Welcome to Jozi, house capital of the world

view from plane -feb 13-gecompthe past few weeks I spent some hectic time in South Africa, hence my absence from these pages. No time to write, just soo busy travelling, meeting exciting people and partying on Valentine’s Day in Jo’burg. That was followed by a fatal morning when the newspapers announced the murder of Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius. Talk of the day and on the front pages for the rest of my journey in South Africa. Thankfully there was more fun and excitement to fill my days and nights; looking for rare records and the sound of Johannesburg!

It was in the streets of hip Melville that I witnessed some of the most exciting new hybrid of house music, coming out of shops and boomboxes of passing cars. So as a fresh post here today, I report on the house scene of Johannesburg, a city also called Jozi by its loving citizens.

truth presents detaill

 “People making house music in shacks in townships, it’s everywhere, on the radio, tv and media”

in association with KALAWA JAZMEE
is delighted to invite you to

Talking To The Drums

Venue: The TreeHouse Club,Museum Hill Westlands
Date: Friday 15th February 2013
From: 9pm – 5 am

Entry: Ksh 1,000
(Advanced tickets information to follow shortly)

Age: +21

Join the movement and witness the marriage between Native and Contemporary Instruments.

The ELECTRAFRIQUE family, is a worldwide network of Artistes & Deejays fusing African and Electronic sounds.

Music Policy:

More details:

Robert aka Dj Murder lives in a homemade overthrow of corrugated iron. He is sleeping between his greatest asset, a battery of computers and keyboard types.

With his buddy Thabo ‘Smol’ Mabogevane he forms the duo Black Motion, one of the new young house-sensations in Johannesburg. 2011 and 2012 was big time for the duo as they headlined concerts all over the world in places like Miami, Canada, United Kingdom etc. Through a mutual relationship the boys have been offered to create music in a professional studio but they choose for the impromptu studio in the shack – ‘home is where the heart is’. Black Motion is one of the acts which is showcased in Real Scenes: Johannesburg, a recent short documentary about the thriving house scene of South Africa’s capital.

black motion in studio
Black Motion

In one of the scenes the boys can be found hunched over the illuminated displays, while a monotonous drumbeat fills the space, synths vibrate into a warm flow and their bodies rhythmically pan on the hypnotic groove. Their sound is based on that of pioneer-dj Oskido who discovered Black Motion in 2010. Ricardo Da Costa of Soul Candi Records defines the genre as a slowed down version of the original American house music but with even deeper basses and more complex rhythms, interwoven with a spirituality which is inspired by traditional drumpatterns of the African ancestors.

black coffee in studio
Black Coffee

The classical trained musician Black Coffee is perhaps the most famous South African dj of the moment. He is seen as someone who passes the positive message of house as a true ‘griot’. In Africa, griots are known to pass the history and culture of a certain tribe through music and song. His albums are good for gold. The man conquers the country with a full symphonic orchestra during megaconcerts where those by Madonna fade. Black Coffee is at present travelling the world giving European and American tours.

Through the success of Black Motion  and other young and established acts, black boys in cities such as Johannesburg today dream of becoming the next famous dj and producer of hits. Black Coffee, Black Motion, Culoe De Song, Mash-O (the Drum herbalist) and white wunderboy Ralf Gum are just a few names of a new generation in Johannesburg that dreams aloud about house music as a way out of the townships. The prevailing sentiment is that house music can create a better future for everyone in South Africa. Hope rises on the horizon. DJ Black Coffee’s latest album is applicable called ‘Africa Rising’.

black coffee coverblack coffee coverblack coffee cover

Top 5 -Jozi House

1. Black Motion – Aquarian Drums -(album CD -Kalawa Jazmee Dance 2012)

2.Ralf Gum – Linda featuring Oluhle (album track from CD ‘Never Leaves You’ -Gogo Music/House Afrika 2012)

3. Black Coffee -Africa Rising (Deluxe Album CD -Soulistic/Risa 2012)

4. Mash-O (Drum Herbalist) -Ishikhalo Shenhliziyo featuring Oluhle (album track from CD ‘Mash-O (Drum Herbalist)’ -Herbal Records 2012)

5. Culoe De Song -A Giant Leap (Album CD-Soulistic/Risa 2012)

sounds & Basotho songs from Lesotho

I could not believe my luck when I found this album; “Lesotho sings”, songs from the kingdom of Lesotho, a mountainous country that is completely surrounded by South Africa. There are a few  recordings by Hugh Tracey that were recorded during his fieldwork in 1957 known to me,  but I must admit that not many records from Lesotho have crossed my path before…

lesotho sings cover

“Lesotho Sings” consists of a collection of hymns and folk songs as sung by The Maseru and Hlotse Methodist Choir conducted by Alex Gwinsta.

