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South Africa – Vol. 4

The party is almost over. On Sunday, two hands will receive the World Cup trophy and lift it high as confetti sprays out of machines, reminding me that some poor souls will have to clean up the mess.

For South African residents in the seven host cities, it has been a ride. The vibe has been amazing, and the tournament has been very well organised. The special courts that were set up to deal with crime have been in a somnolent state due to inaction. I am sure those bottomless pits of vomit in the European and British media that predicted roaming bands of criminals robbing and raping foreign fans and shooting with AK-47s at the German team will gladly retract their slanderous and ““ yes, I”ll damn well will say it ““ racist propaganda against South Africa.

These unfounded predictions cost South Africa. Fewer people than expected came. We may account for some of the shortfall with reference to the economic crisis. But the vicious propaganda hurt South Africa. Still, the host has answered its critics. The stadiums were built in time, travelling fans were safe from crime and race wars, and the atmosphere was every bit as genial as it was in Germany four years earlier. Of course, crime was controlled only by an immense show of strength by the police, which now knows that with good application and resources it might get a handle on the country”s crime crisis. And one hopes that the government will show the same political will in solving poverty as it did in building stadiums and tossing FIFA”s salad.

South Africa put on a world class show. It could not have been much better, give or take a few transport snafus (Durban airport screwed things up royally on Wednesday). The world”s biggest event was staged in South Africa ““ in Africa! ““ with every bit as much competence and efficiency as it was in Germany four years ago. The impact of this on South Africa”s and Africa”s psyche cannot be underestimated. Likewise, the memory of South Africa”s successful organisation must alter the perception of the country and continent among those who have held images of cliché. The government has shown the political will to show that it can do something extraordinary. It must now show the will to do more extraordinary things: beating poverty and crime chief among these.

Like everybody else who was in the host cities over the past four weeks, I will retain many great memories (some are represented in the collage avove). The country being awash in flags, the sound of the vuvuzelas, the opening goal that sent South Africa into a huge simultaneous orgasm, several trips to the fan park and four games in the stadium, doing the fan walk (not so great in cold and rainy weather; glorious on balmy evenings), Germany beating England and Argentina, my black Germany scarf, K”naan”s Wave your Flag song and Shakira’s Waka Waka, fans in fancy dress (the Dutch fans especially were great), and ““ the happiest of all memories ““ spending a lot of time with Any Minor Dude.

And whoever wins on Sunday, I will have seen the 2010 World Cup winner on their way to becoming champions (Spain against Portugal and Holland against Cameroon).

With all that out of the way, here”s the final batch of South African songs:

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Tony Schilder Trio – Gimme Loving (1995).mp3
Robbie Jansen (with Allou April) – Love Song For Forgotten People (1991).mp3
Spirits Rejoice – Shine On (1978).mp3

The great Cape Town saxophonist and singer Robbie Jansen died on July 7 at the age of 61. Some 20-odd years ago I heard Robbie sing the best version of What”s Going On I have ever heard (he recorded it in 2005; I”ve never heard that though). With his gravelly voice, hoarse from smoking cigarettes (containing brown and green stuff), he was a great interpreter of songs. A collection of covers sung by Robbie Jansen could have been a brilliant album. He recorded a couple of Cape jazz albums and contributed to albums by others, usually by playing the sax. He appeared on Dollar Brand”s classic Mannenberg album (the title is a sloppy misrendering of the ghetto”s name; on the LP he and the larte Basil Coezee harmonised on alto sax), and guested on both albums by the great keyboardist Tony Schilder, who himself is in poor health (as, sadly, is his musician son Hilton; the struggling Schilder family can be assisted via this site), as well as with acts such as Tananas, Juluka and the Sons of Table Mountain, with whom he visited Cuba a few years ago. Jansen was the saxophonist of Pacific Express alongside a young Jonathan Butler and then of Spirits Rejoice (the hit Shine On features Paul Peterson, now a producer, on vocals). Janssen may not have been known outside South Africa, perhaps not even much outside Cape Town. But the man was a legend, a cultural icon in a jazz city. A local trade union has called for a street to be named after Jansen. It is a marvellous idea. Indeed, the city should name a whole district after departed local jazz greats.

