Four tracks by one of the biggest names in South African disco: Condry Ziqubu. A regular on the local soul scene since the late 1960s in groups such as The Flaming Souls, The Anchors and The Flaming Ghettoes, by the mid-80s he had qualified as a sangoma (traditional healer), recorded with Harari (the biggest group in the country at the time), fronted his own group Lumumba, and travelled the world as part of Caiphus Semenya and Letta Mbulu’s band.

In 1986 he ditched Lumumba and released his first solo hit, ‘Gorilla Man’. Opening with an audacious 20-second intro, the song tells the story of a man preying on women in downtown Johannesburg. It highlights Condry’s winning formula of lyrics that touch on everyday South African issues and places (without drawing the attention of apartheid censors). Musically the song draws obvious influence from Piano Fantasia’s 1985 Euro-disco hit ‘Song for Denise’.

Also included on this new anthology is another song from the same album, the politically charged ‘Confusion (Ma Afrika)’, as well as ‘Phola Baby’ from his 1988 album Pick Six – a call to men to “stop pushing your woman around … what kind of man are you?” – and ‘Everybody Party’ from 1989’s Magic Man, a straight-up party song with no political or social intimations, other than as a brief escape from the harsh reality of the time, one that still resonates today.

Gorilla Man will be released on vinyl and digitally in early 2021 on Afrosynth Records (AFS047), distributed worldwide by Rush Hour in Amsterdam. Pre-order it here.

NEW HORIZONS: Young Stars of SA Jazz


South Africa’s jazz scene today is a vibrant one brimming with young talent. Several have emerged as bandleaders and composers, while at the same time being members of their contemporaries’ collectives - cross-pollinating each other’s music with various influences and pushing South Africa’s proud jazz heritage into the future.

From the trios of pianists Kyle Shepherd, Bokani Dyer and Yonela Mnana, to the genre-defying exploits of guitarists Vuma Levin and Reza Khota; and from artists inspired by age-old traditions, like Lwanda Gogwana and Mandisi Dyantyis, to the cosmic explorations of Siya Makuzeni, Benjamin Jephta, Thandi Ntuli, Zoë Modiga and Shane Cooper’s Mabuta - Afrosynth Records’ upcoming 2xLP compilation New Horizons highlights some of the country’s most talented young composers and bandleaders, as well as a wider cast of supporting musicians.

The current crop of jazz stylists under the spotlight are visionaries in their own right, exceptionally inventive figures who, while they enjoy the advantage and privilege of tapping into the rich musical heritage that preceded them, have brought to bear their creative impulses to collapse boundaries and push frontiers. Welcome to the world of players without borders.  

Compiled by: Shane Cooper & DJ Okapi
Mastered by: Wouter Brandenburg
Liner notes by: Sam Mathe
Cover artwork by: Michael MacGarry
Distributed by: Rush Hour Music

A1.    Benjamin Jephta Quintet - Evolution, Pt. 2 (B. Jeptha)  3:30
A2.    Thandi Ntuli - Cosmic Light (T. Ntuli)  6:16
A3.    Mabuta - Slipstream  (S. Cooper)  3:07
B1.    Kyle Shepherd Trio - Dream State (K. Shepherd)  6:31
B2.    Lwanda Gogwana – Maqundeni (trad, arr L. Gogwana)  1:58
B3.    Siya Makuzeni Sextet - Out Of This World (S. Makuzeni)  5:46
C1.    Bokani Dyer Trio - Fezile (B. Dyer)  5:50
C2.    Vuma Levin - Hashtag (V. Levin)  2:02
C3     Reza Khota Quartet - Lost Is a Place (R. Khota)  7:48
D1     Zoë Modiga - The Healer (Z. Modiga)  7:25
D2.    Mandisi Dyantyis - Kuse Kude (M. Dyantyis)  4:29
D3.    Yonela Mnana - Leagan (Y. Mnana)  1:45

Out in Q3 2020 - pre-order here!

