Quentin Foster (l) with US DJ Danny Tenaglia at the 1995 Winter Music Conference in Miami.

The following is a phone interview on 14/2/2023 with QUENTIN FOSTER, producer of CITI EXPRESS - Living for the City (AFS055):

[Tell us about the scene at the time and how Citi Express came about]

I was a DJ at the time, I used to play in nightclubs around Joburg, mainly in the kind of alternative dance clubs, like the Junction, that was really my core base of playing, but I really played everywhere.. from Plum Crazy through to the likes of Idols, Babylon, many many different clubs… but more on the underground scene, rather than the commercial - like Caesar’s Palace, I stayed away from places like that. I was more sort of into the indie dance, indie style.

Junction was originally Deco-Dance. It was owned by a guy named Shane Leith who is still around, he actually lives in George. I think he’s probably retired now… but Shane was very prominent in the clubbing scene, he was involved in Zips and Zanzibar, which were very prominent gay nightclubs.. Gay clubbing was very big at the time. And actually that’s how I met Patrick van Blerk was through those circles. I got involved in the music industry through Patrick, and Patrick at that time was involved – both Ronnie (Robot) and Patrick – were involved with Roots Records. Roots Records did basically the jazz stuff – so Blue Note and GRP Records – they did a lot of the jazz stuff, they released that in South Africa. And then at then at the same time they basically had little sister, umbrella, fledgling companies, like Ronnie On Records and Patrick van Blerk’s PVB Music.. 

I was more involved with Patrick van Blerk rather than Ronnie. I sort of came into the industry through Patrick. Patrick recognized some abilities, behind the turntables I guess, almost as a fledgling producer, and he saw that I had a flair for it. And kind of got the ball rolling, at that level, he took me under his wing. I worked with him for PVB Music, I was involved in production for him.

This is mid to late 80s. That was sort of the waning of disco, and we just started getting into the house scene.. so Ital-disco, or Ital-house, started coming to the fore. And a lot of those influences you could already start to see. You call it bubblegum, that was pre-kwaito.. and a lot of those sort of Ital-disco sort of things were very much used in a lot of the bubblegum-type music that was around at the time.

Now, you must also bear in mind that Ital-disco, there were two kind of strains – mainly the western, sort of American house, American disco sort of thing that was going on… so Paradise Garage, up into Chicago, those areas, Detroit at well… so you’ve got that big, American feel going on … and then you had the Europeans which were doing their own thing, so the likes of Germany, but mainly Italy – Italy was very big, they obviously did all that Ital-disco stuff.

And if you can imagine, South Africa has traditionally been — the music industry has been kind of — forgive me for bringing colour into this, but — it was really, a lot of the white people had studios. Those were the guys that had the resources.. So you can see already that a lot of our inspirations were drawn from more European than it was from the American side of things. Even though 90% of the country was black, and there was still a community or fraternity of people that were very into that American thing … but a lot of the productions that were being done, a lot of the releases that were coming out, were all driven through Europe, and through European eyes, if that makes any sense.

I was very much a rebel in the scene. I wasn’t very well liked by a lot of the producers … a lot of the community. I was always trying to do things differently. I was playing alternative music. I was a straight guy playing in gay nightclubs, and just trying to do different things. And I had very much adopted that sort of American feel. For me it was all about the soul – the soul in the music. And the European stuff just didn’t do it for me. There was no soul in that European music. 

And all the stuff that came after that.. you’ve got that whole acid-house thing, which was derived originally from America. In fact, almost all the sources always came from the American side. Even that whole acid-house thing that was a huge wave in Europe at the time, which again had massive influence into bubblegum, and even kwaito as well, there’s some elements of acid as well. 

But [I was interested in] more the America, the Detroit scene – they had it going on with that acid house thing as well. It was basically called Detroit techno… the likes of Juan Atkins… there’s some really good DJs still around now … that are still producing, that came out of that acid-house era. Todd Terry for instance, he’s a classic one. Todd Terry was behind Everything but the Girl..

So you can see, all of these inspirations, it’s all interlinked.. I think one of the epicentres of it all, it comes down to a place called the Winter Music Conference, which is in Miami.. In the early 90s … in fact I was one of the first people (from SA) to go to those Winter Music Conferences. I went to two of them, I think '94 and '96, somewhere around there. It was basically a symposium or a summit, a gathering of dance tribes from around the world. The Europeans were very strong in going to Miami, and there was just a really amazing week-long party, but the essence of it was really around understanding and attending a conference, the Winter Music Conference, which is typically in one of the main hotels in Miami. You’d have composers and remixers and artists, all different kinds (of people), everything related to dance – all different genres and cultures and everything. It would all come together and [people would] share understanding and inspirations. That’s kind of where it all started. It’s still going today, for sure. 

There’s guys who were producing in my era who are still DJing, guys like Danny Tenaglia, still making hits. The likes of David Morales, who’s probably one of the greatest dance producers on the planet. Those kinds of guys have always been inspirations of me… 

We couldn’t really get access to what they had at the time, through apartheid we were very much boycotted in terms of the music we got.. so one of the reasons why I got into music was well, it was one of the only ways we could spread our wings. We had to literally create cover versions of some of the American tracks that they refused to get released, but there was still a demand. The demand didn’t go away. We had the demand, and especially within the black community.. the demand was there, they wanted the music. But we couldn’t get it. We couldn’t release it. So what did we used to do? We used to cover it. We used to take those tracks.. Like (his other project) Vision, the main tracks on that were covers, they’re not actually original songs, they’re songs that were released overseas that we could not get licence to release. And back then we didn’t dare step outside the lines and do what the guys do today.. they don’t even care anymore. They take stuff that’s not even their’s and they put it on their labels and they release it.

The first choice was never to do covers.. but we had no choice. There was a demand. Where there’s a demand it needs to be taken care of. 

Even now, I still produce and I still do music at that level. If I have the slightest, subtle hint of a demand, I go after it. And things have changed hugely to now.. I stepped away from the business side of music.. that kind of killed it for me. I got very disillusioned with it back in the early 2000s. One of the albums I did actually won a Sama award for best pop album of the year – there was an artist by the name of Kaylin Thomson Woods, it was an album we did called All I Am.. I think it was back in 2003 or 4. She won best pop album of the year, and I produced that… that was done between myself and neil snyman, also a very good producer at the time.. also his dad was very much involved in a lot of the uprising of that post-bubblegum into kwaito… 

…. At the Leading Edge studios in Bryanston, I forget the name of the guy who ran it but he basically had all the publishing for Abba in Africa… and from the fallout from that, he basically made a lot of money. And you can see that’s all European-driven money and it worked it’s way into recording studios. And that recording studio became CSR Recordings, which was owned by Chris Ghelakis, he ran the Thunderdome, involved with bands like The Rasta Rebels and Syndicate Sisters. He was an icon in his business, in the music industry.. in fact I used to work for him for a period of time. The whole thrust of his original business was all around covers.. 100% dance, 100% pop, you name it, everything was covers. He ran a whole team of producers, and I was one of those. When I came back from the UK.

