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Tuesday 11 May 2010

Afropop 2: Mr Chacklas

While in Cape Town I picked up a compilation of the best of a character called Mr Chacklas. Like yesterday's Pat Shange selections, it is 1980s Afropop.

What little I know about Mr Chacklas has been gleaned from our old friend Max Mojapelo's seminal work, "Beyond Memory: Recording the History, Moments and Memories of South African Music ". It appears that Mr Chacklas was not all he appeared, but just part of the production line of the South African Stock, Aitken and Waterman: Brettell, Millar and Nzuza.

Bones Brettell had been a session keyboard player for Clout ("Substitute") and others before co-founding Hotline in 1981. This was the band that started the career of P.J. Powers, one of the mopst successful female singers South Africa has known. Although Hotline was an all white band they managed to attract a black audience, and Bones developed a sideline as a producer. He roped in Bernie Millar (himself a respected local band leader, most notably "Circus") and one Godfrey Nzuza and found a frontman to perform a string of Afropop tunes they churned out. The first single was "Hoi Chacklas", so the singer found himself saddled with the name of Mr Chacklas.

Mr Chacklas's main distinguishing feature was that he dressed as a traffic cop. As Max notes, this only added to the jollity of his live performances because "festival revellers loved to dance in front of the traffic cop, without any fear of speed trap tickets. Even those who had one too many knew he would not ask them to stand on one leg or "blow in here"".

I'm sure that has whetted your appetite, so here he is, the poor patsy:

"Hoi Chacklas" - Mr Chacklas

"Tana Ka Mina" - Mr Chacklas

Here is some more police officer fun.

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