Search This Blog

Friday 30 April 2010

Yossy Who?

This is a very humble blog, labouring largely unseen in the hope of bringing Tsonga Disco and other delights to a small but discerning audience. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover that I have been given a plug by one of the blogs that I consider to be a prime example of how to do this sort of thing properly: "Awesome Tapes From Africa".

As the name subtly implies, they specialise in tapes from Africa which are, by and large, awesome. This week they are featuring our old friend Penny Penny. If you are not already a regular visitor of theirs - and you really should be - why not wander over and have a look.

But before you go...

Last weekend I was rooting around in the dustier corners of eMusic when I came across a new mini-album called "Volcano" by Japanese band Yossy Little Noise Weaver. The name is bonkers and delightful, and the music is pretty good too.

The Yossies have their own website which is mostly in Japanese. But with the ever unreliable help of Google Translate I have been able to find out a bit about them. They are built around a core of Yossy (vocals, keyboards) and Icchie (assorted brass, woodwind and percussion and DJ) - what happened to Scracchie is not explained. They are both ex-members of Determinations and Bush of Ghosts, who set themselves up under the current name in 2005.

"Volcano" is their third album. The first two were performed as a duo, but for this one they have swelled to full band form with a bassist, drummer and a guitarist going by the name THE K (not his given name I would wager).

The website (probably) describes the sound as funky new wave pop - think Frank Chickens meet Steely Dan, or something like that. It (probably doesn't) go on to say of Yossy herself: "To freely switch back and forth in colourful dreams of Calamity from aggressive play, one of the best keyboardist". I couldn't put it better myself.

Anyway, here are the title track and my own favourite from the album:

"Volcano" - Yossy Little Noise Weaver

"Fool" - Yossy Little Noise Weaver

Yossy weaves noise. Gary Wright, on the other hand, wove dreams.

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Two From Sir Vic

Last time out we brought you two versions of the same song. This time we go one better - two versions of the same song by the same person.

Sir Victor Uwaifo is one of the Great Men of Nigerian music. He may even be as great as he claims in his extraordinary biography, in which he describes himself with all due modesty as a "maestro, poet, inventor, philosopher, architect, scholar and sculptor". More immediately germane to our interest, he claims to be the first African musician to have been awarded and gold disc (in 1966) and, intriguingly, that "he invented the double-neck guitar with eighteen strings fashioned after the Mammy-water esoteric encounter in 1967". More on Mammy-water here.

The first song by Sir Vic that I ever heard - and still my favourite - was this one from 1977:

"Five Days A Week Love" - Sir Victor Uwaifo

If that doesn't get you smiling then you have probably had one of those days where you get overheard insulting a bigoted woman in Rochdale and end up having to go round to her house and grovel in a manner unbecoming.

Anyway, the other day I was browsing on eMusic, where there are now a load of recently released albums of old Sir Vic material available for download. One of them went by the name of "Love And Romance", which included this little number. A different name but the same song slowed down into a soul ballad with freaky guitar. It is not as fantastic as the original but it is pretty bloody good in its own right.

"Not On A Saturday" - Sir Victor Uwaifo

And it is sad to think that on a Saturday night, while Sir Vic is having to fight the ladies off because he is too busy for that sort of thing, on the other side of town poor old Cat Stevens is desperate for a bit of female company.

Monday 26 April 2010

Double Dose Of Pain

Short but sweet today. Here are two great versions of "Pain" that take me right back to 1986 - the wonderful original by Ms Betty Wright and the classic lovers rock rendition by the late and very much lamented Jean Adebambo.

"Pain" - Betty Wright

"Pain" - Jean Adebambo

In a rather different mood, here is another British reggae smash from 1986 from the mighty Tippa Irie, the only man ever to rhyme "It's good to have the feeling you're the best" with "Falcon Crest". My sister-in-law Pam knows him through her cousin Patrick (Pato Banton to you).

Sunday 25 April 2010

Solly's Sunday Service

This being Sunday, how about a little bit of religion? Here are some uplifting sounds from one of the biggest acts on the South African gospel scene, Solly Moholo (or Solomon Molokoane to give him his real name).