I actually went to live with Neil Snyman and had a recording studio in the UK together, and when I came back I actually winded up working for Chris Ghelakis for a period of time, and I got really good at doing covers back then, because that’s all we did. And that was even just after apartheid had ended.  But because the cover scene was working so well — you must remember, that being an industry that had been going on for a decade already, and probably even beyond that — but from the mid-80s to the early 90s, just to when apartheid fell, and even when apartheid went, there were still these record companies that were driven into doing covers. Like Chris Ghelakis (at CSR), the majority of what he did was covers, but then he had a great facility, and he would also do the likes of Soweto String Quartet on the side, and there were other albums that were originals that were done. So it wasn’t just covers. Covers made money, and the money sponsored a lot of other stuff, so it was a beautiful kind of ecosystem that was going at the time. One fed the other, one hand washed the other.. it was a beautiful synergy that was going on .. with everything. Although it was kind of a dark period.. being apartheid and all that other stuff. But we tried to make hay while the sun shined. We did the best that we could with what we had.

[Were nightclubs at the time defying apartheid or mostly segregated?]

Be careful not to get stuck into generalisations and stick to one narrative .. there were many different nightclubs. There were an incredible amount of genres that were done. There was sakkie-sakkie boeremusiek clubs as well.. so you can’t say all nightclubs did the same.. I mean, some of the clubs that I played in, they were very much freeminded, free-willed, free-spirited. Apartheid didn’t really exist in those clubs.. Although you must understand that apartheid worked very well in terms of splitting society. The kind of clubs that we went to… There was pantsula that was going on, there were a lot of black-driven (music scenes), shebeens going on. You had DJs that were very much involved with that - the likes of DJ Christos, for instance. He was very much involved with that scene, the kind of music he was playing, and even the venues he was playing, he did a lot more black-oriented stuff. The kind of stuff I was doing was more for the white, gay community… and although it was kind of open, it wasn’t – I mean, there were black people in the club, but it wasn’t really a black scene. 

It’s kind of weird, even now, today, we can’t just think that everything just gets together, and all colours just come together. It was very much based on the type of music that was playing.. and there would be a gathering of those people… 

For instance (today) if you’re gonna have your sort of amapiano vibe that’s going on now.. you’re gonna have 80% of those … are going to be black and 20% white. It’s the demographic, it’s not really based on race or colour, it’s just based on style, on music preference. So that existed back then. But the clubbing scene, definitely I think it helped to break down those walls, in the clubs. There was the presence of police, we were raided a few times at some of the clubs I played in, but it was really anything heavy. We weren’t beaten up. There weren’t gunshots and heavy armoured vehicles and stuff like that… we kind of were left to do our own thing, so it was very free-spirited, free-willed stuff going on. 

And for me, in the kind of vein that I did, I’ve always tried to be as open-hearted and open-minded, and specific to race and colour and things like that, even now. I work in an environment where 90% of my company is black, and we’ve very much gone after that ideal of trying to do away with any biases that relate to colour. And I take pride in that, and I’ve learnt from that era. I think the only reason why I’m still around in corporate business today is because of some of the learnings and understandings, and what just rubbed off on me back then, in terms of just being open-hearted, open-minded and stuff like that.

So it’s worked well for me… clubbing, I can’t say enough about it. It just opened my eyes, opened my world, opened my views … I think it broadened my capacity as a human being... It was a beautiful period… coming out that last sort of drumroll of apartheid that we came out of… I mean, I went to the army, I did my two years of national service.. and none of anything I ever did.. I believe I never did anything to harm any black people, I never did anything to really reinforce a regime. Although even having said I was part of the military, I never had to kill anybody, I never had to do anything, really, that harmed another human being, let alone one from a difference race or whatever… so I was a bit fortunate in that. And maybe I was a bit protected from the real things that were going on – I never went to the border of Namibia (Angola), I was protected to a point, but nonetheless I went through it all, and I’m still around… 

[How did you select the tracks for Citi Express?]

Obviously at that time, it was a moment in time, and you connected. There’s a lot of connections, with the companies and the people in the companies and in the music business, within the clubbing fraternity and things like that. I was quite a prominent DJ at the time, so the selection of tracks came from … well, Ronnie said he had the one Stevie Wonder track in mind… he said ‘I really would love to have this track redone’, and obviously we were going for a certain sound, so we wanted something that would be – you can’t even say that even of that stuff is even close to kwaito, on that album, but it had more of a black feel to it … that house sound… I was into that American house sound,

The early parts of kwaito, you actually took any house record and you pitched it down by -4 or -6 on a Technics 1200 turntable, and suddenly it would go down from 122 down to 100, 104 or 108 bpm, and that was the maturity of kwaito music. Kwaito was all your downtempo house.. so that sound really became that kwaito sound, that tempo, in fact… and because you pitched it down, you must remember what happens with bass when you pitch it down it becomes deeper.. and even the elements of amapiano, that deep bass sound that’s going on, that’s a throwback of kwaito.. so when you pitch down records, you’d detune the bass. And in detuning the bass, that bass becomes deeper, and that’s what you’ve got in amapiano right now… so you can see it’s all interconnected, and interlinked.

Again, the interconnection between people.. there were tracks that were happening at that time, and those tracks, those sounds, we’d try and emulate those sounds, and we obviously had a barrage of equipment.. old Roland analogue synthesizers and things like that…  I was a sound engineer and programmer, that was the guys of what I was into. I was a DJ and I was into the engineering excellence, the sonic excellence of that sound, and trying to go after that sound.. and even in the arrangements and the production and everything… so it would be taking some of the music that was popular at the time, bring it together, listening, as reference – ‘ah, let’s go after that sound’, ‘oh, that bass sound is really cool, let’s take part of that bassline’, or ‘this is the kind of keyboard progression that we need’… we’d take that, invert that, and and and.. we came up with similar, but different … and that’s  how it was done.

