in tracks like ‘Come Duze,” “Duma Duma,” ‘Pond Pond,” and “Ntsware-Ndibambe.” At the 2004 South African Music Awards, Brenda’s song “Vul’indlela’ (a hit across the continent) was declared Song of the Decade by the South African public in one of the few public-voted categories at the event. More recently, her posthumous album – released in September 2004, Give Me Some Volume – reached platinum in a single day.

Brenda?s unmistakable voice belied an increasing physical frailty, and after a tragically rapid downturn in her already-fragile health, Brenda Fassie died in May 2004, just before her 40th birthday. It was a true tribute to her prominence in South African culture that visitors to her hospital bedside included Nelson Mandela, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and President Thabo Mbeki, among many others. South Africa Africa

Discography:

Brenda Brenda (1987 )
Ag Shame Lovey (The CCP Record Company, 1987 )
Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu (The CCP Record Company, 1988)
Too Late For Mama Brenda (1989 )
Black President (Mercury, 1990)
I Am Not A Bad Girl (1991)
Yo Baby ‎( The CCP Record Company, 1992)
Mama (Celluloid, 1994)
Abantu Bayakhuluma (The CCP Record Company, 1994)
Soon & Very Soon ‎(Teal Records, 1994)
Umuntu Uyashintsha(The CCP Record Company, 1995)
Now Is The Time ‎(The CCP Records Company, 1996)
Hamba Sathane ‎(The CCP Record Company, 1996)
Paparazzi ‎(The CCP Record Company, 1997)
Memeza (The CCP Record Company, 1998)
Nomakanjani? ‎(The CCP Record Company, 1999)
Amadlozi ‎(The CCP Record Company, 2000)
Mina Nawe ‎( The CCP Reord Company, 2001)
Myekeleni ‎(EMI Music South Africa, 2002)
Mali ‎( EMI, 2003 )
Love Songs ‎(EMI , 2007)
African Classics – Africa’s Queen of Pop ‎(Sheer Sound, 2009)

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Mazambane neNqotho Zakhe Releases Homage to the fallen of the 1976 Soweto Uprising

Mazambane neNqotho Zakhe – June 16, 1976

African artist Mazambane neNqotho Zakhe has a new album titled June 16, 1976 (Umsakazo Records), featuring a inspiring tribute to the fallen of the 1976 Soweto Uprising.

With his ultra-baritone rasps, squeezed vocal phrases and distinguishing tribal marks, the great Mazambane carved out a significant place in history as one of South Africa’s most popular and recognizable vocal stars during the era of Mbaqanga township jive.

A familiar name to township audiences through the 1970s and well into the 1980s, he followed in the footsteps of Mahlathini, the first hugely successful ‘groaner’. Now in his 70s, Mazambane is the lone survivor of the era when groaners walked the African townships as heroes. But the changing times haven’t stopped him from creating excellent music.

Buy June 16, 1976

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Artist Profiles: Gito Baloi

Gito Baloi

Gito Baloi Gito Baloi has played and sung music for as long as he can remember. Surrounded by the traditional music of his extended family – Nyanja as well as Shangaan – he spent his earliest years exploring sounds with the aid of discarded paraffin tins, reeds and anything he could lay his hands on. His first public performances, playing on a borrowed bass guitar, helped to support his family in a war-torn Mozambique.

Gito was inspired by Mozambican musicians like Hortensia Langa, Fani Mfumo and Orchestra Marabenta, he traveled with a band called Afro 78, from Maputo to Nampula, Ilha de Mozambique to Beira and Angoche.

Gito’s turning point came in 1986 when traveling extensively throughout South Africa with the group Pongolo. After performing in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town with Pongolo, Gito performed with Mzwaki Mbuli during his resistance concerts which toured many outlying townships and ghettos. This led to the recording of 2 albums, “Change is Pain” in 1986 and “Unbroken Spirit” in 1989.

In 1987 Gito performed with Kenyan musician Simba Morri and this led to the recording of the album “Was sa Mata”. During 1988 Gito Baloi, Steve Newman and Ian Herman formed a collaboration which they named Tananas. This band made several live performances in Namibia, Swaziland, Mozambique, France, Sweden and Japan. Out of Tananas’s brief four year history came four highly acclaimed albums: Tananas, Spiral, Time and Orchestra Mundo.

1992 saw Gito back in France, where he was invited to record and perform with renowned African musicians, Zairian Pablo and Malian Askia Modibo. In addition to extensive performances around the country, Gito co-ordinated the formation of two bands namely Skabenga and Somewhere Else. Continuing in this direction, 1993 and 1994 was spent on numerous performances and recording sessions with a variety of South African musicians, culminating in a tour as supporting artist to Sting.