CHICCO - I Need Some Money / We Can Dance


Soweto-born Sello Twala emerged as a key figure in South Africa’s bubblegum scene, initially cutting his teeth in the early 80s as part of groups Umoja, Harari and Image, who in 1985 released the track that would give him his nickname: ‘Chicco’.  
Teaming up with co-producer Attie van Wyk, later that year he released his first single as a solo artist, ‘We Can Dance’. 

It was followed in 1986 by ‘I Need Some Money’. Both tracks add accessible English lyrics and catchy call-and-response vocals to infectious Shangaan-rooted dance rhythms, appealing to a wide audience that defied apartheid categories and established Chicco as a charismatic solo star as well as a talented producer, both in SA and across the continent. 

The latest 12" release on Afrosynth Records combines his first 2 breakout hits on one album for the first time.

Chicco would go on to release politically charged pop albums We Miss You Manelow (1987), Thina Sizwe Esimnyama (1989), Soldier (1989), Papa Stop the War (1990) and Nomari (1991). As a producer he was behind Brenda Fassie's landmark 1990 solo album Black Presidentas well as other artists such as Nomuntu & Chimora.

Pre-order AFS048 here.

ADAYE - Turn It Up


South African disco 12” originally released in 1983, the start of the country’s ‘bubblegum’ era. Adaye was a once-off studio project featuring members of Stimela, the SA supergroup formerly known as The Cannibals and at the time also recording under aliases like the Street Kids and Kumasi

As Adaye they roped in singer Al Etto and went into the studio with Heads Music boss Emil Zoghby, who shares songwriting credits with Ray Phiri on the only track they released: ‘Turn It Up’ - an eight-minute slice of guitar funk throbbing to a disco beat. Remastered from the original tapes and reissued on Afrosynth Records.

Composed by R. 'Pierie' and E. Zoghby
Produced by Emil Zoghby for Heads Productions
Engineereed by Phil Audoire
Mastered by Wouter Brandenburg
1983 Heads Music / 2020 Afrosynth Records
Distributed by Rush Hour Music
Photography: Georgina Karvellas
Thanks to Peter Moticoe

Buy it here.

KAMAZU - Korobela

Afrosynth Records AFS043

Amidst the madness of apartheid, South Africa’s music industry in the 1980s propelled artists quickly to stardom, often at a young age. Some dwindled at the prospect of newfound fame and fortune. Others took on the responsibility and used their power to spread messages of consciousness that would be instrumental in bringing the racist regime to its knees.

By the mid-1980s, South Africa’s bubblegum era was already in full swing. One of the scene’s key acts was Harari, a band that launched the solo careers not only of founding members Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse and ‘Om’ Alec Khaoli but also ‘Funky’ Masike Mohapi, Condry Ziqubu and many others. Their 1985 album Heartbeat featured two new artists who would go on to play a major role in taking SA music into the ‘90s: Sello Twala, known as Chicco, and Danny Malewa, who would soon become better known as Kamazu.

Malewa was born in Orlando West in Soweto in 1961, an only child raised by his mother Thelma and grandfather Steven Malewa, who was forced to live under house arrest for his role in the then banned ANC, where he once rubbed shoulders with a young Nelson Mandela. This placed the Malewa house under constant scrutiny from police and local informants, who aimed to ensure that he complied with the law preventing more than two people entering the house at any given time, thereby prohibiting any form of meeting or gathering.

“Police used to come here, kick in the door looking for my grandfather, [see that] he’s here, [make him] sign, present.  Then they go. Any time of the day they’d come in,” recalls Kamazu.

His grandfather’s freedom of movement was also severely restricted. "If he had to go to town, he had to go the police station in Orlando, tell them, ‘I’m going to town’, then he gets a permit, then he goes to town.”

