Friday 17 June 2011

Putting the Soul back into Gospel - Soweto Soul Gospel Singers (1975)

Do not confuse "The Soweto Soul Gospel Singers" (1975), with the currently popular Grammy award-wining Soweto Gospel Choir formed in 2002. This here is the funky soul  original testifying to catchy call and response rhythms backed by electric guitars, organ and drums - popular in the few black South African urban churches that could afford it during the dark days of apartheid, and more widely through records such as this one.

This album was  issued within the year building up to the June 16th, 1976 Soweto uprising - a turning point in which increasing numbers in the Churches and the clergy took on important transformative roles.

South Africa has a strong choral and a-capella gospel tradition. Given the influence of black soul musicians from the U.S. on black South African urban music in the 1960s and 1970s I have always wondered why my vinyl digging escapades did not uncover much in the way of "soul" gospel.  This recent find goes someway to filling that "gap" - of course, with its own South African adaptation and appropriation.

With a reported 80 percent of South Africans being of the Christian faith, gospel is South Africa's biggest music market. Of all the posts on electricjive, the most visited page is The King's Messengers Quartet. Today's offering, now 36 years old, was written and recorded for local audiences in local languages - but clearly identifying with the U.S. Soul Gospel idiom. Babsy Mlangeni's singing here might be the closest South Africa got to our own version of the good Reverend Al Green.
Producer Koloi Hendrik Lebona was one of the few consistently successful independent producers of the 1970s. He arranged most of the songs. Babsy Mlangeni wrote three of the songs, and sings in a lead role on the album.

Look out for our next posting - number 150. Jazz lovers will not want to miss it.

Black Music Productions BMC (V) 517

1. Engilosi (arr H. Lebona)
2. Nansti Ngola (B. Mlangeni)
3. Ngathi Ngishamba (arr. H. Lebona)
4. Joko Yahao (arr. H. Lebona)
5. Seteng Sediba (arr. H. Lebona)
6. Uvukile U Jesu (arr. H. Lebona)
7. Se'Hete Wena Ya Ratehang (arr. H. Lebona)
8. Wakrazulwa (arr. H. Lebona)
9. Usizi Lumi Lodwa (arr. H. Lebona)
10. Ayamqhikaza (B. Mlangeni)
11. Singaba Hambayo (B. Mlangeni)

RS here
MF here


  1. Fantastic find.I can't wait to get into this. Merci Beaucoup!

  2. many thanks to you as always...

  3. Thank you for this. I am currently writing a novel where one of my main characters is a soul gospel singer living in Soweto during apartheid. To be able to listen to this music is wonderful and will help tremendously in writing my character.


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