The West’s perpetual fascination towards African music tends to focus towards the veteran likes of Tony Allen, (the late) Fela Kuti and others who enjoyed their peaks in the 70’s and 80’s. Accomplished and timeless artists certainly, but ones who undoubtedly lie far from the cutting edge of what the impossibly vast continent has to offer. Helping to shine a light on African music of a more contemporary ilk is Cape Town’s John Withers, who has just released one of the year’s most unexpected and delightful debuts on Planet Mu, with his band John Wizards. Withers, producer and band leader, is joined by a cohort of friends including Rwandan vocalist Emmanuel Nzaramba, as they weave through an infinitely eclectic blend of styles. A natural inclination for hooky pop is tempered variously by everything from West African guitar funk to Shangaan Electro and New Wave, as the band communicate infectious joy without even the merest hint of cheese.
With the album rapidly accruing a cult following, Withers and co. now find themselves touring around Europe positioned both as performers and (unwittingly) as ambassadors of African music. Thankfully the latter is a role that Withers has graciously accepted, so before his band’s gig at Jazz Cafe tonight (supporting Owiny Sigoma Band), as part of the week long Illuminations festival, we asked him to talk us through some clips of his favourite music from his native South Africa. He draws attention to an amazing cross section of styles and genre’s; from the electro-rap of Dirty Paraffin to the wide eyed guitar pop of Beatenberg via the in-the-streets afro funk jamming of Brother Moves On, Withers’ selection is an eye opening to a range of talents that are simply unknown on these shores. Read on and open your ears to a whole load of great music…
Dirty Paraffin- Drip Dry – Shweet
Dokta DJ Spizee makes some incredible tracks.
DJ Call Me- Letswalo
Sick dance moves. A friend passed this onto me. I really enjoy the way he uses that classic ‘acid house’ style synth sound, but roots it very heavily in South African music.
Ben Mayengani-Tiba Ben
Love the style. If you get a chance to listen to more of Ben Mayengani’s music, don’t hesitate.
Beatenberg- Chelsea Blakemore
These guys are pals of ours in Cape Town. I challenge you to find a better chorus.
Nozinja- Nyamazani 2
Once again… Nozinja… I salute you. Nozinja really is a phenomenon.
Culoe de Song- Webaba
Haai this track iyoooo iyoooo iyooo eish haai haai oooooooooooooohh yes. I’ve mentioned this song a few times in posts, but I think it deserves plenty of attention. The album that it comes from is beautifully crafted.
Brother Moves On- Good Times
Exactly my cup of tea. Fill it up. Thank you. This song reminds me of the music I’ve heard from old township musicals like ‘King Kong’ or ‘Sikalo’. For me, it has a uniquely South African feel.
Oxblood- Subequator Loop
A friend, and brother of ours. Robin released a bunch of demos a couple of years ago which I thought were fantastic, and he recently did a wonderful remix of LEUK off our album (punting it).
Bacchus Nel- Oppie Plaas
Hierdie liedjie is my anthem! This track reminds me of late nights, cereal, friends, and MK89 (sadly, a now defunct Afrikaans music channel on TV).