Thursday, 2 June 2011

The Man Japan

While I was in South Africa a couple of months back I picked up an album called "Apojorize" by one Japan Mjay. It is a sort of soul/ mbaqanga mix, released in 1999 but sounding like it dates from ten years earlier.

My initial attempts to find out more about Japan Mjay were not very successful. He doesn't turn up on Google, and does not merit a single mention in our old friend Max Thamagana Mojapelo’s seminal work “Beyond Memory: Recording the History, Moments and Memories of South African Music”. I was about to give up when I looked at the album credits. These suggested a connection with the mighty Soul Brothers, South Africa's leading exponents of the soul/mbaqanga sound since the mid-1970s and still going strong.

After a bit more digging, I can reveal that Japan Mjay was none other that Japan Sidoyi, a former member of  Imitshotshovu, the Soul Brothers backing band who also released a series of albums in their own right. Japan played the Hammond organ and provided backing vocals, and also guested with the likes of Oliver Mtukudzi in his spare time. He sadly passed away in 2002 at the tender age of 46.

This solo effort was produced by the Soul Brothers' Moses Ngwenya, with all songs co-written by those two and Dennis Gumede, of Dennis Gumede & The Teenagers "fame". Here are a couple of the high spots.

"Aporijize" - Japan Mjay

"Mhlekazi" - Japan Mjay

And with a degree of tedious inevitability, we move from a man called Japan to a Japanese Boy.

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