Vol.21 No.12

Friday 23 January 2004    

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Arts/Culture Review
The best of Soul Brothers reviewed

MORONGWA PHALA
Staff Writer

1/22/2004 11:41:54 PM (GMT +2)

OF the original five-member band, who started the Soul Brothers in 1974, only two have survived to date. But the music that they popularised, the Mbaqanga music, still lives on.


David Masondo, one of the two surviving original members, is a lead vocal singer while another Moses Ngwenya, is on keyboards and also doubles as a vocalist. These are the two living legends of Soul Brothers who have survived Tuza Mthethwa the lead guitarist, American Zulu the rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist, and Zenzele Mchunu the bassist.

Mthethwa was the first to pass on to his grave in 1978 followed by Mchunu six years later - both dying in car accidents. Four years later, Zulu's life was cut short by a gunshot.

Masondo and Mgwenya took ownership of Mbaqanga ensemble, which managed to sell 1 500 000 units in disc and cassette releases. For six consecutive years, since the inception of the South African Music awards in 1995, the group won the FNB sponsored SAMA for Best Mbaqanga Performance. First with their album Isigebengu in 1995, in 1996 it was the album Indaba, the following year Umshado, Idlozi snatched the award in 1998, and Amanikiniki did it in 1999, and finally in 2000 Isigqebhezana followed the same feat.

On their compilation album, The Best of Soul Brothers, producers Dereck Smith, Ngwenya himself, and Betwell Ngubane, brought back twenty favourite hits from over thirty of their previous albums in 2000. That compilation excluded all other compilation albums made over twenty-six years.

Soul Brothers Music Publishers published all their music.

Isiphiwo dates back from before the mid 80's produced by Masondo, Ngwenya, and Mchunu. Masondo and Ngwenya produced Siyayi Dudula, Mshoza was however produced by Mthethwa while Zulu produced Malume.

Intombi Yami - Mshoza meaning 'my girlfriend' draws attention to behaviour and courtship patterns in the face of HIV/AIDS. The track is about a man who starts courting his friend's wife. It explores human weakness of lust, deceit, friendships going wrong, and relationships going bad.

Malume meaning 'uncle' is about a young man who wants to prepare for marriage, but the uncle is standing in his way.

All the tracks have a distinctive mark of the real Mbaqanga, a music with its roots in the rural areas of South Africa, deriving its name by Xhoza language. Originally this sound was associated with township simpletons, unlike the more sophisticated jazz music associated with the more refined township population. But these 'sophisticates' are the same musicians who had been schooled in the Mbaqanga sounds. Today Mpaqanga hits home in terms of popularity compared to any other township music.

Their energetic and professional live show performances came to popularity in South Africa and the entire Southern African region following on the foot prints of returning migrant workers and spread throughout the world from Germany, Britain, Norway, and Australia. They successfully managed to fill up the Sydney Opera House to capacity and sold-out in many of their concerts. Most memorable was when they sold out in Oslo, Norway when they performed to celebrate the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Nelson Mandela and Frederick W. de Klerk.

Today the same music spanning over two decades is heard seeping out of taxi's in Southern Africa, sidewalks in Europe, from the foot of Drakensberg, to corner pubs in London. Gallo Record Company reminds people why Soul Brothers are still enjoyed today with this celebratory 'best of' album. Street Horn promotions will be presenting the Soul Brothers at the Africa Jive Festival on January 30 2004.

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