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LA CASA TROPICAL

Much in demand album from 1986. Not much is known about the mysterious pop sensation Vumani or his short musical career. Originally from KwaZulu Natal he made his way to Johannesburg in the mid 80’s to follow his dream of becoming a recording artist. He was able to make that dream come true when talent scouts from Decibel Music came across the charismatic youngster. At the time Decibel was still a small fish trying to make waves and the label believed in Vumani they had found the star they were looking for. Being a label with mostly groups signed to the catalog they needed a Front Man to push into the growing demand for Solo Artists that were dominating the airwaves and catching the hearts of youngsters.

Up to this point Decibel had one major hit record. In 1986 they released a single by an artist named David Thanzwane. The music was a direct rip off of the first hit single by Shangaan Disco pioneer Paul Ndlovu. Copying the music of both sides of the original single the covers offered different lyrics and hooks also sung in xiTsonga. This was enough to trick the masses and the single led to record sales for the small label. The unintentional outcome of the single was that from then on the producers and label had one sound they wanted to pump out in hopes of recreating that magic. This desire to create another Shangaan Disco hit would be the backbone of the Vumani sound and what makes his music so special and collectable after all these years.

That same year Vumani would release two Singles, "Black Mampatile" and "Guy Fawkes". Musically these playful and fun singles would have great appeal to youngsters as they sung of daily life in the Townships. Black Mampatile being a game of Hide and Seek, Banana Kari referring to the trucks that would go around the Township exchanging chips and snacks for glass bottles and of course every child’s favourite reason the dress up on November 5th, Guy Fawkes Day. Both singles were received well and a few more tracks were later recorded to create the full album Isiqedakoma. Although he would sing in Zulu the music was unmistakable for Shangaan Disco. The synth heavy bass lines and happy melodies along with relatable fun lyrics were a perfect blend for an album that would make people dance if they were out at a Tavern or Shabeen on a weekend or just enjoying at home with family and friends.

Vumani quickly became the Label’s top priority with managers making sure he always had the freshest clothing styles to go along with his persona, and he never missed any performances or opportunities to impress a crowd. His popularity grew in the Township’s but with that came the unfortunate and all too common problems with fame. He started getting mixed with wrong crowds. He would record another album for Miracle Music, the Decibel sub label that had emerged to focus on the more underground sounds of the post synth pop era. Musically things were going well for Vumani but it would be his life off the stage that would catch up with him. Always known for his commitment to his music and fans one day he uncharacteristically failed to show up and was never heard from again. His body would later be found in a burnt car on the outskirts of Soweto. What led to his tragic death was never known but with the company he kept it is not hard to imagine what one of the many situations that led to that horrific ending could be. His funeral was attended by the entire Township it seemed as people packed the service and flowed out onto the streets, a testament to his popularity and the love the people had for one of their own.

STAFF COMMENTS

Matt says: Much needed repress of this highly sought after bubblegum centric release from Vumani. One of only four release by the South African cult star, original copies can fetch up to £400! Stick this in yer pipe discogs!

TRACK LISTING

Isiqedakoma
Guy Fawkes
Banana Kar
I Can Play
Midnight Express
Cheater
Black Mampatile

Heavy South African cut, unearthed by Dene from LCT, All about the massive title track ''Got My Magic Working''...

The origins of Amajika is a tale of two worlds colliding at the perfect moment and begin in KwaMushu Township outside Durban. Here would be where a young Tu Nokwe would set up a school to help teach other aspiring youngsters like herself in music, dance and acting. This would become known as the Amajika Youth and Children’s Art Project and would be run from the Nokwe home, a common hangout for artists at the time. Some boast 2000+ pupils going through this program while others claim it wasn’t more than a backyard dance group, but for the lucky group of kids that were members in the mid 80s it would be their chance at stardom.


It was during these years that a young aspiring playwright and musician Mbongeni Ngema had come across Tu and her group of gifted youngsters at the Nokwe family home. Although he was touring extensively at the time with the plays Woza Albert and Asinamali, the latter which eventually ended up on broadway, he would spend any time off from the tour with Tu and her dance troop. After being inspired by the American group New Edition, Mbongeni envisioned Amajika as the South African answer and decided to bankroll a studio session.


The session would take place in a private studio in Durban.The release of the first single would follow very shortly. The lead track, Tomati-So is a fun swinging groove over some basic programmed drums. The song is dedicated to Tu Nokwe sings of her unique style and kind heart. On his next tour Mbongeni would take the remaining masters with him to the US and had the track remixed. Although it never materialized in a release States side he did return with the remixed tape and release it in South Africa the following year. Much like Tomato So the song was an ode and would be dedicated to the man who was making all their dreams come true. Got My Magic Working sings of going overseas and being a star on Broadway and TV and the man who is making it all happen. All these true predictions are sung on top of a groovy acid bass by a clearly matured troop of artists.


During these years of working with Amajika, Mbongeni became very impressed with the exceeding talent of one of the members and decided to cast her in his upcoming musical Sarafina. The other children also wanted to be a part of the Broadway show but not everyone would get a role. This would be the end of Amajika as the next years would be dedicated to creating success on the musical stage. The growing kids that formed Amajika became young adults and pursued their own careers after the fact. Tu Nokwe would leave the country to return years later as the wife of Shaka Zulu on the big screen. To this day she is still very active both on stage and screen while Mbongeni is still writing and adding to the South African Musical Theatre catalog.


