Monday, 8 August 2016

African Music Show #3: East and southern Africa

Time for another dig into the archives of Australia’s pioneering African Music Show, aired on 16th May 1984, and weaving networks that only the future might see. This was the time before  African music hit mainstream Western ears, this was before Youssou N'Dour’s Immigres was released, even two years before Paul Simon’s  Graceland album. Granted, it was a little while after King Sunny Ade’s “Juju Music” had already made waves with Island Records.

African musicians were moving though, and it was radio shows such as this one that helped shine spotlights into new territories. In this two-hour show Tony Hunter and Geoff King talk about and play music coming out of the Nairobi Hub of Congolese music in the early 1980s. They chat about London beginning to notice African music, and wonder if the African “hub” might shift from Paris to London.  The second half of the show heads south, skipping via Zimbabwean Rhumba, through Thomas Mapfumo, to end with a few different styles from South Africa at the time, including “The Call is Heard” from Amandla – The ANC’s Cultural Group in exile.

It was at this time in London, thirty two years ago, that Jumbo Van Renen was breaking ground with the Earthworks record label he founded in 1983. In his book “Sounds Like London: 100 Years of Black Music in the Capital”, Lloyd Bradley describes Jumbo as “ a perpetually genial South African and lover of music from all over that continent, who arrived in London at the start of the 1980s.” 

Jumbo actually arrived in London in 1972 and worked as A&R for Virgin and Frontline records, landing the likes of Dudu Pukwana and the Spears, Jabula, Orchestra Makassy, Orchestra Super Mazembe, as well as working with reggae bands, The Gladiators, The Twinkle Brothers and I-Roy, amongst others.

Already, new webs were spinning to new worlds. Tony Hunter  arrives in London towards the end of 1983 and meets Jumbo, and of course buys a pile of records. Jumbo had just released Thomas Mapfumo’s “Ndangariro” on the Earthworks label. The music press were warming up. Jumbo was
“working the connections”. Tony wrote an article on “Chimurenga and Mapfumo’s music” for the very influential Black Music and Jazz Review Magazine (edited by Chris May).

Lloyd Bradley describes a growing London vibe oozing with confidence from the hip pan-African Limpopo Lounge (at the Africa Centre), “it was hardly going to take a series of marketing meetings to work out that African could be ‘the new black’. So to speak.”

Two of the tracks featured on this radio show come off those Earthworks albums Tony bought from Jumbo, hot off the press at the time: Thomas Mapfumo’s “Ndangariro” and Orchestra Super Mazembe’s big hit “Shauriyako” (your problem).

If you have somewhere to drive why not tune your car radio back thirty two years and be curious to find of an Australian radio show showcasing African music hits from the early 80s? 

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  1. Bibi Den's Tshibayi,although from DRC,worked in Abidjan,he had a residency at the Gholf Hotel.Tune was recorded at JBZ studios in Abidjan #BestAmbiance ET 002A Rough Trade/Earthworks 12" 1983


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