When Steven Malewa passed away in the early ‘80s, he left his grandson ready to step out into an increasingly volatile climate, armed with a deep insight into the brutal and absurd politics of the day, as well as a growing awareness of the power of music to fight it.

This spirit of activism had already fed into his own musical tastes, drawing him particularly to the politically charged sounds of reggae and Afrobeat.

“What drew me to that music was because it was banned in SA. We were not ‘allowed’ to hear reggae, we were not ‘allowed’ to hear Fela, ‘cos it was political, it was conscious music. I used to go to these ‘serious’ shebeens as a kid - ‘cos I was a smart kid - where elderly people go and they play their records there. They’d have their DJ there. I was 19, 20 - fresh from school,” remembers Malewa.

Like many other youngsters in Soweto, American sounds were also always on his radar. “I loved the Gap Band, funk - the Commodores, I loved that sound. I did listen to some of that, but I wasn’t focused on that. I was focused on Mahlathini, Mpharanyana and reggae. I liked playing music that nobody else was playing. People would think, ‘Oh, this is nice! Where did you get this from?’”

Compiled by DJ Okapi, this new anthology on Afrosynth Records brings together six songs from Kamazu’s career, all mastered from the original tapes: two of his biggest hits, his 1986 breakthrough ‘Korobela’ and his 1991 smash ‘Indaba Kabani’, two more obscure songs from his catalogue, ‘Victim’ and ‘Why’, and two songs from his kwaito-inspired 1997 comeback album, Ghetto Style, ‘Mjukeit’ and ‘Atikatareni’. Common throughout is the artist’s commitment to addressing social issues in a positive, uplifting way.

Buy it here.

OBED NGOBENI & the Kurhula Sisters - Ta Duma

Afrosynth Records AFS040

Obed Ngobeni and his backing singers the Kurhula Sisters were among the originators of Shangaan Disco, a genre that helped shape South Africa’s ‘bubblegum’ sound of the 80s.

The group emerged in 1983 with 'Kuhluvukile Ka Zete', a hit that later gained international recognition as ‘Kazet’. In 1984 Ngobeni follow this up with the album Gazankulu, which included the irresistibly catchy ‘Ta Duma’, pioneering in its fusion of traditional and electronic - a sign of things to come.

Heads Music boss Emil Dean Zoghby also cooked up a disco version of the track with producer Peter Moticoe and engineer Phil Audoire for release as a 12” (with a dub, of course), replacing the original version’s guitars with another layer of stinging synths and a proto-house beat to drive the song’s emphatic call-and-response chorus.

Ta Duma, the latest release on Afrosynth Records, brings together all three versions of this massive track for the first time - a tribute to the roots of bubblegum. On the B-side, ‘Xikhobva’ offers a more traditional bass and guitar-driven Shangaan groove over simmering drums.

‘Ta Duma’ was arguably Ngobeni’s crowning achievement, although his career would continue to grow. The albums Mchoza and Tshiketa followed in 1985 and ’86, the latter released on US label Shanachie as My Wife Bought A Taxi in 1987. Ngobeni’s audience even stretched to South America, where Eka Diza was released on Colombian label Discos Perla in 1988.

Buy AFS040 here.

THE BEES - She’s A Witch (Tikoloshi)

Afrosynth Records AFS042

Little-known trio The Bees consisted of Dominic Coka, Solomon Phiri and Anthony Sibanda. Their 1988 album She’s A Witch (Tikoloshi) features six dancefloor-ready, distinctively South African tracks that show how bubblegum in the late 80s embraced house music. Produced by Steve Cooks, who would go on to work with heavyweights Senyaka, Spokes H and Umoja in the years that followed. 

Searing vocals and percussive synth basslines are best on ‘Hlabalaza’ (already a DJ favourite) and the title track, its lyrics telling the spooky tale of an evil woman who rules the night - ‘Tikoloshi’ being the mischievous creature of Zulu folklore (usually a man) who is still widely blamed for all manner of mysterious happenings in the middle of the night.

Buy it here.