And then there were people.. Nelli features a lot on that album… she was actually signed to Tusk music, which was part of Warner … [run by] Benjy Mudie ... Nelli was signed to Tusk. She did do sessions and stuff… [the distinctive vocals on 'Victim of Love' were by Russel Poth 'Sun' Nkotsoe, Foster confirms later]. So all the stuff that I was doing was DJ-based… it was more a studio concept than band… so you’d have one guy that would basically deliver the entire sound.. I would be the bass guitarist, the drum player, the keyboard player … everything was done by me, because they were all samples … and it still is, in fact.

It was a collaboration, it was with people… who were very much role models for me, as well. The likes of Stephen Cooks, one of the programmers and engineers of Mango Groove at the time … The likes of Marvin Moses, he was also  very much involved with Chris Ghelakis’ recordings at CSR. Marvin was also involved with the kwaito scene, did a lot of good music, keyboard player, session musician, a very good producer as well. All of these guys, we’d all mingle and do stuff together.. 

But that specific album, that I did in my own studio.

I used to work in other people’s studios, and use their stuff. But it got to a point where I wanted my own stuff. So what I did is I jumped on an airplane. The first flight I ever took out of South Africa, I flew to the UK. We used to have a music magazine called Sound on Sound, I think it’s still around actually..  there was a music shop called turnkey music, off soho, in Shaftesbury avenue in the UK.. and I went and I bought.. remember, you’re coming with South African rands and we were teenagers or whatever, and I didn’t have a lot of money, but I went and I bought all second-hand gear. I bought all the stuff I needed, I bought it all back (to SA), and I set up my own recording studio. It was based on a 16-track, sort of home studio type thing, Fostex 16–track, multitrack reel-to-reel machine, and a Soundcraft set, and a TR909, all the stuff that was really current at the time in terms of generating those sounds. And that’s what I did, I programmed it all on that. I recorded it in a bedroom and that’s how the album came about.

I was busy with a lot of stuff at the time.. Ronnie (On Record) was a little satellite label at Roots Records, which was run by a guy named Robin Taylor, he owned Roots Records, and we all sort of fell under him. I was actually working at Roots Records as one of their producers. I would take masters , I would take all the artwork. We were distributed by EMI, so I used to take all the masters through to the pressing plant, so we’d go and sit while the pressings where done. I’d take the digital masters.. I was one of the first people to have Digital Audio Tape in South Africa … and I used to get masters, put them through digital tape and send them off for CD mastering … and a lot of the money that I made, the bread and butter type money — because remember, producing you were lucky to get an advance, and you never really earned any royalties, so it was not easy to make a living out of music. You really had to make money from other things.. And one of the ways I did was I used to master digitally and I used to edit as well, for companies, on quarter-inch masters and stuff like that… and that, as an engineer, as a programmer, that kind of thing, that’s how I kind of made money as well. 

Ronnie had this idea, he wanted to release an album, and he had in mind the cover, he had in mind one track [living for the city], and then he said, well we need a little bit more than that, he wanted to do it in a kind of extended dance format, three tracks a side kind of thing… and that’s kind of what we went with. 

Some of the artists I was working with, guys who wanted demos done or whatever and we said ‘well, we’ve got space on this album, let’s put one of the tracks on there’.  So ‘Open Invitation’ … that was just a fill-in type track that I had an artist who came along wanting to do a demo with me, that I had some loose recordings done with no real outlet for it, well, now we had a space for it.

We relied on one or two tracks on that album to really drive it.. The Stevie Wonder track [living for the city] was really the main track behind it. But then we had – I always try to do the deep, underground thing, so there’s one or two beautiful tracks there … those were we we took inspiration from the US, some of the early US house stuff that was being done but we couldn’t get released in South Africa, and I took them and reworked them to give them more of a local feel … we were really starting to see the fallout of bubblegum and into kwaito, and I could actually say that I was one of the forefathers of that early kwaito sound… if I could be so bold!

Everything I did, I tried to do things which were similar and not too far removed from the original composers, but at the same time try to give it a more South African feel. And that’s what I think we always tried to do… 

Even with kwaito music, and bubblegum, pantsula, and post that.. even to now, when we have amapiano and things like that … and your tech-house thing that’s going on as well. Even what Black Coffee’s doing right now.. trying to take what’s being done on an international platform but do it with a local flair, local flavour, trying to bring local elements … because you must bear in mind, we have a very strong local heritage and history, where the music industry has stolen from Africa, stolen from a lot of parts of Africa …

It’s still dark in the music industry, there are things going on that are not cool … It’s soul-destroying.

I never professed to being one of the greatest, or anything like that. But I definitely touched the industry in my own particular way, and there is depth and some beauty in what I’ve done. You can’t win a Sama and not have any integrity, you must be pretty good to be able to do that … Forgive me for blowing my own horn there! 

Citi Express was probably one of the earliest productions I did, so in my book it’s not one of the best that I’ve done..  So I appreciate you say it sounds good but I kind of cringe when I hear some of the stuff … I went on to do a lot more detailed.. products of integrity.. I produced with a lot more integrity, I think … This is one of the earliest productions I did in a very minimalist, very raw studio — so not some of the best that I’ve ever done … I was born in 1964, so I was 26-27 [at the time].

[How did you feel about ‘bubblegum’?]

There was a lot of people trying to make money out of music where they could. It was patronized, I feel that a lot of bubblegum music was really just trying to make some commercial music, and try and make money from the black masses, if I may say that … so for me, I didn’t really like bubblegum at all. I saw it as a commercial takedown, I found it a little bit diluted.. there are some elements in there that were kind of unique to South Africa, unique to us, but I think we — the likes of Christos .. they tried to really improve on that. I think as human beings we just want to improve what we have us around us, and we’re here to do better, we’re here to do good. I don’t think that anybody is inherently bad or anything. I think even with the sound that we were trying to do, and people like Christos — who, really, the love he has for music is just untold, it’s unbelievable, and I’ve got a lot of respect for Christos in terms of his love for music. And I sensed it at the time, I saw it with my very own eyes … but people like him, they really wanted more, and they grew… 

The current state of music, people like Black Coffee and things like that, they have people like Christos to thank for it because they were groundbreakers, they truly were pioneers of breaking out of that mould, breaking into a new, free world that we live in now … breaking down those walls that existed at the time.

There’s a deep, deep love – and that’s really what it comes down to, their deep love of love. And me included in that … there’s deep love for music, that’s really what it comes down to.. that deep love. With that deep love is wanting to improve, wanting to make it better. Not just our own stuff better, but make the industry better, make our sound better, ‘our sound’ being south Africa… the southern Africa sound.. 