"Baruti Rutang Sechaba" - Solly Moholo (from "Motlhang Ke Kolobetswa")

"Wena Kgosi Modimo Wa Bophelo" - Solly Moholo (from "Jesu Ba Mmitsa Tsotsi")

Solly is a jolly looking chap, although his jolliness must have been severely tested when he was subjected to a three-hour hostage ordeal last November. He presumably wasn't able to deter them by wearing the police hat that he is normally seen in all the time - as in the clip below - but fortunately the villians were fans and he survived.

As a bonus for any lovers of the Lord out there, here is the track that won the prestigious Best Tsonga language gospel song at the 2005 Xitsonga Music Awards.

"Hundzuluka" - Rev. Tshawane

Friday 23 April 2010

Tsonga: George Maluleke

Today's Tsonga selection features an artist new to me, but not new to the business. George Maluleke has been making albums for nearly 25 years now. In fact his latest album, "Siku Ramakumu", was nominated for the Best Tsonga Music album award at last weekend's South African Music Awards, only to be pipped to the post by Thomas Chauke - something I suspect has been happening to poor George with monotonous regularity throughout his career.

I managed to pick up a couple of George's albums while in Cape Town a month ago. Like Thomas Chauke he is very much from the traditional wing of the Tsonga scene in comparison with the disco sounds of yer Peta Teanets and Penny Pennys. But that is not to say he isn't capable of a groovy tune. He is, as I hope today's tracks demonstrate.

What little I have been able to find out about George comes from a July 2006 online edition of Mopani News ("By the People, For the People") - click on this link and scroll down to page 4. He is 52, born and bred in Bangwani Village near Malamule, and has (or had in 2006) four wives and 14 children. It presumably must be a struggle to support so many by music alone, as "he also has two mini-buses which he bought with the proceeds of his albums". Or maybe they are just for transporting the family down to the shops.

Here is one track from each of the two albums in my collection:

"Nizondha Swiendlo" - George Maluleke (on "Ri Orheli", 2003)

"Tinhlolo" - George Maluleke (on "Misava Yi Hava Kurhula", 2005)

I couldn't find any George on YouTube, but I did find this video by Jeff Maluleke (probably no relation). It's a bit bland for my tastes but its pleasant enough.

Thursday 22 April 2010

Hurricane Wanda

I had the great pleasure and privilege to see the wonderful Wanda Jackson in concert at the Luminaire last night. I spent the entire time with an enormous smile on my face. So benign was my mood that only once did I feel the need to swear at the Hoxton tosspots standing behind us.

At 72 Wanda isn't as nimble as she once was but she looked great, was utterly charming and her voice is as good as ever. The scream she unleashed in the middle of "Riot In Cell Block Number Nine" was that of a woman fifty years younger.

Not only that, she is a consummate professional. When lesser so-called celebrities were crying off their commitments because of the volcanic ash, Wanda and her husband made it over from Germany where she was playing last week by train, boat and just about every form of transport apart from plane. She apparently had only four hours sleep before coming on and playing a great show.

The whole set was excellent, so if I single out three performances they are more by way of examples than highlights. The first was the aforementioned "Riot In Cell Block Number Nine". The second was "Hard Headed Woman" which she did as a duet with support act Imelda May. Imelda was excellent in her own right, and Mr F now thinks of her as the daughter he never had.

The third example was a top notch rendition of a song that is not only my favourite Wanda recording, but one of my favourite recordings full stop. And in a week that combined Wanda and a volcano, it was particularly appropriate. It is, of course, this one:

"Fujiyama Mama" - Wanda Jackson

As a bonus, here are a couple of lesser-known gems that didn't get played last night, one country and one rock 'n roll.

"My Big Iron Skillet" - Wanda Jackson

"Honey Don't" - Wanda Jackson

And to finish things off for today, here she is back in her younger days.

Tuesday 20 April 2010


Today I felt in the mood for a bit of Roy Harper. So here is a bit of Roy Harper.

"She's The One" - Roy Harper (from "Folkjokeopus", 1969)

"Evening Star" - Roy Harper (from "Death or Glory?", 1992)

Now that was good, wasn't it? And as a bonus here is the great man in action:

Sunday 18 April 2010

Henry And The Wolf

I had a most enjoyable night at the Sheep Walk in Leytonstone last night. It started with a "What's Cookin'" gig upstairs, before Mr F and I fell in with a bad crowd at the karaoke downstairs. We ended up being there until the early hours listening to Reginald massacring everything he turned his hand to.

