Since forming in 1999, Strut Records has emerged as one of the UK’s most renowned labels, working almost exclusively with black artists. Early releases include a live recording of one of Larry Levan’s famous DJ residencies at New York’s Paradise Garage, as well as a mix from one of Grandmaster Flash’s Bronx block parties.
More than 15 years later, Strut still seeks to document the stories of music’s bygone eras. Its latest release, the fourth installment of the Next Stop Soweto series, traces South Africa’s rich musical landscape during the late ‘70s and ’80s, a period marked by much political turmoil. Though “tightly controlled by oppressive Apartheid laws,” artists still managed to flourish and the local scene “nevertheless progressed into myriad new directions, embracing funk, soul, rock and disco.”
As a press release explains, sonic evolution was inspired by homegrown South African artists, as well as movements found thousands of miles away across the Atlantic:
The era marked a crossroads for the country’s black musicians. While domestic stars of mbaqanga like the Mahotella Queens had temporarily disbanded during the onslaught of disco, younger artists like T.Y. Boys and Elias Maluleke embraced and progressed the style in new ways, adding punk and disco touches to the familiar bass line swing.
Imported US R&B and the powerful socio-political message of the Afro-American soul stars, championed by pioneering producers like Hamilton Nzimande in South Africa since the ’60s, continued to be a powerful force. Influenced by bands as diverse as War, Edwin Starr, and Yes, as well as the domestic “malombo” sound, South African collectives led by Sipho Mabuse’s Harari and including Xoliso, Marumo and Kabana explored new soul and rock directions featuring Zulu lyrics, township harmonies and top level musicianship.
The comprehensive Next Stop Soweto: Zulu Rock, Afro-Disco and Mbanqanga 1975-1985 spans 15 rare tracks from artists like Almon Memela, Marumo, Xoliso, Margaret Singane, and Saitana, among others. More than simply a historical artifact, the compilation helps to capture and celebrate the heart and soul of underground South African music. Stream the entire album below and pre-order it here.
Next Stop Soweto Vol. 4 Tracklist:
01. Kabasa – Unga Pfula A Chi Pfalo
02. Elias Maluleke – Khombo Ranga
03. The Actions – Kokro-Ko (Hide and Seek)
04. Almon Memela – The Things We Do In Soweto
05. Marumo – Khomo Tsaka Deile Kae?
06. T.Y. Boys – Lekopokopo Single Moqashoa
07. Saitana – 1,2,3
08. The Movers – Soweto Disco
09. Abafana Bama Soul – Masisizwane
10. Xoliso – Manano
11. Damara – Mmamakhabtha
12. Margaret Singane – Ubukhwele
13. Harari – Give
14. Isaac – Get Down
15. The Drive – Ain’t Sittin’ Down Doin’ Nothing