[What is the story behind your studio ‘Tone Def Inc.’?]

Tone Def was basically [in the] late 80s ... Patrick van Blerk actually came up with the name Tone Def … So I worked with Patrick a lot, under his label PVB Music.. I was busy installing sound in my car, I  had a little gold GTI and was putting some sound in the back, and we went into a sound place, think it was corner of Bree/Klein/Mooi (Street), I don’t know, somewhere there in deep town (Joburg CBD). It was a famous car sound installation place. And we went into this underground vault, and inside there it was like a store room, and they had these big-ass car sound, speakers and amplifiers and whatever. And Patrick came up with the name ‘Tone Def’, it was like ‘Tone Def Incorporated, right here’ … and I was like ‘wow that’s such a cool record label name, let’s do it!’ … so that’s how it was kind of born … it was Patrick’s idea. 

But Patrick was doing his own thing, he was just wanted to see me get off the ground, so I went with the name … and Tone Def Inc kind of evolved. We moved on and away from each other, I went away and had my own studio, and from that though I need to remove myself from Tone Def, so I gave it another name, which was Rhythm of Life.  That was inspired by Oleta Adams, she did a track called ‘Rhythm of Life’. It was such an amazing track and I actually give my studio a name, and my record label a name, all based on that kind of – not only the song but the sound she was getting at the time, it was just amazing.

Rhythm of Life was my studio and a record label. That was me. Vision was done on that. Again it was done through Roots Records. So just like Ronnie has On Record, I had Rhythm of Life Records.. as well. But I didn’t do too many releases.

© 2023 Afrosynth

RONNIE ROBOT interview

The following is a phone interview with Ron Friedman, aka Ronnie Robot, founder of On Record, on 
8/2/2023 about Citi Express - Living for the City (AFS055):

[How did the On Record label come about, after your career in Rabbitt?]

The Rabbitt story was a great time, but I just got a little… I had a bit of a substance problem at that time, so I wanted to dry out and really just get rid of all the crap in my body. So I went on a nice little dry-out over six months. And also, a little bit later after that, my first son was born. And I got a little bit put off the idea of going and playing rock music, and carrying on. I did have a few offers overseas to play with some pretty – I mean, Trevor [Rabin] sorted me out with quite a nice offer, but it was a big, big, druggie rock group and I just got overwhelmed by having this kid, and I thought, ‘no way, Jose’.

So I decided to put the guitar down, and get involved in the production side of music.. and ja, it was a much calmer life, much better. I really had some good years, for many years, producing music for the mass market … I did that 20-odd years, and then I stumbled across the concept of ‘Majors for Minors’ … after music started going into a certain genre, which I just couldn’t relate to, I eventually — I could still relate to the Citi Express-type, but once it started going full-on rap and all that, I just thought no ways, not me … I’m not knocking it, I’m just saying it just didn’t work for me. I just couldn’t relate to it, I couldn’t feel it. 

I decided I’d had my time as a producer, and then I went into something completely different. I was now in my second marriage, of which is now 33 years. I had more kids, I had a set of twins. And I just got thinking, and I started reading up on the Mozart effect, so I started getting all into classical music, and all that – a big turnaround … and then I launched Majors For Minors. The concept was I took all the famous nursery rhymes and I orchestrated them classically, and I did them in certain frequencies to distress the cortex of babies and young children. That’s what that was about. And I ended up making a series of 13 (albums), that did incredibly well. In fact, I sold over a million copies of Majors for Minors, in the good old days of actual CD (sales). So that was quite a good thing.

Then that also left and I kind of got out of the game. Now that all my kids are grown up, I’m back on playing the guitar again, and being a bass player … Big circle!

[How were things changing in the music industry in the early 90s? How did you move from bubblegum to the new house sound?]

I always tried to keep my finger on the pulse of where thing were going in music. I had that feeling. I don’t say I’m the only one – a lot of other producers did have this feeling that music was going into that genre, which Citi Express was in ... I also started feeling it more myself, and enjoying it more.. And all the other stuff that I did previously, it was just getting so swamped. I just was looking for a different direction. And I think that it why I just hired the right people – younger people that understood it. And they did some pretty good jobs in that.

But there again, I can’t recall Citi Express at that time being such a big hit … I tried these kind of things, and I was probably taking a bit of pot luck at well, just saying ‘look, let’s just go for it, and try and see’.

There was a guy named Quentin Foster, he was hanging around when I had my own record company at the time, and I met him a few times and we discussed certain things and I liked him. He was young, and he was a quiet type of guy. I could see he sort of had a good ear for certain stuff. He approached me and said look, he’d like to do something like this. I recall having just created a concept – I liked the name Citi Express, I liked the track ‘Living for the City’ redone. I just I chose a few more of the tracks, I think he bought a few more to the table. One of them I think we co-written (by him) and published by On Record and Tone Def or another publisher, I can’t remember…

But ja, I liked him and I thought he had great potential. And in fact I think he did a very good job. I mean he’d come to me with the tracks and I’d say to him, ‘maybe do that’, ‘take that out’ … I can’t even remember if I popped into the studios at the time to help.. I think I was more of an executive producer than a producer.

He was young, I just had a good feel about the guy. He just appealed to me as a person. He was easy to get on with, and he wasn’t a mad bread-head ... He just liked the craft of music, I could see he was genuine and I just felt … I don’t think anybody was giving him too many opportunities at the time. Maybe Patrick van Blerk was also helping him a bit. So that appealed, and I just gave him the budget and I said go for it.

The last time I saw him was sort of 3 years after the release, at best, so I sort of lost touch with him … I think I even closed On Record at the time, in favour of Big Blue music ... Tone Def was his studio’s name, he had a studio called Tone Def.

[Was there a target market in mind for Citi Express?]

It was totally crossover. In fact, I actually thought (it appealed) more the black market than the white market at that time, which a chance of it crossing into the white market.

[What were sales like?]

I think it might’ve sold – I’m taking a flyer here but I’d say in the region of 5 to 7,000 units … It’s not too bad, but it certainly wasn’t like a gold record or anything like that. 

It was all session people, they got paid a session fee. The name Citi Express I just held as a session group. Probably if it had broken the 10 - 12,000 barrier, I would’ve done a second album and worked it as a project. But I didn’t do that, so there was only one volume.

