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1. Beginnings – Joao Orecchia
So I wanted to make a mix, that didn’t have a theme. A mix that was just about the connections. I walked into my study, where all my music is kept and I began rifling through the section with my South African albums. I was searching for something that spoke to me in that moment, a jumping off point. I quickly found it. Joao Orecchia’s 2009 album Hands & Feet, released on the Other Electricities label. I hadn’t listened to the album in ages, always tending to go for the Motel Mari album to get my fix. The album features a number of collaborators, so it was a good open-ended place to begin. But more importantly, it was Joao who first planted the seed in my head of doing a radio show, which ultimately is responsible for this blog. I looked for a song. Listening through, I realised, I just couldn’t pick one. So I picked three and used them each as jumping off points to follow the trail and join the dots. The first is this magnificent one, featuring Carlo Mombelli on bass and BLK JKS Tshepang Ramoba on drums and Mpumi Mcata on guitar.
2. The procession march of King Ferd te 3rd – Carlo Mombelli And The Prisoners Of Strange
This song just blows my mind. Released on Carlo Mombelli’s 2007 album I Stared Into My Head. It features Siya Makuzeni and Marcus Wyatt, as well as drummer Lloyd Martin, who was in Urban Creep with Brendan Jury and Chris Letcher, they will pop up later. Makuzeni is just sublime on this track and she is my favourite vocalist at the moment. Her work with Marcus Wyatt and Language 12 is also stellar. More on that later. Mombelli’s 2014 Stories album was one of my favourite albums of that year and his Stories band , which features Kyle Shepherd and Kesivan Naidoo is about to release a new record any week.
3. Dream State – Kyle Shepherd Trio
This title track from Kyle Shepherd’s 2014 album Dream State, is just mesmerising. Shepherd is a busy guy he is in Mombelli’s Stories band and he is in Kesivan Naidoo’s Lights. I interviewed Naidoo the day after he had played with Shepherd and Shane Cooper as a trio at The Orbit. The band had played some of the compositions from this album. Naidoo said he had relished it, admitting he was a bit jealous not to get to play those songs regularly. The Kyle Shepherd Trio trio is something to be heard. This double album, will be a good friend.
4. Toyi-Toyi – Closet Snare
I was at the Independent Armchair, the night this was recorded in 2007. It was random luck. In Cape Town for work, I headed down to see what was happening and stumbled upon an amazing gig and met Gil Hockman, who would become a good friend of mine. The album would only see release in 2010, I picked it up at that African music store on Long Street a few years later. Closet Snare were Mark Buchanan (guitar), Shane Cooper (bass), Mr. Sakitumi (machines), Lee Thompson (trumpet, flugelhorn), Inka Kendzia (visuals) and Kesivan Naidoo (drums). Toyi-Toyi is a Naidoo composition and would be re-recorded for his album with The Lights, Instigators of the Revolution.
5. Zabalazo – BLK JKS
While we are on the subject of Toyi-Toyi, I couldn’t resist, dropping this classic from the BLK JKS. I seem to remember that the album art for this was an early logo the band used, but I can’t find a copy online. This photo was taken by artist Michael MacGarry outside the Bohemian in Richmond, Johannesburg. It was for a magazine we made called The Pavement Special. I will always associate this song with the Fifa Kick Off Concert in 2010, turning around in Orlando Stadium to see thousands of people stomping along to the BLK JKS was an otherworldly sight, especially because i remember the days when the band battled to get any gigs in Johannesburg.
6. Show Me – Marcus Wyatt & Language 12
This is one of my favourite South African songs ever. Released in 2014, Maji Maji in the Land of Milk & Honey, is an album that keeps on giving. The conversation between Wyatt’s horn and Makuzeni’s voice, is everything, but the rest of the band tear it loose behind them.