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Hugh Masekela ““ Mama (1996).mp3
Hugh Masekela – Don’t Go Lose It Baby (1984).mp3
Hugh Masekela ““ Grazing In The Grass (1968).mp3

The jazz legend appeared in the opening ceremony of the World Cup (which also featured R Kelly ““ an ill-considered choice for an event in a country with high levels of sexual violence against minors). I was surprised by that; Masekela had taken a very negative stance towards the event, arguing that the money should have been spent on poverty relief. Still, it was good to see the doyen of SA jazz still active and looking good at 71. Featured here are three songs from the man”s long career. On Mama, Masekela sings in his deliciously growling voice. It probably is my favourite Masekela track. Don’t Go Lose It Baby is a blazing jazz-funk track, with some retro-rapping for the “80s nostalgists. Masekela”s joyful Grazing In The Grass, composed by Philemon Hou, topped the US charts in 1968, and is internationally Masekela”s signature song. Dig the cowbells!

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Blk Sonshine ““ Building (2000).mp3
Blk Sonshine ““ Born In A Taxi (2000).mp3

It”s difficult to categorise Blk Sonshine. Though an acoustic outfit, Neo Muyanga and Masauko Chipembere have eclectic influences, drawing from kwela, kwaito and reggae as well as from folk, rock and hip hop, with socially conscious lyrics. The rousing Building is a folk-hued, as was their hit song, the gentle and lovely Born In A Taxi. Blk Sonshine are still recording and appearing live. I”ve heard a few songs from their latest album, Good Life. It sounds great (Check the tunes out). Gil Scott-Heron fans will be interested to note that the great man”s flautist Brian Jackson has lately been collaborating with Chipembere, who was born in the US of Malawian parents. And listen to Building: the vocals aren’t a million miles from Scott-Heron’s at his more agitated.  Visit Blk Sonshine at blksonshine.com/

Blk Sonshine must not be confused with the highly-rated township heavy metal band Blk Jks (for a taste of them, check out the excellent Liberator Magazine blog.

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Sipho “˜Hotstix” Mabuse ““ Burn Out (1985).mp3
Burn Out was the big South African hit of 1985. A true dance track from the townships that easily crossed the race divide, as Brenda Fassie”s Weekend Special had done the previous year, at a time when that was still remarkable. It sold half a million copies, an extraordinary figure in South Africa”s small market. Before that, Mabuse had been a member of the influential Afro-funk band Harari, the first black pop group to appear on white TV, in 1979. Mabuse never capitalised on the success of Burn Out to become a big recording star (it took him ten years to release a follow-up album), becoming a successful producer of nascent talent instead.

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Miriam Makeba – Ring Bell, Ring Bell (1967).mp3
This series has to feature at least one Makeba song. I suppose most readers will have stocked up on Makeba music after her death in late 2008, but might have missed this lovely song from Mama Afrika”s 1967 Pata Pata LP, released on Frank Sinatra”s Reprise label. Makeba”s life would make for a great TV mini-series; born to a sangoma (similar to a shaman) mother, the beautiful Miriam had success in South Africa and on the London stage (with Todd Matshikiza”s musical King Kong) before going into exile in the US, where she was also unwanted after marrying civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael in 1968. In the interim, she addressed the United Nations on the subject of apartheid, upon which the Pretoria regime revoked her citizenship. Even her last moments were filled with an activist”s spirit: she died after appearing at a concert against organised crime in Italy.