When I listen to it now, I actually think if I wasn’t so swamped with all the other crap going on at the time, I think I would’ve probably paid more attention to it, nurtured it a little bit more. I think had I done that, even at the time, it could’ve got a lot bigger. Because I don’t think I remember giving it the real promotional buzz that I’d normally do when I released an album in those days, like the Mafikas and all that, where I’d go where I went countrywide to the radio stations and all that.  I think I ran out of energy.

I was involved in the offices of a company called Roots Records at the time. And unbeknown to me, they were really doing badly. And the next time, the Sheriff (of the court) walked into my office and started putting labels on the desks, everything was being attached. I thought, 'what the hell’s going on here? Who are you, what do you want?' So there was that whole thing going on, so there was a big of chaos, to say the least.

And the other chaos I had was when I moved, I had so much stuff all in a storeroom. And when I moved to a place in Bryanston there was like paraffin or something in that room that was leaking, and it caught alight. I lost a lot. Look, it wasn’t a serious fire, cause we managed to sort it out after about 10 minutes, but I lost so much – it was unbelievable what I lost… It freaked me out. It was a terrible time, it really was. I couldn’t believe it. Not that I thought that the stuff was gonna be worth anything anymore. But it’s just something I kept … but it is what it is, what can I do?

[Was Citi Express promoted in clubs?]

I’d say Quentin probably got it out to a few nightclubs in those days. I think he would’ve sampled quit a few clubs, so it probably did get in the hands of some clubs in those days ...

The club scene back then – at that point I’d just got married to my second wife and I stopped doing too may of the club things myself ... but I mean going back into the early 80s, I did a lot of the clubbing thing myself. I saw a lot of segregation. I used to go to a place in Soweto called the Pelican nightclub, owned by a guy by the name of Lucky Michaels, and there was a fair amount of whities going in there, and beautiful music, great groups were playing there. It was quite amazing, going there, where about a third of the patronage was whities. But that was more of a sit-down sort of thing, and live music, than an actual club ... I kind of missed the real DJ era (after bands), I think I’d already moved on to babies and classical music! 

[How were the track selected?]

I remember very distinctly, it was probably the least desirable track on the album, I can’t remember. But I just said to him, do ‘Living for the City’, the Stevie Wonder track, because I just knew that that always did pretty well in the black market, and I knew there’d been quite a few versions of it, but I just said ‘just do something a little bit different with that, in this kind of style’. And the name of the project would be Citi Express. But I think Quentin did most of the choice of the tracks. He was talented, I could see it. That’s why I was very comfortable using him, and letting him have that opportunity. He was in his 20s, a young guy.

‘Open Invitation’ was our own composition. 

© 2023 Afrosynth

CITI EXPRESS – Living for the City


Cover versions of international songs have long thrived in South Africa’s music industry. Often unable to license the original tracks (until the early 90s the result of an international boycott of the country) labels instead hired producers and session artists to re-record them for the local market. Early house music in SA was no different. 

When Ron ‘Robot’ Friedman, former bass player for local rockers Rabbitt, was winding down his label On Records in the early 90s, he reached out for new inspiration as the popularity of ‘bubblegum’ disco waned. For one of the label’s final releases he hired young DJ/producer Quentin Foster, obsessed with the new soulful house sound coming out of the US, to take the reins on a studio project dubbed Citi Express. 

On Robot’s insistence it included a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Living for the City’ (from 1973’s Innervisions) as the title track.


Foster set to work in his home studio, dubbed Tone Def, selecting and re-working other US and UK tracks — ‘It’s Too Late’ (originally released in 1989 by Kelli Sae), ‘Love is the Message’ (influenced by the 70s soul anthem and credited to Gamble & Huff but bearing a closer resemblance to Better Days’ 1990 release written by Steve Proctor), ‘People of The World’ (recorded by Sorell Johnson in the UK in 1990) and ‘Victim of Your Love’ (released in 1990 by Gary Vonqwest as ‘Victim of Love’) — adding some signature South African touches in the process that foreshadow the imminent rise of kwaito. One original composition was added for good measure, ‘Open Invitation’. 

The result offers a glimpse into those early days of house, a uniquely South African take on a global sound that still resonates today.

Pre-order AFS055 here.


John Galanakis

John Galanakis was a hugely influential South African label head, producer (of the soon-to-be reissued Starlight with the late Emil Zoghby, among many others) and musician. The following is a transcription of an interview with him at his home studio in Greenside, Johannesburg, in December 2009. Galanakis passed away in August 2018 (four years after Zoghby, RIP). This interview has been edited for clarity.

(How and when did you get started in music?)

Late 60s. I played piano, keyboards. I first started doing sort of ‘continental’ music in nightclubs, and things like that — Latin, Italian, Spanish, I played in a Greek band. It used to be a big thing, especially (in) nightclubs — start at 9 and finish at 4 in the morning, and on weekends at like 6 in the morning. We used to get tips. I used to play the bouzouki. Your tips ended up being much more than your salary. A lot of these guys came from out of town, café owners or … and they’d never been exposed to the Greek culture, so they went mad when (we played).

I got into rock bands, jazz bands as a keyboard player. And I’d say in the 70s, I started doing studio work as well. I was completely self-taught. I never took piano lessons or anything like that. I had an ear, from a youngster. I was sort of at a disadvantage because I never bothered to kind of get down to reading and studying. Later on, when I started doing studio work, I had to do that. Then of course, some of these gigs, I did some cabaret, so every week we used to have a different cabaret artist who’d come with a pile of music, so you’d (only) have a couple of rehearsals and you’d have to (be able to) play his stuff.

Late ‘70s, I played in some very good rock fusion and jazz bands. DICKORY was probably the main one. And ‘78 I went to London for 3 years, to get into the music scene, and production, which I started doing, and arranging. 

(Why — to be in a bigger pond or to leave South Africa?) 

Both. Well, TREVOR RABIN was there at the time, and (we) got into a band together, we formed a band. With the bass player who was with us in DICKORY, LES GOODE (later an) engineer, and a great bass player, and businessman. We toured Britain and that tour actually got him a deal to go to America. And he left us behind! I think we were a bit too old, ‘cos his image was more teeny-bopper. And we were like 30 at the time, (which was) much too old (for that). This was ‘79. Sort of pop-rock — a very good band, I must say. Just (touring) the UK (not Europe), we didn’t record. He’d sort of recorded an album on his own, which he played live. We got it down exactly the same as the record. 

And then I was also doing some productions with EMIL ZOGHBY – lots of stuff, from porn sci-fi movies [probably alluding to 1979’s Spaced Out, aka Outer Touch], to (the) brother of NAT KING COLE, FREDDY COLE – we did an album for him, sort of big band style, orchestral, and all that kind of thing [1980’s Right from the Heart, where he is credited as John Gally]. He (Zoghby) was mainly producing, I was the engineer, arranger, and musical director. (I) wrote out all the parts, and things like that.

