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South African pop for election day

April 22nd, 2009 8 comments

Today South Africans go to the polls to elect their new parliament, which in turn will elect the president. It”s a foregone conclusion that the African National Congress will win a majority; the only question is whether they will repeat their two-thirds plus majority of 1999 and 2004. Of interest will be also how the smaller parties, especially the ANC-breakaway Congress of the People will fare, and whether the ANC will lose, as expected, the regional government of the Western Cape (the province that includes Cape Town).

But I did the political thing on Monday. To mark the South African elections, let”s have some randomly chosen South African pop music. I covered the SA jazz angle a couple of months ago with this mix (did anyone like it?).

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Farryl Purkiss ““ Better Days.mp3
farryl_purkissAn appropriate title for today, even if the certain election of the misogynist homophobe Jacob Zuma is not a cause for extravagant optimism (though he can’t be much worse than Aids denialist, Mugabe-supporting Thabo Mbeki) . I”ve pushed the fare of Durban”s Farryl Purkiss in the past. This track, from his wonderful eponymously-titled 2006 album, is absolutely beautiful, in the singer-songwriter vein. He cites as an influence Elliott Smith, and at times sounds a lot like him, as well as the likes of Iron & Wine, Joe Purdy, Sufjan Stevens and Calexico. I have a hunch that Purkiss might have listened also to “70s folkie Shawn Phillips (who, incidentally, now lives in South Africa) and the majestic Patty Griffin. I wrote about a Purkiss gig I saw in July 2007 (here), where I took the photo on the right; oddly, I have missed all his subsequent gigs in my area. Purkiss on MySpace.

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Josie Field – Every Now And Then.mp3
josie_fieldThe same year, the lovely Josie Field had a radio hit (singles aren”t widely sold in SA, so charts are based on radio airplay) with this excellent song. I”m waiting for Natalie Imbruglia or somebody like that to cover it. Her debut album apparently sold 7,000 copies, which in her genre in South Africa is a very respectable number. With figures like that, I don”t know why anyone with Field”s obvious talent would bother to release albums in South Africa. (Homepage)
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Bright Blue – Weeping.mp3
bright-blueA real South African classic from 1986 which I think had some influence on the anti-apartheid struggle by way of conscientising young white South Africans. The song is about apartheid-era president PW Botha’s antics and features the strains of the then-banned struggle hymn Nkosi Sikelel” iAfrica. Strangely the state-owned radio stations played Weeping prodigiously. Songs had been banned for much less (a year previously, all Stevie Wonder music was banned from the airwaves after the singer dedicated his Grammy to Nelson Mandela).

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Juluka ““ Impi.mp3
julukaJuluka”s frontman Johnny Clegg “” the “White Zulu” “” did a great deal for the struggle by integrating himself into Zulu culture, with sincerity and respect for Zulu culture. His groups, first Juluka and then Savuka, where multi-racial at a time when that was virtually unheard of. I have seen many concerts by Clegg”s groups, including a fantastic one in London”s Kentish Town & Country Club. Invariably, these were incredibly energetic. As a live performer, Clegg was not far behind Springsteen. The highlight always 1981″s Impi, which would send the crowd wild, especially when Clegg did those high-kicking, floor-board shattering Zulu wardance moves.

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Brenda Fassie – Vuli Ndlela.mp3
brenda_fassieRecently a contestant in South Africa”s Idols show was favourably compared to the late Brenda Fassie. Such compliments are not offered lightly, not by sensible people. Fassie was a superstar, throughout Africa. People have compared her to Madonna (minus Fassie”s drug abuse, violence, lapses into madness, financial difficulties, lesbian affairs, and premature death). The comparison flatters Madonna. Fassie was a superstar but yet still one with the people, of the people. She showed that talent and charisma trumps vacant beauty. Vuli Ndlela was Fassie”s huge dance hit from 1998, an infectious number that by force of sheer energy compensates for some regrettable production values.

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Freshlyground ““ Castles In The Sky.mp3
freshlygroundDespite rumours of an impending break-up, Freshlygrounds remain South Africa”s most popular group. The multi-ethnic group transcends boundaries of race and genre. The group”s first hit, 2002″s Castles In The Sky, is a good example of veering between genres. This remixed version received the airplay; the original is a slightly African-inflected pop song which Everything But The Girl might have sung. The superior remix adds to it a House feel which turns the song into a slow-burning dance track. (Freshlyground homepage)

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Niki Daly – Is It An Ism Or Is It Art.mp3
nikidalyIn 1984, artist and author of children”s books Niki Daly had one of the more bizarre South African hits with this song, doubtless inspired by the likes of Bowie, Roxy Music, Gary Numan and Thomas Dolby. A great slice of mid-80s new wave. Like so much of great South African songs, it made no impression on the international charts. At least one of his books, Not So Fast, Songololo, is a children”s book classic. Many of the Capetonian”s books published in the 1980s promoted interracial relations, thereby helping to instil a mindset among those who were then children (and are now young adults) that colour ought not be a social barrier. Read more on Daly”s books.

