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Classic SA Albums

2008-09-23 11:43
The Jazz Epistles - Jazz Epistle Verse One (1959)
The Rosetta Stone of homegrown jazz: Bra Kippie Moeketsi (sax), Abdullah Ibrahim (piano), Jonas Gwangwa (trombone), Hugh Masekela (trumpet), Makaya Ntshoko( drums) and Johnny Gertze (bass) shape the sound of South African jazz to come on this pioneering adventure in township be-bop. [MK]

Miriam Makeba - Pata Pata (1967)
Miriam Makeba's note-perfect cover of Dorothy Masuka's addictive Afropop anthem "Pata Pata" may have been the international dance smash hit, but it's the textured KZNatal-to-Cuba tones that she threads into her classy Afro-jazz repertoire on a rendition of The Manhattan Brothers' classic "Click Song Number One" and "Saduva" that really cemented her status as Mama Afrika. The first South African to win a Grammy, she became the darling of the world with this landmark release. [MK]

Rabbitt - Boys Will Be Boys (1975)
Reckon boy bands were a 90s pop invention? Think again. Back in the mid-70s South Africa Rabbit were the good-looking lads making teenage girls and their moms go misty-eyed with their bare-chested sex appeal. Weirdly enough, Rabbitt weren’t a pop band at all. They rocked. Guitar drivers such as "Savage" and a killer cover of Jethro Tull’s "Locomotive Breath" have lost little of their machismo over the past three decades. And who can forget the all-time classic Pink Floyd goes piano 'n strings ballad soar of "Charlie" (co-penned with Patric Van Blerk)? [MK]

Juluka - Scatterlings (1982)
A white man fronting a multi-cultural rock band during apartheid was a radical musical statement. Even more far-reaching were the spiritual fires of truth and reconciliation that Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu’s homegrown kwela, mbaqanga rock hybrid lit for existential folk rock activists like Bright Blue and Rainbow Nation Afro-pop favourites Freshlyground. [MK]
- Read interview

Abdullah Ibrahim - Mannenberg, Is Where It's Happening (1983)
The master pianist's two-part song suite fuses melodic African and Cape Jazz folk tones with the improvisation of American jazz and blues traditions and the technical proficiency of European classical music. His hypnotic - and just a little Monkish - left hand motifs on "The Pilgrim" and the spiritually swinging anti-apartheid title track may have tuned overseas ears into his sound, but this isn't mere bop imitation. It's an authentic African jazz vocabulary that inspired a new generation of proudly South African piano architects including Paul Hanmer, Moses Molelekwa, Andile Yenana and more. [MK]

David Kramer - Die Verhaal van Blokkies Joubert (1981)
South Africa's first real concept album is famous for the hit, "Royal Hotel", which still fills the dancefloor at weddings. But even this track has more meaning as part of this tender tears-'n-laughter eulogy to a rugby star whose career was ruined by politics. [JB]
Brenda & the Big Dudes – Weekend Special (1983)
Ever wondered just what made Brenda the continent’s #1 African diva? Yes, it was the sexed up disco funk fuelling her smash hit single "Weekend Special"? But what about later proudly Pan-African anthems like "Black President", delirious kwaito groovers like "Nomakanjani" or celebratory Afro-house shakers such as "Koyoze Kuyovalwa"? Actually, as this pioneering Safro-pop party starter with her Big Dudes shows, Brenda's music always had more funk and fire than any "bubblegum" pop street party pigeonhole. [MK]

Gereformeede Blues Band - Eet Kreef (1990)
South African protest rock classics don’t come more satirically succinct. The sardonic anti-SABC vitriol of "Sit Dit Af", the playful political parody of "Wat 'n Vriend Het Ons in PW", the upper class critique of "BMW" and the haunting luisterliedjie lament of Hillbrow can be heard seeping through every thinking Afrikaans rock act from Valiant Swart to Fokofpolisiekar. [MK]

Arthur - Kaffir (1993)
Way before he was choreographing cake cutting, kwaito King Arthur dropped this generation defining calling card onto our stereos. M’Du may have designed the blueprint and Mandoza crossed it over to whitey, but "Baas, say 'neee'. Baas, don't call me a kaffir" is the up yours that really kick started the kwaito revolution. [MK]
- Listen to clip

Koos Kombuis – Niemandsland en Beyond (1994)
Imagine Afrikaans music without “Lisa se Klavier”. Kind of lonely, isn’t it? Classic Koos piss cat poems such as "Paranoia", "Bomskok Babalaas”, "Swart September" and "Onder in my Whiskeyglas" did things to Die Taal that made Eugene Terreblanche shudder, lovers quiver and ou ballies take another hard look at the bottom of their own whiskey glass. [NB]
Listen to MP3: Onder In My Whiskeyglas(live)

Boom Shaka - Boom Shaka (1994)
Forget those debates about whether Arthur or Mdu is kwaito’s godfather. Producer Oscar "Oskido" Mdlongwa's Africanised chakalaka of Detroit house, township 'bubblegum' pop, hip-hop and jazz makes this 1994 debut responsible for launching the careers not only of booty babes like Lebo Mathosa and Thembi Seete, but an evolutionary homegrown dance floor hybrid whose echoes can still be heard in the sounds of kwaito supergroups such as Bongo Maffin and Mafikizolo, and celebrity Mzansi house DJs like Fresh, Vinny, and Cleo. [MK]
Watch: video interview

The Springbok Nude Girls - Neanderthal 1 (1995)
A legend is spawned with this lo-fidelity 1995 classic: Arno Carstens’ heart-bleeding howls about youth and young manhood find the ideal counterfoil in Theo Crous’ post-grunged out guitar attack. Add Adriaan’s velvet-toned trumpet melodies and you’ve got the birth of Proudly South African rock at its stadium-sized best. Anthems such as "Bubblegum On My Boots", "Managing Mula" and "6 Gun" are the real reason pop rock poster boys like aKING can exist. [CR]
Watch video: Managing Mula (live)

[NEXT: Pt. 2: the 90s and 00s] [page 1 of 2]

Compiling a list of 24 classic SA albums from a country as musically diverse as ours is a bit of a minefield. Sure, some entries are easy. Recordings by Koos Kombuis, Miriam 'Mama Afrika' Makeba, Abdullah Ibrahim and Juluka simply have to be included. But what about albums from 90s and 00s legends like the Nude Girls, Arthur, Boom Shaka or Fokofpolisiekar? Has their best work stood the test of time?

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