Tuesday 4 July 2023

If you think of South African music was limited to native's like Johnny Clegg and well known activists Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela plus a couple of US imports, Paul Simon (with Ladysmith Black Mambazo) and Sixto 'Sugarman' Rodriguez; the 'Yebo!' compilation shows that we've got lots of catching up to do.

Focusing on "Rare Mzansi Party Beats from Apartheid's Dying Years", John Armstong's compilation of 80s "pops" are much more than you'd expect as the chart US soul, disco, boogie, jazz and funk are all going on plus thier own "Now That's What I Call Mansi" style where you can can get synth pop, jazz and Michael Jackson licks all going on at the same time; similar to REWARM's reissue of Small's 'Don't Leave Me In The Rain (see review HERE).

The reason we're told is that there was a need to appeal to the wide multi-ethnic, multilingual audience that covers such a massive area so that the generic term ended up at "Bubblegum" [not the US sixities version or the Belgium rare soul version] with the downtempo Mzani.

Whilst the cover might not look as cool as some 80s dancehall, there's some great tracks here that we've never heard before like the sing-a-long, 'I Was Born In Africa' by Richie S, the mod-soul of 'Crocodile's Rock' by Black Moses & The Soul Brothers and the too-slow-to-Manzi, 'Nwananga Washanesera' by Joe Masunga (apparently Joe's clothing was designed by Sue Ellen Wylie!)

The equivalent of Pete Waterman on many of these tracks is Peter 'Hitman" Moticoe and he's clearly a name to look out for along with Tools & Figs, 'Blackout' is a great Afro-synth-mix 

At the other extreme, Joy White's contribution sounds like some strange 80s TV soap theme music and then there's Paul Ndlovu who became a household name after his 1985 hit, 'Khombora Mina' that's more than a touch reggae.  The opening track is also one of his, 'Takane' that's more in the 80s disco groove as is the 'Phil Fearon & Galaxy' period, 'Jonny Boy' (12" Dancemix 1986) by The Angels.

Armstrong has been compiling Afro, Brasil, South African funk and Cuban music for many years and I can see Mzansi Party Beats has is more than likely to have at least a Volume 2 as not only is the music a find, the vinyl is on a triple LP gatefold set along with CD and digital formats.

In the meantime, lets search eBay for some 80s Sue Ellen Wylie design wear.

Artist: Various Artists

Title: 'Yebo! Rare Mzansi Party Beats from Apartheid's Dying Years' compiled by John Armstrong

Release date: 30th June, 2023

Label : BBE Music

Catalog Number : BBE421 LP / CD / Digital / Bandcamp 


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