Various Artists – Next Stop… Soweto: Township Jive from the Golden Age of Mbaqanga

January 01, 1970



One could argue that for the American market, interest in
African music began with the 1982 release of King Sunny Ade’s Juju Music and the 1986 Shanachie
compilation The Indestructible Beat of
, which came out the same year as Paul Simon’s Graceland. The Indestructible Beat of Soweto introduced western
ears to South African mbaqanga, also known as township jive, and the
compilation is still a joy. Next Stop…
Soweto: Township Jive from the Golden Age of Mbaqanga
, the first in a new
series of South African compilations from Strut Records, is another fine
introduction to the era; it could well be one of the many subsequent volumes of
Indestructible. Or maybe Next Stop… Soweto is to Vampire Weekend
as Indestructible was to Paul Simon:
the unadulterated analogue.


Although it was born of apartheid of the ‘60s and ‘70s,
mbaqanga is music of celebration, even if it celebrates a struggle. With
Western instruments – guitars, bass, drums, sometimes saxophone – backing vocal
harmony / unison singing on compact songs that quickly hit a hard, fast groove,
mbanqanga is irresistible. The most familiar names on this compilation are the
great gravel-voiced Mahlathini and his wonderfully enthusiastic backing singers
the Mahotella Queens, and several other artists work off the Mahlathini and the
Queens template of a groaning, gruff male voice backed by unison counterpoint
female harmonies. While guitars are king here – thrumming bass behind runs
brilliantly bright finger-picked treble lines – Next Stop… Soweto also shows how township jive incorporated perky
piano lines and horn sections that suggest the influence of American R&B or
Jamaican reggae. Although the township jive era has already been
well-documented, Next Stop… Soweto expands the evidence of the scene’s richness and depth.


Standout Tracks: “Kuya Hanjwa,” “Take Off,” “Sikhwele” STEVE KLINGE






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