And in 1980, we got a call from that same bass player, Les, to come back, because they were starting this ‘supergroup’ – MOROCKO, based in Joburg. But there was some management with money, that wanted to take us to the States and record, which we did. And we came back (to SA) and we rehearsed for about 3 months. We went to California – just outside San Francisco, Modesto, and we recorded an album there. The management were so - not together – it was an American and a Canadian, and they employed a South African manager to sort of coordinate the stuff. (But) they were more into the jol [party] that the actual (music). This was actually a very good album, although we had to remix it when we came back here, because the studio wasn’t equipped for mixing, basically. The band only lasted about another 6 months or so, here. There was always the chance that we were going to go (back) to the States and do a tour there, but I don’t know, egos got in the way, or something.

(What was it like to be an SA muso in the States then? How were you received?) 

Well, we didn’t really … we were in the studio the whole time, we never really did tours or anything like that. The people who were involved were thrilled to have some people from Africa — “How can they play like this?!”, you know, ‘cos we sounded just like an American band. Which was probably the downfall of the band, it wasn’t too different enough from the mainstream American sound at the time. Although for South Africa it was like exceptional, because there was nothing like that happening here. 

And after that, I got a bit fed up with musicians and egos and that, and I just got into the studio, producing and arranging. And EMIL ZOGHBY came back here (to SA). We worked together for about 3 or 4 years, doing production … STIMELA was one of the groups .., (working with) not so many black (artists), a lot of white artists. MARA LOUW was another one we recorded. 

And then ’85, I started my own record company, with a guy called BLONDIE MAKHENE — Hit City. And we had three labels: one was Leopard Records which did our traditional stuff – it was black music. We had the White Dove label, which was mainly the gospel stuff, and then the Hit City label was the pop stuff, the disco stuff and that kind of thing. Even there (Hit City) there were very few white artists involved in the thing. A couple of ‘coloured’ [mixed race] groups – called ZIPP, which was phenomenal, but they got nowhere. I think in Cape Town it’s (the coloured music scene) bigger. In the old days I worked with guys like RONNIE JOYCE and the guitarist JONATHAN BUTLER. And there was another guy, LIONEL PETERSON. (I working as an) arranger/producer, not so much (in) the songwriting with those guys — the arrangements, and getting the musicians, and rehearsing them, and recording, helping with the production in the studio.

(Was it a healthy time in the music industry, with the emerging ‘bubblegum’ scene?) 

Yes, I think so. It was kind of slated later, in fact it caused our demise in the early ‘90s, because the DJs just decided we’re not gonna play any more bubblegum music, and they switched completely to playing overseas house and rap music, so they actually dropped us in the lurch. The actually built us up originally. But our most successful stuff was the traditional and gospel stuff. This group PURE GOLD went on to sell a couple hundred thousand albums. (and) they did get a name overseas. It’s faded now, but they were a big name in the gospel department. And on the traditional side as well, we had guys like DAN NKOSI, ZIZI KONGO, things like the AFRICAN YOUTH BAND. 

(What did you make of the ‘bubblegum’ label?)

I think it was like the dance music of the time. We used to call it disco at the time — it wasn’t really American disco, it was South African disco … dance music – bass drum type … predecessor of kwaito, basically. I think later, people started calling it bubblegum (in a derogatory sense), especially the radio DJs and that kind of thing. And a lot of the records were starting to sound the same, copying the same style and the same beat, and the same rhythm, and the three-chord sequence that everybody was using.

I think it was thriving from about ‘86, ‘87, it started fading I think around ‘92. I think it still had legs to go, I mean with a style like kwaito – how long has kwaito lasted? It’s still there, they’re still making kwaito records, 20 years later. But they killed it, basically, they stopped playing it completely on radio. 

(Was this related to political change at the time?) 

I think so. There was a lot of American influence in that kind of music, together with local sounds and rhythms, but American production techniques and instrumentation – synthesizers of course, which have such a bad name.

(Was there competition/rivalry between producers?) 

No, it was more (about making) slight changes to what was established, basically, and getting the synth to sound just as close to acoustic instruments as you could, or making it so outlandish that you could hear that it was a synth — so from the one extreme to the other.

(Was there a strong American influence on SA music then, or more African?)

The pop stuff, the sort of black American rhythm and blues type music. (African influence was) mainly on the rhythm side of things, maybe the drum beats and the percussion and the basslines, and that kinda thing. And the guitar riffs – melodic-type African guitar riffs and rhythms and things like that. (We were) mixing a little bit of traditional into like rhythm and blues and pop. 

And also at the time – it’s changed a lot now – there was a tendency to make black music with English lyrics, maybe have a catch phrase with an African saying – or something that’s happening in the townships, (but mostly English). I don’t know (why), I think it was just a fad. Of course the American records were so popular at the time, (people thought) ‘let’s combine American style with African rhythms and see’. Like BRENDA FASSIE and that kind of thing, which was a whole style on its own. Can you believe somebody like ZIZI KONGO was competing with BRENDA FASSIE, didn’t make a tenth of the money, but she’s still around.  And we also did some albums with BLONDIE as well.

(What labels did you work with?)

EMI was distributing our stuff (but) it was our own label. (EMI handled) distribution to the shops and things like that. We were still responsible for all the marketing and production. (ZIZI KONGO and others) they were on the Leopard label. ‘Cos even though a lot of their songs were in English, they had a more traditional feel to them, a heavier African rhythm.

(Was there competition between different labels/stables?) 

Ja very much so, it was very competitive. We were across the road from Gallo, we’d try and spit at them (laughs) because they were big and powerful and (would try to poach their artists) absolutely, and sort of stop you from getting publicity, and giving deals to dealers that you couldn’t actually match, and things like that. And of course, it still is (like that) ... We were always independent. 

(How did labels and musicians make money?) 

Record sales were probably the only way to make money (for the label). There were shows that the artists, once they got big enough, they could command quite high salary, high fees, but we never took anything from their live performances. They did their own – although we helped promote their shows and things like that.

(What about live shows, festivals in townships etc?) 

We put on a couple of shows (but) it wasn’t our main thing. And mainly out of town, in places like Swaziland, and Lydenburg and…quite a few tours we did of smaller towns and halls and things like that, a couple of festivals in Swaziland and Lesotho, and in the Cape, near King William’s Town. 