SEA BEE - I Wanda Why?

Afrosynth Records, AFS039 

Originally released in South Africa in 1994 on the Mighty Good Sounds imprint, Sibi Motloung’s debut album was a hit in the earliest days of kwaito, the house-infused soundtrack of a newly democratic nation. 

While it may have been Sea Bee’s release, key to the album’s success was the magic touch of Spokes H, who composed, produced and arranged all the tracks. Sea Bee would soon disappear off the radar, while Spokes remained an influential and popular figure in SA until his untimely death in 2013. 

The latest release on Afrosynth Records removes two tracks from the original six-track album, keeping four of the choicest downtempo dancefloor bombs – ‘Home Boy’, ‘I Wanda Why’, ‘Thiba’ and ‘Stoppa - all heavy on the bass, with uplifting vocals and unique lyrics guaranteed to not let any discerning (or aspiring) DJ down – ever!

Buy it here.

A Spokes H Production. All tracks composed by Ishmael Hlatshwayo
Engineered by Fab Grosso. Recorded at Grosso Studios
Keyboards by Peter Chilly Tshabalala. Backing vocals by Dolphy Maloka, Tutu Mogulatsi, Billy Lethoba & Sylvia Moloi
Mastered by Wouter Brandburg
Cover Art by Grant Jurius/Future Nostalgia
Distributed by Rush Hour


Afrosynth Records, AFS037 

Rare South African disco from 1981, re-issued for the first time on Afrosynth Records. 

The title track ‘Dance’ was originally released in 1980, a hit throughout Europe written by Belgian composers Frank Degrijse and Alain Denisse, released as Night Force and produced by ill-fated Dutchman Bart van der Laar.

In Johannesburg, where a promo was sent to the offices of the local independent label Music Team, it was decided that the song would be released to the South African market at a slower tempo, the original 45rpm slowed down to 33rpm.

Originally released in South African in 1981, the slowed-down version of Dance was the brainchild of Enoch Ndlela during his days at Music Team, run by Maurice Horwitz.

Ndlela recalls: “Before I left [Music Team], I found ‘Dance’, a maxi single from Italy – Night Force and Tom Cats. It was a maxi single and the tempo was high. Because the tempo is Italy, it’s white people. I told Maurice, ‘This is a hit, but you have to slow it down’. He refused, but I had to persuade him into slowing it down.

“Now the story is that it was a mistake that I played in on 33. It was not a mistake. I did it! I am a musician, I’m a producer. The master was sent and we asked permission to slow it down to suit the market… You can hear it differs if you know the original.“

The move dropped the beats per minute from a frantic 135 down to 113, transforming the original into a slow-burner for the earliest days of the South African disco market, which would soon explode into what became known as bubblegum.

The trend in South Africa of pitching down imported dance records continued and in the following decade gave rise to the first kwaito releases.

Added to the Night Force tracks are four songs by The Tom Cats, Music Team’s in-house production team. Most recognisable are dub reworkings of recent Afrosynth releases ‘Burnin Beat (It’sHot)’ and ‘Searchin’ - originally released two years earlier, in 1979 - here re-titled ‘Hot Stuff’ and ‘Search For Love’ respectively.

Synth-heavy oddities ‘You Are My Fire’ and ‘Shake Shake’ make up the rest of the tracklist, credited to Jannie Smit, who a few years later would work on V.O.’s Mashisa, another recent South African re-issue.

Night Force & The Tom Cats Dance (AFS037) will be available in late 2018. Order from Rush Hour here.

MABUTA - Welcome To This World

Afrosynth Records, AFS041

Afrosynth Records is proud to announce its first new release: Cape Town collective MABUTA's Welcome To This World.

The album is the brainchild of Shane Cooper, a central figure in the new wave of young voices in South Africa’s thriving jazz scene. The bassist, composer and producer from Cape Town has paid his dues as a prolific sideman and award-winning acoustic artist. He is also involved in South Africa’s leftfield electronic scene as Card On Spokes.

