With so much happening at the same time. Mayfest's The Music From The Frontline States might seem a daunting one, and it‘ll probably be only the true enthusiast who catches every one of the visiting bands. However. if seeing one of the concerts or even reading about the music in the preceding pages has kindled your interest, The List presents an absolute beginner's guide to the diversity of the vibrant and accessible sounds that southern Africa has produced in recent years. Life beyond Paul Simon‘s Graceland starts here.
I The Mu Boys: Slum (Madman) They came from Zimbabwe . they stayed in Troon. they gigged, they conquered. Biggie Tembo and the boys topped the indie charts in 1986 with this joyous first British release. whose chiming guitars had critics falling over one another with Beatles comparisons. They’ve since gone on to support Madonna at Wembley and record two albums for Warner Brothers, both polished with production sheen but still slightly compromised by trying too hard to please the mainstream market.
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I The Four outliers: Bros (WM W) Cheekily-titled seeon UK long~player from the Zimbabwean outfit dubbed by John Peel ‘the greatest live band in the world.‘ As in the caseof the Bhundus above. it’s been radio airplay from Peel and Andy Kershaw that’s broken this dizzying, thrillineg melodic guitar music to an audience of young listeners slightly jaded by a latterly uninspiring rock scene.
m Vols 1.3 (Earthworks/Virgin) Compiler Trevor Herman has followed up his original collection of Township music with another two records (subtitled Thunder Before Dawn and Freedom Fire respectively). This is mbaquanga (pronounced mmoba—kanga) at its finest, a tough street music influenced by American R‘n‘B and jazz but with its rhythmic roots in the ethnic heritage. played on Western eleCtrie instruments and horns and notable for its stirring call-and-response vocals. Very danceable too.
I Will! Black MIMI Shaka Zulu (Wanton) As featured on Paul Simon's Graceland project. the wonderful South African choral group later benefited from his corporate clout when he produced this their first record for a major Western label. The deeply affecting harmonies thankfully remained intact, though the singers’ earlier South African releases [note and Induku Zerlm are now both available on Greensleeves in the UK and are well worth checking out.
I laitlalhlnlf‘fbo Lion 0f Soweto (hrthvorksﬂlrgln) Pumping collection of 705 mbaqanga , all featuring Mahlathini's woodwork-rumbling bass growl. with backing vocals from the famous female harmony group The Mahotella Queens. The same partnership in 1986 produced one of the best ever mbaqanga albums in Thokozile (Earthworks/Virgin). Rhythmic excitement and truly belting voices make this great soul music.
I Thomas Neptune:
Corruption (Mango) You'll find the odd Zimbabwean Mapfumo album cropping up in the record racks these days. but the best place to start is this most recent major label offering. Here‘s a healthy smattering of chirnurenga styles and an anthemic title track. sung in English. that rails against unscrupulous powermongers everywhere. Without doubt a major artist . and possessor of a wonderfully smoky voice to boot.
I llmbam Fronttlno Vols 1 & “Earthworks/Virgin) There‘s more Mapfumo on this pair of compilations (the sewnd subtitled Spirit Of The Eagle). plus more Four Brothers and several tracks by the more rumba-influenced lonoh Moyo & Devera N gwena. With informative sleevenotes and translations, both releases provide a stimulating display of politically. activated music making and an exhilarating account of the wonderful possibilities of the electric
I Atrleso Alt-Stars Chris Stapleton & Chris May (Paladin £6.99) First published in 1987. so slightly dated , this is a comprehensive guide to the music of the continent. impressive in its scope and dependable in its judgements. The section on British record companies and the history of marketing African music in this country is particularly revealing.
I Rhythm 0! m World Eds. Francis Booty 8: Tim May (BBC £9.99) Stylisth produced companion to the television series, it covers quite a diversity of musics but includes a sound chapter on South Africa and another-worthwhile dissection of the international music trade.
The List4— 17 May 199011