(What was it like as a white guy involved in predominantly black music back then?)

People were very welcoming. I used to go into Soweto and do promotions on a regular basis, maybe twice a week, go to shebeens and pubs and that kind of thing. It was calm. But it started getting a bit hot towards the end of the 80s. They told me ‘don’t go there anymore’, the black guys said that, ‘it’s not safe to go there’. So I stopped going. At these festivals, I was the only white face, sometimes, amongst 20,000 black people. It was cool, and they were actually excited to see a white face. Some of them had never seen a white face, in that kind of setting. They’d always wanna talk to me and shake my hand and that kinda thing. It was really cool.

(Were there crossover acts, eg. black artists who sold to white audience?)

There was hardly any of that, that I was involved with anyway. The tastes were completely different. White people didn’t really seem to like the black music, or the traditional, or the gospel stuff. So there was like a chasm between the two kinds of music. The closest we got to bridging that was the [group ZIPP that we recorded. It was basically a rhythm and blues, popish, with a slight African influence in it. The main guy, Ziggy (Adolph), he’s up here now — no, they’re from here, from East Rand, but I think Ziggy was born in Cape Town, and I think Paul (Green), the singer, was originally from Cape Town. But they’d been here for most of their lives. 

(Did labels have deliberate racial target markets?)

Ja, and very little (crossover). Sometimes you hoped it would cross over, but white radio stations would never play that kind of stuff. So there was never a chance for whites to even hear it, and appreciate it.

(Was this official government policy via the SABC?) 

Ja I think they wanted to keep it separate. In fact we used to have to be so careful with our lyrics, ‘cos (the lyrics of) every record had to be submitted to the radio station. On one occasion, they were convinced one of our artists was actually singing completely different lyrics to what we’d given him and they said they were trying to pull the wool over their eyes, but they were actually hearing things. They were imagining that they were hearing something that wasn’t there! We had to actually change the lyrics. We had to re-record the record, after it was released and everything, they wouldn’t play it. You’d give them a released (printed) record (not the masters before release). They wanted a record. 

(Then there was) Self-censorship – you’d censor it yourself. You’d be so careful. And this goes back to when I first started. Radio 5 and those guys used to only played a certain formula that was acceptable to the format of the station, and nothing that even smelled of political or anti-government (sentiment). (There was self-censorship) because you know they’re gonna ban it if they hear anything that they don’t agree with. And it was very difficult, even in the white market, before I started the black label, to get anything played locally, because they had about a 10% quota for local stuff. Everything else was American or British. And that 10% had to be exactly like the American stuff, to fit to their format. It couldn’t jar or be too different.

(Who was pushing the envelope? Was this pop or political music?)

Well, I had a group of my own. Well, it was a studio group, we never really toured or anything, called BANJO. And we did a quite a few records where the lyrics were on the verge – they had a double meaning, a lot of them. One was called ‘No No No, No More’, which was supposed to be a fight between a man and a woman, but it was actually trying to say to the government, no more. It actually made it past the censors. So you had to be subtle. It was possible to do, in a subtle way, but whether the crowd got it, you don’t know.

(So you’d say the industry was healthier in the '80s compared to now [2009]?)

I think so. I think it was probably in its heyday in the '80s … and (in terms of) establishing artists. I mean there were a handful of black artists (before the 80s) that were household names among the black population, but I think in the 80s that blossomed out and you got hundreds of artists that became household names … But it wasn’t just automatic, it had to have something that the market wanted, like catchy or memorable.

(Why the change — was it politics, technology, international trends?)

I think it became … I don’t know. Politically, I think, after the ‘90s, it became a lot easier to have a black and white band, for instance. Before that, it was almost impossible. And (it was easier) for blacks to start appearing at white venues, and the other way round. You started getting blacks appreciated jazz, and even rock, and putting those kind of influences into their music. 

(Wouldn’t that make things better though? Or the opposite?) 

Well I think a lot of things happened at the time. I don’t know if they were political or not. But it probably changed people’s perception of what was…. and I think the (radio) DJs played a big part in that kind of thing. They actually changed what people were listening to. Radio DJs started really promoting American rap and R&B, and things like that, (in the) early ‘90s. 

(Where did kwaito come from?) 

I think bubblegum influenced kwaito, and also the American rap influenced it quite heavily, because its based on that rap. 

It’s still big today, but bribery (payola) was actually the big thing that influenced the DJs and the record companies ... and the big record companies could bribe the DJs much more than the small record companies, the independents. So they obviously got more favour. And they were flown from Durban to Joburg for soccer matches (for example). It still happens today. And some of the notorious ones used to actually pay them something to play their record, and pay them something extra not to pay your record.

(How was it working with French singer Lizzy Mercier Descloux on her 1984 album Zulu Rock?)

Not so good memories. Cos I did my best there. She was a complete — worse than a snob. But I don’t know if this record was successful. I did all the arrangements and the musical direction. And in the end I didn’t get paid for it. That was the management. I hardly had anything to do with her. She hardly said five words to me. Even though I was in the studio every day with her, she almost ignored me. She liked the black guys, I think that’s what she came here for! (laughs) but that management was really — they didn’t know what they were doing. She was quite good, quite good, but I think we had as good singers that are performers here in South Africa. She wasn’t exceptional.

It was quite interesting for me too, because it was like a gelling of local and European influences, and the music sort of had an African feel, but with European singing, and chords, and things like that. And the final product, I don’t know if it was that exciting for me, as well. I think the idea was more exciting that the actual finished product.

Not that they weren’t musical or anything like that, they just had fixed ideas of what should happen. They basically wanted to use the African for the rhythm, and then their polish, or something, on top of that. But they weren’t musicians at all themselves, they were more managers, business guys. And they seemed to know what the market would take in France, or Europe, or wherever it was they were look to sell it. Well, I can understand… I don’t think what happens locally can make it overseas as it is. It needs – not polish as much as sounds that they’re used to, and melodies that they’re used to, something that they’re familiar with and they can understand. I think the rhythm part, which is African, is exciting for them. But if you had to put African lyrics, it would throw them completely, far away. 

(Did this project have political intentions or was it purely commercial?)

I didn’t understand the lyrics, because they were all in French, but I don’t think it was supposed to be political or anything like that. It was just supposed to be pop — and actually the French have got a very big scene going now, with African music, mainly from northern African countries. And I supposed it started there, and they were trying to do something with the South African sound, trying to incorporate it.

I never heard anything. They promised to send me an album when it was finished, but they didn’t even send me anything. I think the musicians got a session fee, normal for three-hour sessions, but they didn’t give me royalties or anything. I didn’t get any royalties.