What was cookin' was rock and blues from Henry's Funeral Shoe and headliners Wolf People. I enjoyed them both.

Henry's Funeral Shoe have a terrible name but make a pretty good sound, and a lot of it for two small to medium-sized Welshmen. It is fairly traditional blues rock, similar in style to the Black Keys (with whom they share a label), but they do it well.

Wolf People are clearly capable of being very good indeed, but on the basis of this set I am not sure they are yet more than the sum of their influences. At times it was a bit like listening to the heavier bits of an Island Records' sampler from 1970/71 - which, to be clear, I consider a good thing - a large dose of Free, a bit of 'Liege and Lief' era Fairport, and even the occasional hint of Quintessence and Blodwyn Pig. But they are definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Here is one track from each of their current albums, both available on Amazon and no doubt many other places as well.

"Henry's Funeral Shoe" - Henry's Funeral Shoe (from "Everything's For Sale", 2009)

"Black Water" - Wolf People (from "Tidings", 2010)

Here are Wolf People in Quintessence mode:

And here are the Henry's:

Saturday 17 April 2010

Chauke Time 4: Best of the Rest

Following our posts on Thomas, Conny and Themba Chauke, you will be relieved to hear we are bringing this series on the first family of Tsonga music to a close with a round up of the others. There are a lot of them so let's press on without delay.

1. G. T. Chauke

I have G.T.' s album "Sapota No. 3", which I picked up cheap on a market stall in Cape Town recently. I have been able to find out next to nothing about him, not even whether he is directly related to the rest of them or just shares a surname. The album was produced by Moses Dlamini, best known for producing The Soul Brothers in the 1970s and 1980s. A feature on Moses written in 2003 refers to him having worked in the past with G.T. Chauke "at one time a serious threat to the famous Thomas Chauke". So although the CD I have was released in 2008 my guess is that it is a reissue.

"Rhandza Dyondzo" - G.T. Chauke

"Movha Wo Xonga" - G.T. Chauke

2. Flora Chauke

Flora is one of Thomas Chauke's backing singers, The Shinyori Sisters, making her either a wife or a daughter of his. She is also the featured vocalist on this track from "Shimatsatsa No. 26", released in 2006.

"Ho Ha Lahlana" - Thomas Chauke & Shinyori Sisters

The previous year Flora won the Best Female Artist award at the Xitsonga Music Awards with this track performed as Sunglen & Flora

"Swa Hina Swa Nyawula" - Sunglen & Flora

3. Patson Chauke

The Sunglen & Flora track was produced by Patson. He has also worked, amongst others, with Mr. Jambatani - a treat yet to come - and our old friend Penny Penny. This is one he produced for old Double P in 2005 (presumably while Joe Shirimani nipped out for a fag).

"Shilebula" - Penny Penny

That brings us to the end of our tour of the musical Chaukes. But before we close let us not forget those who also serve. Hammy (up for the SAMA award tonight along with Thomas and Conny), Ethel and Eva (yet more Shinyori Sisters), Mikhongelo and Lloyd (drummer and engineer on Conny's albums), Sarah and Sonny (backing singers for George Maluleke, who we will feature in the future and who is also up for the SAMA Award) - WE SALUTE YOU ALL.

With a degree of inevitability I have not been able to find clips of any of these Chaukes on YouTube. So instead here is something by their distant cousins Chaukery Tip. Just pretend it is Themba singing it to Thomas.

Friday 16 April 2010

Chauke Time 3: Themba

It's Themba time!! Son of Thomas, brother of Conny, and latterly a star in his own right.

Like his old Dad - and like Chicago - Themba gives all his albums the same name with a different number on the end. His most recent album is "Ntsena Volume 5". Here are a couple of tracks:

"Stokswit" - Themba Chauke

"Masilo" - Themba Chauke

"Ntsena Volume 4" is OK but I much prefer his previous album, which I find much catchier and more full of life. You can probably work out what it was called. Here are a couple of tracks for comparison purposes, see what you think:

"Sweswi Hi 2" - Themba Chauke

"Ni Pfunivu" - Themba Chauke

I have not been able to find any clips of Themba on YouTube so instead here is a clip of his afore-mentioned distant cousins, Chaukago, when they were good.