Fast forward 30 years from the original release to a smokey club where ESA hears Got My Magic Working played by Rush Hours Store’s own Bonnefooi. Instantly he inquires about the track from his homeland and feels it a perfect addition the repertoire of the Afro Synth band he is quietly cooking up. The band’s instrumental take ended up as the B side on a mysterious and limited white label released by Rush Hour in early 2020 but quickly sold out.


Here you have compiled the two title tracks from original Amajika singles along with the instrumental version by ESA’s Afro Synth Band for The complete Amajika experience, past to present. 

TRACK LISTING

Amajika - Got My Magic Working
Amajika - Tomati So
Esa's Afro-Synth Band- Got My Magic Working (Dub Mix)

The start of the 90's brought the final wave of house music that would cement it as the future of South Africa’s music scene. in the years leading up to the new decade, disco had already naturally evolved into the very early stages of what would become South Africa’s signature house sound, with instrumentals and dub mixes earning themselves spots on the Pantsula records leading the charts of the late 80s, it would be an influx of remixes appearing on import singles that would make the “house mix” the premier b-side sound for those bubblegum artists trying to stay relevant in the 90’s.

The house remixes coming from Chicago and New York dominated the airwaves at first, eventually gaining genre status by the later part of the decade as international house or just international for short. At the time this would have been synonymous with house music everywhere else in the world. After a years of these tracks getting remixed by the touch of the local talent, International no longer fit the description of what the music was and Kwaito became the sound of the streets. In the studio, Kwaito was the sound of the next generation of producers that was coming up under the disco legends of 80s. In total it took less than 5 years total for the sound to evolve. It would be in this transition period between International and Kwaito, with the help of the new wave of studio talent, that we find the ingredients that gave birth to a short lived yet unique African house sound.

After a long career with the soul group The savers, Morgan Kwele cut two solo records under his own name in the late 80’s. Without much success and after being dropped by EMI, Morgan was picked up by Peter Snyman and Independent Sounds of Soweto. At the time it was becoming a premier label for the emerging house sounds. M’du and Joe Nina would both end up working at Snyman’s studio, and it would be their collaborating project La Beat that would launch their respective careers further. For his new album Morgan would team up with legendary producer and long time friend from the 70s Koloi Lebona. they would work together once more and record what most likely became Morgan’s final album. The title track Vakonwana became the lead single, with the original bubblegum version on the A-side for the old timers and the club version on the flip for the late nite parties.


STAFF COMMENTS

Matt says: Brilliant, and overlooked moment of South African house / bubblegum unearthed by La Casa Tropical - TIP!

TRACK LISTING

A1. Vakonwana
B1. Vakonwana (club Mix)

Scotch

Jam Alley / Bafana Bafana

By 1995 Kwaito was already a well established and distinguishable sound compared to the International House Remixes that preceded. The tempo was slowed down, Soulful vocal samples were replaced by catchy and repetitive hooks and versus sang in vernacular. The new hit sound had a template and studios worked around the clock to pump fresh releases into the demanding market.

After the successful 1995 release of Import mixes Vol 4, The Groove City team behind the productions now decided to venture into the territory of Mid Tempo. They would craft an album for a young frontman with the help of Kwaito pioneer Oscar Warona, and without much trouble, the team had their first hit on their hands. Filling the boots of their cars with copies of the cassettes and taking the stock to various townships around Johannesburg the tape quickly circulated and sold out every new batch that was printed. Demand was high for the release but as with much of the music at the time, the fast paced demand for the music moved on. Without a follow up release Scotch failed to ride the momentum built by the debut and remained largely unknown although he is still in the music industry to this day.

Even with their first artist release being a success, the following years proved more difficult in reaching such a large audience for the Kaleidosound studio. With popularity for the genre growing, the simple templates for early classics were changing as Kwaito fused with hip hop. Rapping took over as the preferred vocals for the masses. Mysterious production teams and labels that served as guides for music lovers were eclipsed by frontmen and groups that could draw crowds. The fight for fresh sounds continued as the airwaves became the main battleground for artists and the more club oriented music was pushed back underground, eventually evolving into some of the earliest examples of Deep House seen on the continent. The Kaleidosound production team would finally strike gold again in 1997 when reviving Groove City for vol. 5 which acted as the debut for the newly formed group Chiskop. The group would become superstars of the new commercial era that followed, sparking solo careers for the members and creating some of the biggest hits the genre knew.

To this day Scotch remains one of the best albums to come out of the golden era of Kwaito. Although it was outperformed by other groups from the time it has a special place for those who knew it and can still be found as a treasured piece in many collections. The various people involved created a one off fusion of sound that has remained fresh for 25 years. Playful lyrics over floaty grooves resulted in favourites like “Jam Alley” which uses catch phrases from the beloved TV show and “Bafana Bafana” guaranteed to get the boys on the dance floor. Here you have these two tracks taken from the album pressed on a club ready Maxi Single for the Deejays

TRACK LISTING

A1. Jam Alley
B1. Bafana Bafana


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