12 June 2009

African Journey - Part 4: South and South-Eastern Africa

All journeys must come to an end, so Soundbombing wraps up its big African tour down south. Everyone knows how the music of South Africa got big in the '80s, trading off its boost in popularity Stateside from Paul Simon and its constant presence in the news. In 1988, I found an amazing CD compilation in a small underground record shop in Melbourne, Australia, that collected the rootsy side of South African music... and I've still never heard music from that country to top it. The comp smokes from start to finish, so here are two of my favorites. I'm sure a Zulu speaker would be reduced to tears of hilarity hearing my phonics-based singalongs of these tunes.
15-Imali Impamde Yesono by Umazambane, from Soweto Street Music (Prism, 1988) 16-Angisenaba by Amentkentshane, from Soweto Street Music (Prism, 1988)
I had to include Juluka here, because a fateful showing of their "Fever" video on an episode of Night Flight way back when was one of the first sparks to my interest in African music. So 'nuff respect for putting me on the right road! They did go pretty poppy there at one point in the late '80s/early '90s, but Biza is a world away from that stuff. Listen to how thick and rubbery the bassline is here. As usual, the vocals are split between Sipho and Johnny, a white and black South African, both singing in Zulu. Ubuhle Bemvolo is an early all-Zulu-language release.
17-Biza by Juluka, from Ubuhle Bemvolo (Rhythm Safari, 1982)
Entering Zimbabwe, we get a loping, lagging-rhythm example of chimurenga music. It "electrifies" the sound of the mbira, or thumb piano, and Mapfumo is its most famous practitioner. But note that the "electrifying" is by way of transcribing the mbira lines to a guitar or a marimba, as opposed to the Congotronics method of vastly amplifying and distorting the mbira's sound... plus Mapfumo did it 15 years earlier.
18-Muchadura by Thomas Mapfumo & Blacks Unlimited, from Corruption (Mango, 1989)
And our final stop is on the island of Madagascar. Madagascar is the home of the Malagasy people, who arrived on the island not from nearby Africa but rather from the area around modern Indonesia. The local sound is based on 8/12 time.... frantic and insistant in the best possible way.
19-Indosiko Anao by Jaojoby, from Malagasy (Discorama, 2004)
I hope you've been along for the entire African Journey, and will do my best to get back up online and Soundbombing as soon as possible after our Spain-to-USA move. Until then, enjoy the 19 hand-picked tracks of the Journey with a cold beverage in hand and smile!

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