Thursday 15 April 2010

Chauke Time 2: Conny

Today's Chauke of choice is Conny. Daughter of Thomas - see the previous post - and a member of his backing group The Shinyori Sisters, she is also a prolific solo artist. In fact her tenth and current album, "Magevenga", has been shortlisted for this Saturday's South African Music Awards. She will be going head to head with her old Dad for the Best Tsonga Music Album award. May the best Chauke win.

"Magevenga" is a real family affair, being as it is chock a block with Chaukes. Dad is there, writing and producing, ably assisted by brother Lloyd at the mixing desk. Brother Mikhongelo is on the drums while brother Themba - of whom more in the next post - programmed all the keyboards (of which there are a fair few).

Here are a couple of selections from the album:

"Riphandzu Ra B'Ava" - Conny Chauke

"Nsati Na Mugawula" - Conny Chauke

I have not been able to find any clips of Conny on YouTube so instead here is her distant cousin Chauke Demus. With Pliers (no relation).

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Chauke Time 1: Thomas

As any enthusiast of Tsonga music will know, you can't move far in that field without tripping over a Chauke. They are absolutely everywhere. Even in my own humble collection of Tsonga tunes (of the traditional and disco variety) there are contributions from at least seven of them. Over the next couple of weeks we are going to feature them all one way or another.

We are going to start with the Daddy of them all (metaphorically; literally he is only the Daddy of about half of them) - Thomas Chauke, one of the undisputed giants of the Tsonga scene. He was one of the pioneers of Tsonga Disco, which combines traditional call-and-response singing with a disco-influenced beat.

Thomas has been releasing an album a year for nearly 30 years, with cumulative sales of over two million in Southern Africa. Last year saw the release of "Shimatsatsa 29" (all his albums are titled "Shimatsatsa", which means "beautiful woman") on which he was backed as always by the Shinyori Sisters, who include among their number various of his wives and daughters. As with most of his albums it has been shortlisted in the best Tsonga music album category in the forthcoming South African Music Awards - the winners are to be announced on Saturday.

Unfortunately I haven't got that album, so you will have to make do with a couple of selections from a Greatest Hits compilation that came out a few years ago.

"Baji" - Thomas Chauke & Shinyori Sisters

"Nyoresh" - Thomas Chauke & Shinyori Sisters

I can't find any clips of Thomas on YouTube, so instead here is one of his distant cousin, Chauke Khan:

Sunday 11 April 2010

Hipcat Parade

A bit of 1970s Cape Town soul for you to see out the week. The fantastically named "Cape Herald Hipcat Parade" album has recently been reissued on EMI in South Africa and is well worth tracking down if you have the opportunity. But on the assumption that most of you won't have that opportunity, here are a couple of the high points.

The album was originally released in 1975 and all the featured acts are members of the Cape Coloured community, which is the largest ethnic group in the Western Cape and accounts for about 10% of the total population of South Africa.

The only artist on the album that acquired an international reputation was Jonathan Butler, who had his first local hit with "Please Stay" at the age of 12 or 13 and has gone on to have a pretty successful career as a George Benson style smooth jazz singer/guitarist. But locally the big name act were and are The Rockets, and their "Can't Stand These Lonely Nights" is the stand-out track on the album.

"Can't Stand These Lonely Nights" - The Rockets

"Sweet Number One" - Ivan Ross

The album also includes a cover of 10cc's "Donna" by the Athlone Express. Here is the original.

Saturday 10 April 2010

Tsonga Disco: Peta's Back

Before we get on to my new supplies of Tsonga Disco, we are going to dip into the archives once again. We have had a request from someone going by the unlikely name of Anonymous for some more selections from the late, great Peta Teanet. I am very happy to oblige.

