This album has been on my turntable for the last past days and its appeal is growing with each spin. I find it hard to resist the magic coming out of these grooves; jazz, funk, afro-beat; definitely a fusion of styles that blends into a gentle South African swing.
Each of the featured tracks are winners, especially the bassline and close harmony singing on ‘Sishovingolovane’ and the comical funky mood of ‘Who Is Fooling You’ as well as the title track ‘Look, Listen And Decide’. Each track on this rare album deserves your attention so featured here today. Enjoy!
Stimela – Look, Listen And Decide
Gallo – HUL 40109 -released in South Africa 1986
Stimela, the Zulu word for “locomotive”, is a South African Afro-fusion band, founded by Ray Phiri in 1982 after his previous band The Cannibals, the soul music giants of the 70’s, disbanded.
Stimela have since become little short of an institution in South Africa. Born and raised in Mpumalanga Phiri used to dance to his troubadour father’s puppet shows and had his first break in 1962 when he managed to dance for the legendary Dark City Sisters when they performed in Mpumalanga. From this performance he made enough money giving him a chance to travel to Johannesburg and start his own band.
Phiri, along with Jabu Sibume on bass, Isaac Mtshali on drums, and Lloyd Lelosa on keyboards were The Cannibals and during this time the group supplied instrumental accompaniment on recordings of other artists including Irene Mawela and the Mahotella Queens. The four joined forces with vocalist Jacob “Mparanyana” Radabe in 1975, continuing to work together for four more years until Mparanyana’s untimely death at the peak of his career. In 1982, renamed as Stimela, the band was further expanded with the addition of Thabelo Kgomo and Charlie Ndlovu on keyboards.
In 1985 the American singer and musician Paul Simon asked Phiri, along with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, to join his Graceland project, a hugely successful project that helped a number of South African artists to make names for themselves abroad. Phiri was the arranger of the Graceland album and he collaborated with Paul Simon again on Simon’s Rhythm of the Saints album, which saw Phiri tour for six months and perform on stages such as Central Park and Madison Square Garden, in Europe (1987) and the Soviet Union (1989), as well as appearing on top television shows in the US.
Although largely inactive nowadays, the mbaqanga/jazz/fusion band occasionally still appears on stage.
As Phiri explains, “We all have different things that we do in life. Stimela is an institution and therefore we will come together if there’s something we want to achieve.”
Ray Phiri -lead guitar, lead vocals
Isaac “Mnca” Mtshali -drummer
Thabo Lloyd Lelosa –keyboards
Jabu Sibumbe – bass guitar
Nana Coyote – lead vocals
Thapelo Kgomo – keyboards
Charlie Ndlovu – organ
Ntokozo Zungu – lead guitar