7. Gold to Green – Joao Orrechia
The second of my picks from Hands & Feet. This one again features the two BLK JKS. I remember the first time I saw Joao playing with Tshepang and Mpumi. It was at House of Nsako in Brixton, a fantastic venue, that always delivered. I remember, many times, stumbling home from there with a big grin on my face. That night I remember thinking to myself that I was witnessing something special and I guess when we look back at the Motel Mari album, I was. Gold to Green just has so much groove.
8. Kwanele (It’s Enough) – Thandiswa Mazwai
Released in 2004, Zabalaza, is a much celebrated album and rightly so. It was Mazwai’s solo debut and has influenced a whole new generation of South African songwriters. In 2011, Mazwai collaborated with the BLK JKS and Joao Orecchia on a tribute recording to the late Busi Mhlongo.
9. Mamaka – Neo Muyanga
Even though this album was released in 2002, I only picked up on it in 2004, which is the link to Mazwai, these two albums were doing rotations in my CD player at the same time, they both felt like very thoughtful boundary pushing releases. I loved that about them.
10. Born in Taxi – Blk Sonshine
I actually got into Neo Muyanga before Blk Sonshine. I only picked this album up in 2004 or 2005, second hand. I can’t understand why someone would want to get rid of it. I was out of the country in 1998 when it was originally released, but when I returned, I caught up on the band’s great songs.
11. Midnight Serenade – Joao Orrechia
The third of the selections from Hands & feet. This one features Siya Makuzeni, Mpumi Mcata and Tshepang Ramoba.
12. Small Noises – Jane Rademeyer
Released in 2007, Jane Rademeyer’s album I Think A Halo, is a masterwork. I met Jane as a friend hanging around The Bohemian. Only once we knew each other well, did she mention she was making an album. When she gave it to me I was worried, what I would say if I didn’t like it. From first listen it blew me away. The little girl on the track is Jana, Jane’s niece and the track also features Brendan Jury, who was in Urban Creep. Rademeyer and Orecchia have played and collaborated together. As you can see in this great picture shot by Lisa Skinner at a Pavement Special event I was involved in organising in 2007.
13. Blue Flame – Trans.Sky
So we jump to Brendan Jury and to a project from 1998. Killing Time saw Warrick Sony of Kalahari Surfers and Shifty Records fame team up with Jury. I remember the 1998 Splashy Fenn music festival, stumbling through a field with a friend Chris, and we stumbled upon Trans.Sky, sans Sony, who was not touring. The band on stage had a gothic feel about them, when I finally tracked down the album, I was surprised to hear the electronics. At this point, I had no idea who Sony was, I knew that Jury was from Urban Creep, a Durban band I had seen. The album grew on me big time.
14. Special Agents – Van der Want/Letcher
That same Splashy Fen in 1998, I saw these guys. Again I knew Letcher from Urban Creep, but this was next level stuff. They did this song and it floored me. I was knocked out, on my ass, in the middle of a field. It instantly became my favourite song in the world and I spent months, searching every record store I could find, Until I tracked down Low Riding. One of the finest South African albums ever made.
15. A New Kind Of Leader – Kalahari Surfers
Needless to say I caught up with Warrick Sony. I spent many years between 1998 and 2010, when he dropped One Party State, exploring his vast back catalogue. Collecting all those old banned record on vinyl. His 2010 offering was a bass-heavy protest album, that saw Sony, closer to his work in the eighties, than he had been in a while. A New Kind of Leader, just let’s the bass get all in your face as Sony focuses in on Number One. JZ. The teflon man.
16. Blue Eyes – Van der Want/Letcher
Another from Van der Want/Letcher. This beautiful cover of the Springbok Nude Girls hit, Blue Eyes, was released on their 2002 album Bignity. Another classic South African album.
17. Stay (With Chamber Choir) – Springbok Nude Girls
And to bring it to an end, this rather quaint version of the Nude Girls, Stay, released on the email@example.com EP in 1997. The original has been released on the band’s debut album Neanderthal 1 in 1995. This version features a chamber choir. And that’s that. So long.