In 2017 Cooper wanted to start a new project that would be a platform for him to consolidate ideas from his jazz and electronic pursuits under one umbrella. This project is MABUTA – taking it’s name from the Japanese word for ‘eyelid’, playing on the power of the eyelid as the doorway between the dream world and the real world.

Cooper recruited some of South Africa’s most exciting young artists for the group: Bokani Dyer (piano, Rhodes and synths), Sisonke Xonti (tenor sax), Marlon Witbooi (drums) and Robin Fassie-Kock (trumpet). He then ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to raise the money to record MABUTA’s debut album Welcome To This World.

Photo by Aidan Tobias
The resultant sound is deep and dynamic – timeless yet groundbreaking in its originality. MABUTA fuses acoustic and electronic elements on an eight-track album that in years to come will be regarding as a  seminal 21st-century addition on South African’s long and proud jazz tradition. The album also ventures further into other parts of Africa, including Mali (on ‘Bamako Love Song’), Nigeria (‘Log Out Shut Down’) and Ethiopia (‘Tafattala).

MABUTA’s debut album features several notable guest artists, including globe-trotting British tenor saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings (Shabaka & The Ancestors, Sons of Kemet), South African saxman Buddy Wells, and Swazi percusionist Tlale Makhene.

The 2xLP vinyl edition of Welcome To This World is released exclusively on Afrosynth Records, the first contemporary release on a label until now associated with bubblegum and kwaito re-issues from the 80s and 90s. It is distributed worldwide by Rush Hour Music in Amsterdam and will be released during the second half of 2018. Order it here.

“This debut from MABUTA is a nice example of how doing something a little bit different doesn’t necessarily have to be an obstacle to creating supremely embraceable music.  The sextet’s mix of South African jazz and contemporary electronic music is all kinds of friendly and forges a strong connection, even as it simultaneously creates an environment that sparks an introspective reaction.” – Bird is the Worm 

 “Shane Cooper and his many incarnations will always offer the freshest air for your lungs, the awakening your mind has been craving and sustenance for your soul. The MABUTA collective has released a mesmerizing album, timeless and challenging all at once. You’ll have this on repeat for a while and return to it often.” - Texx and The City

NTOMBI NDABA - 'Tomorrow'

Afrosynth Records AFS036 

SOUTH African music has undoubtedly been blessed with many fine female voices, too numerous to list here. During the 1980s a new generation emerged. For many fans of that era’s music, one voice stands out above the rest: Ntombi Ndaba. 

Eleanor Ntombikayise Ndaba was born on 28 February 1958 in Vryheid (Afrikaans for ‘Freedom’), in the Zululand region north of Durban. In the early 1960s her family was forced to relocate to the newly built township of eMondlo a few kilometres away, along with millions of other South Africans living under the notorious system of enforced segregation known as apartheid.

Ntombikayise (isiZulu for ‘Daddy’s girl) grew up in a close-knit family. Her father worked as a driver for a local furniture company, her mother as a domestic worker for a family in town. As a young girl Ntombi would sit glued to her radio, taking it all in. The first record she bought was ‘Ngiyabuza’ by Letta Mbulu, one of her biggest influences.

As a teenager she started singing for a local band in eMondlo called Shame. Hooked, she decided to follow her dream and make the journey, like so many others, to the City of Gold: Johannesburg.

 “I’ve always known I’d be a singer,” she remembers. “I was singing in church and in school. I wasn’t shy at all. I’m not shy, I’m an outspoken person. I don’t get nervous when I sing, I just feel free, and happy.”

In Joburg young Ntombi auditioned successfully to join the cast of Gibson Kente, the famous “father of township theatre”, in a production titled Hungry Spoon. In the same cast were two other young singers who were soon to become major stars of the ‘bubblegum’ era: Phumi Maduna (of Cheek To Cheek) and Brenda Fassie.

