By the late 1970s, Irene Mawela had become highly revered by Venda listeners and artists alike as the first artist to record mbaqanga songs in her mother tongue. (Record companies generally discouraged artists from recording songs in 'unsellable' languages, so the bulk of Irene's compositions were written in Zulu and Sotho for Gallo to release on 45rpm singles. Irene would then translate most of these into Venda for airplay on the then-Radio Venda, a unique move making her the first 'pop star' of the station when all other music broadcast was labelled 'traditional'.) Alpheus Ramavhea signed a recording contract with Gallo/Mavuthela in about 1979 and was immediately joined by Irene in the studio, who provided backing vocals and offered suggestions on how to make his sound more distinctive over potential competitors.
With the help of both Irene and guitarist and producer Marks Mankwane, Ramavhea's laidback vocals, groaning moans and acoustic picking were infused with the trademark mbaqanga sound. Ndo Shavha Tshikolo is Alpheus Ramavhea at his best, featuring twelve foot-stomping tracks. The vocal patterns here are just excellent and the backup is crisp. Particular highlights include "Vhuhadzi" (that is Irene doing the solo halfway through the song), "Muhadzinga", "Tshililo" and "Lufuno". Simply great music!
NDO SHAVHA TSHIKOLO
produced by Marks Mankwane
engineered by Keith Forsyth
Igagasi IAL 3029