Soultown. R&B, Funk & Psych Sounds from the townships 1969-1976 (SA,re.2010)****'
Strut records has already three volumes ready dedicated to the Soweto scene from the late 60s to mid 70s. The first volume was dedicated to the local Afro-folk style of mbaquanga, and the third volume is dedicated to the jazz scene (-I only have an older compilation, “Africa Underground” on Counterpoint Rec.- which showed already a good introduction, an album which focused on the rare grey areas of mixed coloured interests for jazz). Volume two, this one, is dedicated to the soul/funk/psych/R&B that was emerging while touching the mbaquanga and jazz styles at times. Duncan Brooker and Francis Gooding were responsible for the research. It is good to see that after digging in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Ghana by some other labels, some more historical recordings will thoroughly see the light. Too long the main interest of most compilers remained recognisable dance music related with similar characters. It is only more recently that the interests in what happened broadens a bit. It is not too late yet to figure this out.
The liner notes explain the background situation well in which new styles emerged. Because of apartheid not much of a black culture developed easily (not to mention the sporadic mixtures helping out). The voice of their music was inflicted by that of political resistance against this system that blocked certain spontaneous, creative or more humane evolutions. The music became louder, electric, “acid” driven, mixing with elements of soul, jazz, funk, R&B, acid rock and psychedelia. Still looking for dance pleasures, the music was not aggressive, but joyful and serious at the same time. Many of the tracks are instrumental rock tracks with the different elements, with a strong rhythm section and inflicting electric organ. For this compilation the rock elements is its voice, the elements around it can be different, but always forming strong solid results. It is an extremely good compilation, and the first of its kind for the South African era. The album is mixed well for best listen and the restoration of sound was successful and careful, labour of love. Recommended.
PS. A favourite 60s album of mine from South Africa is The Shanghaans, an LP which mixed beat with Zulu song inspirations, leading to the hit “Lion Sleeps Tonight” and similar songs like that. It's about time someone will make a reissue of that one.