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Amaswazi Emvelo

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Amaswazi Emvolo were the sound of Soweto under apartheid - pulsating township jive with a heavy bouncing bassline and ringing guitars. Formed in the early 1970s they came to Western attention on the compilation LP “The Indestructible Beat Of Soweto” with the song Thul’ulalele. Along with Abafana Busequdeni and Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens they represent the golden age of South African pop.

’60s Africa found the Zulu and Sotho beginning to incorporate the influences of African American R&B, jazz, and blues into their traditional, indigenous music. New styles such as township jazz, pennywhistle street music, Kwela, and marabi were formed. Eventually, these myriad styles coalesced to create a new hybrid pop music that came to be known as mbaqanga. Though mbaqanga employs the traditional instrumentation of Western pop (guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and vocals), the approach to song structure and rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic phrasing is uniquely African.

Recorded between 1981 and 1984, THE INDESTRUCTIBLE BEAT OF SOWETO is the first (and arguably the best) of a slew of South African pop recordings that soon followed. Characterized by insistent, rhythmically complex beats, elastic, burbling basslines, tight, ska-sounding guitar accompaniment, and thick, multi-part vocals, this music is as intriguing as it is appealing. Groups with such names as Udokotela Shange Namajaha and Amaswazi Emvelo serve up bright, infectious melodies and percussively insistent tracks that are clearly intended for dancing.

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