Those of you unfamiliar with Mr Teanet and his ouevre might want to refer back to an earlier post and my woefully inadequate attempt to summarise his life story. The tracks featured there are still available for listening/downloading, as indeed are all the other Tsonga Disco tracks I have featured (normally I take things down after a month or so but in view of how difficult it is to get hold of any of this stuff outside South Africa I make an exception for Tsonga Disco). I would also encourage you to visit the One World Cyber Music Store where you can get hold of albums by Peta, Penny Penny, Joe Shirimani and a lot more great South African music. The postage is a bit steep but it is worth it.

Enough of the plugs, back to Peta. "Maxaka" (We Are Relatives) was released in 1988 and was the hit that began his eight year reign as the King of Tsonga Disco.

"Maxaka" - Peta Teanet

"Andi Qhelwa" - Peta Teanet

I don't know about the rest of you, but that Tsonga Disco beat just makes me want to dance myself dizzy.

Do you think that is her natural skin tone? And watch out for the hilarious xylophone solo at 2:10.

Friday 9 April 2010

Rockin' Robbie

Robbie Fulks has a reputation for being a piss-taking old bugger. So when he releases an album of Michael Jackson covers it is understandable that some reviewers assume it must be tongue in cheek. But I don't think it is. With a couple of exceptions it sounds like a pretty straight tribute to me (or as straight as he is capable of being).

The album in question is "Happy" and, as the "No Depression" review explains, it has finally been released roughly eight years after it was first promised. I have seen Robbie do a stomping live version of "Billy Jean" a couple of times, but I had no idea that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Here are a couple of favourites from the album:

"Farewell My Summer Love" - Robbie Fulks

"The Girl Is Mine" - Robbie Fulks & Nora O'Connor

As a bonus, here is Robbie with another duet cover version. This one is taken from a Webb Pierce tribute album called "Caught In The Webb" that came out in 2001.

"Tupelo County Jail" - Robbie Fulks & Joy Lynn White

Here is Webb himself with his daughter Debbie. The girl is his.

Thursday 8 April 2010

Proper Music

While I was in Cape Town I came across a market stall near Greenmarket Square where a gentleman was selling CDs for the princely sum of R10 (which is less than one of your English pounds). Needless to say I took advantage of his almost insane generosity and picked up a few. One of them was "Smokin' In Bed" by Denise LaSalle. Denise is one of my favourite female soul singers - up there with Betty Wright and Millie Jackson in my opinion - so I consider this a bit of a bargain.

"Smokin' In Bed" was released in 1997 on Malaco Records. For most of the 1980s and 1990s Malaco was the most reliable source of "proper" soul and blues, and Denise was only one of any number of stalwarts who got a new lease of life when they signed up - Little Milton, Bobby Bland, Johnnie Taylor, the list is mightily impressive.

"Smokin' In Bed" is well up to the usual Malaco standards. There are a couple of dodgy moments when Denise misguidedly attempts a more contemporary sound, but mostly it is just good solid Southen soul and blues done like it should be. The highlights include these two self-penned tracks:

"Five Below Zero" - Denise LaSalle

"Why Am I Missing You?" - Denise LaSalle

In what can only be described as a travesty the only time Denise has had any success in the UK was when her rickety version of "Don't Mess With My Toot Toot" made the top ten in the 1980s. I can't find a clip of her performing it, but there is no shortage of alternatives. Here is the original from Rockin' Sidney, and a cover by John Fogerty who really ought to know better.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Let's Get This Show On The Road

We're back. I flew in from Cape Town this morning laden down with goodies to share with you. I have lots more Tsonga music - disco and traditional - from old friends such as Penny Penny and General Muzka, various members of the Chauke clan, and some names that are new to me such as George Maluleke. On top of that we have other delights such as some 1970s Cape Town soul, 1980s Afro-Pop from Pat Shange, and the intriguing Mr Chacklas.

It is going to take me a while to sort through it all, so please bear with me. In the meantime, in tribute to the eleven hours I spent staring at the back of the chair in front of me and wishing I was able to sleep on planes, here are some aeroplane based tunes for you.

"Next Plane To London" - The Rose Garden (1968)

"I Lost My Heart On A 747" - Tom Paxton (1972)

"Jet Airliner" - The Steve Miller Band (1977)

And here is Billy J Kramer expounding on all sorts of transport options: