Yet some tracks are decidedly optimistic. One of the standout tracks, “Come with Me” by The Heroes, evokes the beauty of Lake Malawi and the parties in Kinshasa over the most catchy tune on the disk. It feels like a prayer for African unity at a time when the Western world was desperately trying to hold onto its last colonial bastions by stripping Africans of their identity and replacing it with tribal registration cards.
All of these songs are executed with a confidence that can’t be rivaled by the music that influenced it. It doesn’t matter that the guitar on The Heroes’ “Funky Message” is out of tune; the guitarist covers it up by just playing the shit out of his instrument. The confidence comes through in the organ solos that pop up every couple of minutes in most of the songs, the players knowing that their band will keep up with their serpentine riffs.
The musicianship present on these recordings is astounding, obtaining the same quality on one or two takes that might take Pink Floyd months of time in lavish studios. I would challenge anyone to find a better example of early psychedelic jams than Electric Six’s instrumental slow groove “Lovey-Wami.”
It’s sad to know that it would still be a good 25 years before apartheid ended. It’s even sadder to know that there is still racial tension and violence in South Africa, now geared towards migrant workers from Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe.
But perhaps with this record, we can be proud as a global community to know that we have come a long way in the right direction. The music is a testament to the triumph of the Soweto spirit.
1. J.K. Mayengar & The Singwedzi Sisters: “Khubani”
2. Mahotella Queens: “Wozani Mahipi”
3. The Heroes: “Come With Me”
4. The Monks: “Blockhead”
5. Bra Sello & His Band: “Soul Time Nzimande Go”
6. The Toreadors: “Gwinyitshe”
7. The Heroes: “Funky Message”
8. The Klooks: “Nkuli’s Shuffle”
9. The Soul Prophets: “Soul Imbaq”
10. Philip Malela: “Intandane (Part 1)”
11. Bazali Bam: “Bazali Bam”
12. Mgababa Queens: “Akulalwa Soweto”
13. Down Tones: “Short Man’s Soul”
14. The S.A. Move: “Skophom”
15. Heshoo Beshoo: “Wait and See”
16. Philip Malela: “Tiba Kamo”
17. The Grasshoppers: “I Am There”
18. Electric Six: “Lovey-Wami”
19. The Anchors: “Last Time”
20. Flaming Souls: “Mosquito”
21. Soul Throbs: “Little Girl”
22. Gibson Kente: “Saduva”
– Arthur Pascale
World in Stereo is a biweekly column that examines classic and modern world music while striving for a greater appreciation of other cultures.