If there is one white pop band that deserves to be crowned as the Bleached Zulu then it must be the South African group The Shangaans. They even adopted their name from an African tribe noted for their musical virtuosity. See previous post for the song “Liwa Wechi”, the B-side of their hitsingle “The Click Song” (Columbia 45-DSA 612, 1965)
Now here are a few selections from their 1965 debut album “Jungle Drums”, remarkable fact is that both tracks were written by Miriam Makeba. The album was released in the UK and spawned many hit singles and a overseas career for the 5 young guys known as The Shangaans. Not a bad achievement considering the fact that the international boycot against South African apartheid then ruled the world.
The fusion of conventional western world melodies and lyrics with pulsating African tribal rhythms –as perfected by South Africa’s top group The Shangaans –represents one of the most exciting, out-of-the-rut sounds ever heard on the British music scene. After hitting the highspots throughout South Africa, the five-strong Shangaans arrived in the UK in the summer of 1965 and immediately clicked in a big way with fans via two big –selling songs “Genzene” and “The Click Song”. Now comes their first album and the overall title ‘Jungle Drums’ aptly summarizes their unique, highly individual style of exotic, percussion-based pop music.
The use of stereophonic sound greatly enriches the never-ending cross-pattern of percussive sounds from a wide variety of authentic African instruments –including chopi piano, kalimba, and any amount of big and small tribal drums. Although basically an instrumental set –with such highspots as the throbbing revival of the Lou Busch favourite, “Zambezi”, and the kwela flavoured “Afrikaan Beat” –The Shangaans, nevertheless, are accomplished singers too, and show their paces in fine style on “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” (perhaps better known in some quarters as “Wimoweh”.
Who are The Shangaans? Their names are Grahame Beggs, Alain Woolf, Mark Barry, Bill Muller and Glen “Tich” Muller. They represent the cream of the South African music scene, since all five have made their mark in the past with other leading groups. Individually, they are brilliant musicians; collectively, they make a remarkable, multi-talented outfit. Grahame doubles lead, rhythm and 12-string guitars, plus maracas and African drums, whilst Alain handles the lead, vocals, penny whistle, and a host of percussion instruments. Organist Mark is also featured on piano, celeste, chopi piano, and vibraphone, and Bill Muller doubles drums, thumb piano and African drums. Younger brother Glen completes the picture on bass guitar, doubling African percussion.
musical selections from The Shangaans -“Jungle Drums”
Columbia Mono 33JSX 76, 1965 South Africa
Info taken from the liner notes written by Dave Wynn for “Jungle Drums” album released in 1965.