The Basotho, like their fellows the Zulus, the Xhosa and Tswana, love to sing! The Negro Spirituals of the deep South, and the natural harmonies of the African in his own habitat, share a bond, indicating a common heritage intensified by the deep felt religious convictions of the African folk at heart.

They sing of their honoured founder, Moshoeshoe; they sing well-loved hymns from their wide repertoire, they sing in English and in Latin, as well as in their sister languages, Tswana and Xhosa and of course in their own Lesotho tongue.

lesotho sings label

Thesela e Mocha

a spirited call to the Basotho to exult in song and jubilation in honour of the young king, son of Moshoeshoe the Great, founder of the Basotho nation


a Latin song of praise to God

Tlong Thaka

a fervent call to all Basotho youth to rise and exult in the natural beauties of the land

Sala Sentle

a Tswana farewell to one’s beloved
alex gwinsta foto

Excerpts from the original liner notes of “Lesotho Sings” The Maseru and Hlotse Methodist Choir conducted by Alex Gwinsta–private pressing Lesotho

…and another excellent compilation of lesiba and sekhankula music, “Lesotho Calling”

The lesiba is a blown mouthbow, whereas members of this family of instruments are struck or plucked. At well over a meter in length, it is among the longest. This ancient instrument of the Khoi people, known as gora was once widespread throughout present day South Africa, as it was readily adopted by several newly arrived Bantu peoples –called ughwali by the Xhosa, kwadi by the Pedi, lesiba by the Sotho. But only the lesiba survives today.

Michael Baird & Dada Moqasa

Dada Moqasa & Michael Baird

‘the beauty of this instrument immediately knocked me out. A meditative sound, almost abstract but definitely breathing, an array of overtones, music of the ancestors, music of birds and mountains, a sound that could only come from Africa’ . Words by Michael Baird who recorded what he found on his trip through Lesotho in 2006; lesiba players and another herdsman’s instrument, the sekhankula bow and some old-style Sotho concertina.

Molalehli Matima with his lesiba Molalehli Matima with his lesiba

Tselane Ngoanak’eby Molalehli Matima

Sehloho Lebusa with his lesiba Sehloho Lebusa with his lesiba

Ntate Nkuebe balha lehlanya “Mr Nkuebe running away from the madman”by Sehloho Lebusa

The title comes from an expression used by some players to announce themselves before starting to play ‘Move aside, I’m the man!’

Another herdsman’s instrument of Lesotho is the sekhankula, also known as maohorong depending on which district. It is a musical bow that is played with a bow stroking the strings and is widely distributed throughout South Africa. A curved stick or sometimes a straight steel rod, of the type used for reinforcing concrete, is put into a 5 –liter paraffin can through the top end, which is open having been removed by sawing and the stick/rod is jammed in place. The string is a length of tin iron wire, which is attached to the top of the stick and fixed to the outside of the far corner of the can; the can acts as a resonator, sometimes with an opening cut in the bottom and small holes punctured in the sides.

Mocholoko satane “Graduate of witchcraft by Motsoetla Letsie.

Motsoetla plays instrumental only, no singing. At the beginning of this track, we can hear him rubbing his bow across the top of his instrument a few times where he had his resin reserve. This is something all the sekhankula players do before commencing a piece.

Samuel Tolosi en Motsoetla Letsie with his sekhankula Samuel Tolosi and Motsoetla Letsie with a sekhankula

Excerpts from the original liner notes and photographs courtesy of “Lesotho calling” SWP 033 http://www.swp-records.com

Recommended listening

“Lesotho calling” SWP 033

lesotho country cover

see Lesotho kids singing in a traditional smoke hut

Basotho young men and kids are singing traditional songs.

Filmed in nightshot in a traditional basotho housse ( full of smoke) during the Afropeaks pan african mountain expedition in Lesotho.