(Did you sign a contract?) 

No, I’m very bad with that kind of thing. I take people on their word.

(Were any black SA acts making waves overseas?)

Gee, I don’t think I know of any black artists who were actually making it (overseas).

(What about elsewhere in Africa?) 

There was very little of that (too), up till the late ‘90s, mid-‘90s.

(Was SA scene very isolated?) 

Ja it was, very closed. The South African, African sound. Even though a very of our groups did perform in Zimbabwe, even in Kenya. Like PURE GOLD actually did some very good tours…

(And in Europe?) 

I think they did one or two shows there, but nothing you’d call a tour … We tried to get them released, but their music was so different to what was going on, on the scene.

I think in a way the PAUL SIMON idea was the right one, and even this French (Descloux’s) idea – take something from it (here), but not completely, not like a whole package. Take what’s palatable for them, and mix it with their kind of style. PAUL SIMON sounded different enough for it to become a big hit. (but) It was still a pop record.

Even JOHNNY CLEGG had the right idea. I’m not particularly a fan of folk-type music, which was his bag at the moment. That’s what he mixed with African influences. But still, that kind of idea could’ve worked if it was like developed properly. And it can still work, take the best of African rhythms and melodies and things like that, and mix them with pop.

(In SA, was there cooperation between black and white?) 

In the studio, yes. A lot of black producers used to work with white engineers. 

(No black engineers?) 

There weren’t. 

(Why not?) 

I dunno, they were never trained, they were never given opportunities, I think. As producer, they actually made their mark. And I think from there, they went into engineering.

(Any other stories, perhaps about repression back in the day?)

Repression ... for instance, we had this group called the VENDA KIDS, youngsters, about 15 to 18. And they came from Venda. Mainly a traditional style of music, but also in a kind of disco/kwaito type of beat. And it was the time of the troubles — ’88, somewhere there. After a recording session they were gonna catch a taxi and go home. And as they were going to the taxi, police raided them and started beating them up, in the taxi. And I had to come and explain, ‘No, they’re not terrorists or anything like that, they’re kids!” 

They (the musicians) weren’t supposed to (be out) — it was quite late at night, 9 o’clock, after we’d finished recording, and I think there was a curfew or whatever, and you weren’t supposed to be walking around the centre of town at that time. And I had to go and explain to the cops: ‘These guys are musicians and they’re just going home’. (the cops were) ‘OK, fine,’ after I talked to them. But they were really heavy, beating them up with batons and things like that.

Another time, we did a tour, and we went to the Free State. Coming back, we were stopped at a roadblock. There were blacks and me in the car. And of course, that’s very suspicious, you know (laughs). PURE GOLD were there, and BLONDIE was there. And they made us get out the car. The blacks had to lie face down on the ground, while I opened the boot, (with) two guys pointing guns at me, in case I had a machine gun or something in the boot. We had a few records and cassettes, and clothes and things. Every time I took something out, they were watching me and pointing the gun at me … after they saw that we didn’t have (anything dangerous), then it was fine, they’d let us go.

Another time, we had a tour, we went through the Transkei. Those days if you went from Durban to East London, which we did, you had a border post going into the Transkei, and border post going out of the Transkei into South Africa, for about 10km, and then another border post going into Ciskei, and then another border post going out of Ciskei into South Africa. (Cops were) all over the place, so you had to produce your passport. Now we’d discover, as we’re going to the Transkei, half the guys didn’t bring their passports, and they wouldn’t let us through. So what we did, we performed for the border guards. We gave them a whole show for about half an hour, and they said, ‘just go through!’

The funny thing to see is at Durban airport, it used to say ‘International flights: Umtata' [now Mthatha]. Local flights, Joburg this way, and ‘international flights’, that way!

(So it was possible to relate to cops sometimes?)

Ja, they were doing their job. They were hardegat [hard-ass], but with a bit of a smile and a song, you get (through) — (like) bribery and corruption, same thing as today! So we did about 4 performances to get through. We were in two minibuses, so we had the whole of PURE GOLD, which is like 11 people, in the one and a couple of other acts in the other bus.

(Was police intimidation a common occurrence on the road?)

Ja, it was part of the (deal). The stories I used to hear from the musicians themselves … DAN NKOSI used to stay in Ermelo, which is a real centre of conservatism. And he used to go and visit a coloured musician and spend a few hours with him, practising and playing and doing some songs. And then because it wasn’t (in) a black area, he would have to walk – it wasn’t far, but he would have to walk through his area. And it was like, after 8 o’clock at night, they’d catch him and beat him up. So he became quite blasé and used to it. He’d say, ‘Ah, it’s late, so I’m going to get beat up again tonight!”

(What was it like for you to go into Soweto back then, for example?)

You were supposed to apply for permission, but I never did. And I never got stopped. Maybe I was just lucky. I heard other guys got stopped. And very few whites actually used to go there. Some engineers used to get permits and permission, because there were no black engineers. So if you were doing a show in Soweto, you’d have to get white engineers, that kinda thing. The big record companies used to have black promoters and managers who used to travel with the groups into townships, so they didn’t have problems.

(Did you ever live overseas?) 


(Weren’t you ever tempted to move overseas?)

Ja I was tempted, many a time, even before as a pure musician. And a couple of my friends actually went there. I got married quite young, so I had a family and everything, I couldn’t just up and go. It was also very difficult to get in, those days. Especially without money. So I could just go and work there, and try and make ... although, in hindsight, it’s what I should’ve done.

(Was it a choice between making money overseas or pursuing your love for SA music?) 

Well, I like money too! And we were successful for about three or four years. Everything went down after then. And even now, I’m battling.

(Who are you working with now [2009]?)

Mainly I’m doing black music, I’m still involved with a couple of guys. One guy, MBUSO KHOZA, he produced some gospel stuff with me. I’ve got CDs in the house… I did an album for a religious group called the Shembes, it’s actually the second-biggest church in South Africa, based in Natal, sort of old-testament type church, very traditional. We had a couple of singers, but he recorded all the harmonies himself, quadruple tracks, every harmony. 

(Where have you been based over the years?)

In the '80s we were in town (Johannesburg CBD), in Pritchard Street, just behind Gallo. Then about ‘98, I went to Greenside, in the shopping centre. And then we decided to bring it here (home), because we were mugged over there and they raised the price, the rental – they doubled the rent and halved our space! So it’s small, but it’s (got) a very good sound. And I can come to work in my pyjamas!

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