In 1996, Gito as part of Tananas won the “Best Contemporary Jazz Band Award” at the prestigious South African FNB Awards. In the same year, in conjunction with the cream of South African talent, Gito released his first full solo album Ekaya. Locally the first single shot onto charts nation wide and achieved a top slot of #2 on Radio Metro. The Gito Baloi Band traveled to perform at many destinations around Southern Africa, including Gito’s home town of Maputo. Gito also continued to contribute to other musician’s work by playing on the albums of South African, Anton Goosen and Koffi from the Ivory Coast. After touring France with his own band, Gito toured Mozambique with Swiss musician Peter Giger and his project Family of Percussion.

In June of 1996 he produced Durban based Landscape Prayers’ second album Bush Telegraph. The Creative Arts Foundation funded a collaboration between Gito and Jason Armstrong to compose 6 works during August and September, this led to the two musicians recording and distributing Desert Voices independently. After supporting Tracy Chapman in October, Gito began working on his new album Na Ku Randza. It was released in conjunction with the Human Rights Day concert staged at the Mega Music Warehouse in March 1997.

In 1999, Gito created a collective named the African Gypsies, which performed at WOMAD in Australia. Back in South Africa, he joined his former bandmates at Tananas for a reunion. The result was Seed.

What started off as a one off gig at a very over crowded Bassline Club, resulted in a serious collaboration of international musicians. Steve Newman & Gito Baloi of Tananas joined forces with vocalist Wendy Oldfield. Korean/Canadian Violinist Julia entered the picture at WOMAD: Benoni 2000. She arrived with violin in case and asked Steve Newman if she could join his workshop. Steve having never seen Julia before welcomed the jam. Percussionist/rapper Elad Neeman had been coming in and out of South Africa. Based in Israel, he traveled the world to participate in world music projects. Together this 5-piece line up produced ambient world music. Mondetta released an album, It’s a Small World (Sheer Sound), on September 27th of 2001.

In October of 2001, Gito Baloi released his third solo album, Herbs and Roots, with Sheer Sound. In 2003 he collaborated with Nibs van der Spuy.

Gito Baloi was murdered. He was shot in the neck by two men who opened fire on him on Sunday, April 3rd, 2004. The attackers took his wallet. The 39-year-old musician was returning home after performing at the Lucit Candle Garden in Pretoria.

A posthumous album titled “Beyond” was released in 2008, with all of its proceeds benefiting the Gito Baloi Memorial Trust that was set up to support Baloi’s children.

Discography:

Ekaya (PolyGram, 1995)
Desert Voices (1996)
Na Ku Randza (Sheer Sound, 1997)
Herbs & Roots (Sheer Sound, 2002)
Sweet-Thorn (Greenhouse Music, 2004)
Beyond (2008)

with Tananas:

Tananas (Celluloid, 1988)
Spiral (Sonet, 1990)
Time (Gallo Music, 1992)
Orchestra Mundo (Gallo Record Company, 1994)
Seed (Epic, 1999)
Alive In Jo’burg (Epic, 2001)

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Soweto Gospel Choir to Celebrate Nelson Mandela’s Centennial July 18th with A Song From Their Upcoming Album Freedom

On September 14, 2018 Soweto Gospel Choir will release its sixth Shanachie Entertainment recording, Freedom, a collection of freedom songs from South Africa and beyond, marking the Centennial of Nelson Mandela’s birth.

Soweto Gospel Choir Music Director Diniloxolo Ndlakuse said, “The significance of Nelson Mandela’s 100th commemoration to South Africans is, firstly and foremost a reminder of the role played by Nelson Mandela in moving South Africa from a position of being an undemocratic, oppressive society to one of a peaceful co-existence for all racial groups. Mandela represents love, peace, forgiveness and strength to the choir. He is a symbol of inspiration to the Choir.”

Soweto Gospel Choir sings in six of South Africa’s eleven official languages on Freedom but mostly in Zulu or Sotho, as well as English. The Choir’s first single is “Umbombela,” which means “train song,” is a composition that speaks of the travails experienced by black South Africans during the apartheid era, when migrant workers were forced to travel long distances away from their families in order to meet the harsh economic and political demands made by the government.

On October 4, 2018 Soweto Gospel Choir will start a US tour.

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Wholehearted South African A Cappella

Afrika Mamas – Iphupho (ARC Music EUCD2771, 2018)

Iphupho is the new album by the talented female a cappella group A cappella. The 6-member South African act perform original songs in the style of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. In a male-dominated musical field, Afrika Mamas demonstrate that they are a formidable force in Zulu isicathamiya music.

The current lineup includes band leader Ntombifuthi Lushaba on soprano vocals; lead singer Sibongile Nkosi on bass vocals; lead singer and tuner Fikile Busisiwe Mhlongo; Sister Zungu on bass vocals; Sindisiwe Khumalo on alto vocals; and Nonhlanhla NhloeDube on soprano vocals. Guests: Siyanda Pasgenik Makhathini on beatbox; Ayanda Ngcabo on percussion; and Patricia Bhe Shandu on alto vocals.

Iphupho is a highly-spirited a cappella album with a strong South African flavor.

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