Friday, 16 July 2010

Mpharanyana Returns

In the early days of this blog I tried to pursue two "campaigns" (well, three if you count the half-hearted attempt to get Roger Whittaker elected to the International Whistlers' Convention Hall of Fame). One was to promote Tsonga Disco and the other was the bring to the world's attention the works of the late Mpharanyana, the greatest South African soul singer of the 1970s, and probably of any era.

The Tsonga Disco campaign continues, and there will be some new treats for you in the next couple of weeks, but after three months of having a weekly "Mpharanyana on Monday" slot that petered out. But in those early days I was averaging about five hits a day, and three of those were me checking to see if anyone else had passed by, so even most of our current regulars will probably have missed Mpharanyana. For that reason I thought we should bring him back.

Mpharanyana - real name Jacob Radebe - hailed from Katlehong in the East Rand and sang primarily in Sesotho, occasionally in English. Whatever the language, the sound was pure Southern Soul. He was backed by some top quality musicians including the legendary West Nkosi and Ray Phiri of Stimela and "Graceland" fame, both of whom also contributed to the songwriting. With the talents involved is it any wonder - to quote our old friend Max Mojapelo in his seminal personal history of South African music, "Beyond Memory" - "his hitlist was longer than praise singer Kgomedi Shika Lekgothwane's dedication to Prince George, the longest praise poem I ever had to memorise at school". No, me neither, but you get his drift.

Max also has something interesting to reveal about Mpharanyana's distinctive cough. I had always assumed it was a stylistic quirk inspired by Bobby 'Blue' Bland's throat-clearing sound, but it seems not. Apparently he had a coughing problem and "the tape would be stopped so many times during recording sessions for him to cough, until one day his producer West [Nkosi] decided that he should just cough within the songs". As Max notes, "funny how creativity can turn obstacles into something positive".

Anyway, here is a bit of a taster for you - three tracks including Mpharanyana's English language tribute to his home town of Katlehong, which conveniently rhymes with "where I belong".

"Kathelong" - Mpharanyana

"Mary" - Mpharanyana

"Yiyo Indlela Leyo" - Mpharanyana

Now, if you love those as much as I think you will, you aren't going to want me to string you along with one or two tracks a week. So why not follow this link for a load more. Fill your boots and tell your friends.

Needless to say there are no Mpharanyana clips on YouTube. But there is some Bobby 'Blue' Bland. Here he is in 1977 with the old country standard "Today I Started Loving You Again". It starts, naturally, with a mighty piece of throat clearing.


  1. Man they don't make them like that no-more. Whatever happened to that beautiful music, beats me.

  2. Sontheres no interviews about Mpharanya?
    Radio interview ?