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Letta Mbulu ““ Hareje (1973).mp3
Another one of the great South African exiles with King Kong connections, Mbulu made her breakthrough when the jazz great David Axelrod signed her to Capitol Records in 1968, to be produced by him alongside such luminaries as Cannonball Adderley and Lou Rawls. Though the critics loved Mbulu”s albums, the label had no idea how to market her unique Afro-soul sound. After Capitol, she recorded the 1973 Naturally album on Adderley”s Fantasy Records label, from which this track comes. Backing musicians on the album, and on Hareje, included the Crusaders luminaries Wilton Felder, Joe Sample, Stix Hooper and Wayne Henderson. This opened the door for a deal with Herb Alpert”s A&M label, but commercial success continued to elude Mbulu. Still, Quincy Jones liked her, having her sing on the soundtracks to the mini-series Roots and the film The Color Purple. She also sang on Michael Jackson”s Liberian Girl. She returned to South Africa with her husband Caiphus Semenya, an acclaimed musician and producer himself, in 1991.

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Four Jacks & A Jill – Master Jack (1968).mp3
This group was at the centre of a beer-fuelled spat I got embroiled in many years ago. I had compiled a pub trivia quiz, and one of the questions concerned South African acts that had ever entered the UK charts. One team of worthies, perennial winners whose dedication to the beer life was amply reflected in their protruding guts, included Four Jacks & A Jill in their answer Their disputation of the fact that Four Jacks & A Jill never bothered the UK charts became rather heated. Alas, I had thought it unnecessary to lug with me all my reference books “” in this case the 8th edition of the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles. Ultimately, to keep the peace, the utterly wrong bastards got their point. In return, I marked all their subsequent answers with spiteful strictness. Where my pals went wrong was in confusing the charts: Master Jack failed to chart in Britain but was a Top 20 hit in the US (and a chart-topper in Canada). Although the band comprised four men and a female member, none were called Jack or Jill (the “Jill” was in fact named Glenys Lynne.). The folk-pop group was named after a 1942 movie.

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Prime Circle – Lose Tomorrow (2003).mp3
Occasionally I enjoy a bit of alt.rock; I like a bit of Foo Fighters from time to time. So I can see an upside to Germany being reduced to a third-place play-off against Uruguay today: Prime Circle are scheduled to play at Cape Town”s fan park before the game. Having missed out on Freshlyground last week and Blk Sonshine in June (but having caught the excellent electronica outfit Goldfish there), I am looking forward to that. Their Wikipedia entry seems to have been vandalised with insights like “In 1999 the band hadn”t yet formed” and Wildean wit such as “73% of Prime Circle circle [sic] fans are masochists. The other 27% don’t actually listen to the music.” I am delighted to report that my sides have not split.

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  1. Richard
    July 10th, 2010 at 09:47 | #1

    The World Cup might well have been dominated by European teams in terms of the results, but for me there’s another prize they should be awarding:

    “Team with the biggest brass balls”

    And that award, without a shadow of a doubt, should go to Ghana.

    They so nearly pulled off the biggest upset in World Cup history, and they played with fire in their bellies… a wonderful example for ALL aspiring champions to follow because they played like proud warriors – they never for a moment gave up.

    African football has come of age – and now they know they can do it any team who doesn’t respect them will be taught an embarrassing lesson.

  2. July 12th, 2010 at 13:10 | #2

    South Africa hosted World Cup 2010 with great poise and panache.

    To be fair to the media in the UK, the presentation here on the part of both the BBC and ITV has been sympathetic. Not once, I believe, has any commentry suggested that South Africa staged less than a world class event.

    Coverage of the football, of course, has been supplemented with interviews with South Africans on the street; a consensus of pride and unity, and the pragmatic realism that the expenditure will not necessarily financially benefit individuals in the lomg run. That is very valid. Like many South Africans themselves, I certainly could not afford to fiance travel, accomodation and tickets. Like many South Africans too, I suspect, I do not even hold a passport.

    Football is big business. For government office, the transfer market, and international FAs. South Africa fought to play its part and won.

    In terms of global presence and visibility it has reaped only success.

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