During breaks from Hungry Spoon’s schedule, Ntombi would return home to eMondlo, where she soon drew the attention of local entrepreneur A.T. Khoza, known to one and all as ‘Rubber’. So impressed was the wealthy businessman that he offered to put a band together for Ntombi, including paying for all the instruments they would require. 

“When I was with Hungry Spoon, we were moving around all over South Africa,” says Ntombi. “When I went home for holidays, thinking that I’ll come back again to Gibson Kente, that’s when Rubber suggested that he buys me the whole set of instruments. We came here to Johannesburg, to Gallo Studios [situated downtown on the corner of Kerk and Goud Streets], and collected the guys. Musicians were sitting outside waiting for jobs.”

Ntombi and Rubber made their pick: keyboardists Jerry Dube and Bheki Zulu, Bongani Sithole on bass, Enock Nkosi on drums. Hailing from various parts of the country, they drove around collecting their belongings before heading back to eMondlo. “That’s when we started to rehearse together. Rubber gave us a big house behind one of his businesses and we rehearsed there. That’s when the Survival was formed.”

Meanwhile, Ntombi and Rubber’s relationship soon flourished. “As a businessman he used to hire these guys I was singing with and ask them to do some shows for him. I happened to be there. And then we just fell in love…”

The band’s first opportunity to record came when a contact at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in Durban put them in touch with Clive Riskowitz (aka Clive Risko), a successful producer who ran his own label, Reamusic. In 1985 Ntombi & Survival released their first two singles, including her breakthrough hit ‘Think More About Me’, a 10-minute ballad that established Ntombi as a star in the making, as well as a talented lyricist and songwriter.

“I never had any awards; the only thing I knew was how my fans reacted when I performed that song. They couldn’t stop asking for encore, again and again! People watched in amazement, some of them couldn’t believe I had that energy. They were so excited.”

The following year Ntombi & Survival’s star continued to rise with the release of the albums I Am Trying and Dance The Night Away. 

By 1987 the group had left Reamusic and signed to one of the biggest labels of the day, EMI’s CCP Records, also home to Brenda Fassie and her backing back The Big Dudes. At EMI Ntombi & Survival released two more albums in 1987, Sweet Love and What Is It With Me (Yini Ngami). As usual, songwriting credits went to Ntombi while Khoza was credited as the producer and arranger, although the band played an important role in crafting the songs, particularly Dube.

In search of more creative freedom and a healthier cut of the profits, Rubber and Ntombi soon parted ways with CCP to set up their own label, Anneko. The establishment of the new label saw the singer going solo and starting to work with a wider group of session musicians, and even branching out to producing other artists. 

She released her first album as Ntombi Ndaba in 1988: Mina Ngilijaji (isiZulu for ‘I am the judge’), the title track a powerful affirmation of her independence as an artist and a woman, and another hit with her fans. The same album also included tracks like ‘I’ve Got a Friend’, ‘Do You Trust Amajita’ and a cover of British singer Joan Armatrading's 'Weakness In Me' (originally released in 1981), a nod to one of Ntombi’s favourite international artists.

More solo albums soon followed: Mama Nature in 1989, then Will Power and Why Me in 1991, featuring a new version of her breakthrough hit ‘Think More About Me’.

At their peak, Ntombi and her band would perform up to 20 shows a month in every corner of South Africa. “We were always on the road,” she remembers. “The only memory I have is that, when people love you, they’d usually come to me. Some offered a place to stay, which I didn’t want, but they used to show love. Those are good memories.”

Just as quickly as she rose to fame in 1985, in the early 90s Ntombi disappeared. Following Rubber Khoza’s unexpected death, she sold their house in Soweto and returned to her family home in eMondlo, never to record or perform again. Since then she has been living a quiet life in eMondlo with her mother, far removed from the bright lights of Johannesburg and her former life as one of South Africa’s most loved and talented artists.