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Andr̩ de Villiers РMemories.mp3
andre-de-villiers-017I have posted this before, and it proved a very popular song. When the link went dead, I received a few requests to please re-upload it. Memories, by a Cape Town-based songwriter of folk and gospel material, scored a lovely South African TV commercial for Volkswagen, perhaps my all-time favourite ad. I suppose it has special appeal for those who are experiencing the nostalgic musings that accompany middle-age. (André de Villiers” homepage)

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Next week is the 15th anniversary of South Africa”s first democratic election (obviously, racially exclusive elections should not be called democratic). If the above proves to be of any interest at all, I will mark that day with another eight randomly chosen South African songs. And if anyone has tried unsuccessfully to download the Mandela soundclips I posted last July, I”ve reuploaded them.

Have Song, Will Sing Vol. 2 – Songbirds

August 1st, 2008 1 comment

The term singer-songwriter has acquired a bad reputation, unjustly so. As I”ve said before, the genre is in its best state since the days of Joni Mitchell and her contemporaries. The critics, it seems, seem to conflate the rich diversity of artists thus categorised with a glut of performers who have found mainstream success, but who are not actually representatives of the genre. They are not representative because, as this collection (and the first one I posted earlier this week) may show. So in these collections do not expect a legion of Jack Johnson and Norah Jones clones.

Sure, some may be influenced by these, but the current crop of singer-songwriters draw their influences widely: Rosie Thomas, Kate Walsh and the Weepies” Deb Talan from folk or “Americana”, Brandi Carlile from rock; Ingrid Michaelson, Laura Veirs, Kimya Dawson and Hello Saferide from different strands of indie; Mindy Smith and Charlotte Kendrick from (alt.)country, Missy Higgins from pop; Maria Taylor from everything. And so on.

The women on this mix may be called “Songirds” (a term I had not seen used when I called my series that last year, but which seems to have currency; it is a good and obvious description). These Songbirds come mostly from the US, but other countries are represented: England (Kate Walsh), Sweden (Hello Saferide), Belgium (Sarah Bettens; the female part of K”s Choice), South Africa (the gorgeous Josie Field), Iceland (Emiliana Torrini), Australia (Missy Higgins). Catherine Feeny was born in the US and moved to England; Michelle Featherstone (who, scandalously, has no record contract) went the other way.

TRACKLISTING
1. Laura Veirs – Pink Light (from Saltbreaker, 2007)
2. Ingrid Michaelson – Breakable (from Girls And Boys, 2006)
3. Brandi Carlile – Late Morning Lullaby (from The Story, 2007)
4. Dar Williams – Farewell To The Old Me (from The Beauty Of The Rain, 2003)
5. Catherine Feeny – Mr. Blue (from Hurricane Glass, 2006)
6. Charlotte Kendrick – Thank You (from North Of New York, 2007)
7. Mindy Smith – Falling (from One More Moment, 2004)
8. Rosie Thomas – Since You’ve Been Around (from If Songs Could Be Held, 2005)
9. Kim Richey – The Absence Of Your Company (from Chinese Boxes, 2007)
10. Missy Higgins – Warm Whispers (from On A Clear Night, 2007)
11. Hello Saferide – The Quiz (from Would You Let Me Play This EP 10 Times A Day?, 2006)
12. Deb Talan – Cherry Trees (from Live at WERS Studio, 2001)
13. Maria Taylor – Two of Those Two (from 11:11, 2005)
14. Kate Walsh – Don’t Break My Heart (from Tim’s House, 2007)
15. Michelle Featherstone – Coffee & Cigarettes (from Fallen Down, 2006)
16. A Fine Frenzy – Come On Come Out (from One Cell In The Sea, 2007)
17. Laura Gibson – Hands In Pockets (from If You Come To Greet Me, 2006)
18. Sarah Bettens – Follow Me (from Scream, 2006)
19. Josie Field – Every Now And Then (from Mercury, 2006)
20. Kathleen Edwards – Scared At Night (from Asking For Flowers, 2008)
21. Emiliana Torrini – Next Time Around (from Fisherman’s Woman, 2004)
22. Gemma Hayes – Evening Sun (from 4.35 AM EP, 2001)
23. Kimya Dawson – Loose Lips (from Remember That I Love You, 2006)

DOWNLOAD

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