Shangaan electro: TsheTsha Boys

This is current electro dance/music from S. Africa. The Shangaan people (or Tsonga) live in the Transkei area near the border with Mozambique. This is a bit of an aside, and it’s going back a bit farther, but when I worked in South Africa I had a thing for Shangaan jive though Zulu jive was more popular then. I had an album I wore out (on cassette) by Shangaan musician Obed Ngobeni, titled Eka Diza. The album is below, with the lilac neckerchief. Kind of a cowboy dandy. (He’s actually most famous for a song covered by the Mahotella Queens called Kavet. His follow-up album was My Wife Has a Taxi, one of my favourite album titles of all time.)

I was working in a squatter camp at the time and whenever I put the album people on would get up and shout no way, you like Shangaan music?! and start dancing. So contagious. One of the ANC figures at the time, unfortunately I can’t remember who but I think it might have been Oliver Tambo, was talking about how black South Africans spoke a number of the dialects and that he used different languages for different things – talked to himself in Xhosa, swore in Zulu and made love in Shangaan, which explains a lot. In the video, the sort of hula skirt is handmade and the skirt and the women’s style of dance is xibelani. This group has a faint krumping/clowning feel but less aggressive. I think these may be the only clowns I’ve ever liked. Here’s more dancing to the same track.

More about the current Shangan electro craze at Nialler 9 and Dazed and Confused. Compilation album Shangaan Electro is also on iTunes.

Review by Adam Greenberg, All Music Guide, of Obed Ngobeni’s “My Wife Bought A Taxi,” 1985:

“This is a bit of jive music from the relatively overlooked Shangaan people. Obed Ngobeni is one of a handful of contemporary Shangaan jive artists competing against the large scale success of the Zulu jive scene, and here presents his take on the genre. Ngobeni makes use of an updated form of jive, filled to the brim with synthesizers, for use in harmony and ambience, as well as being the lead melodic instrument. There is a drum set, guitar, and bass along with the synths, but they play only small roles, holding the rhythm together in a melody-driven setting. Instrumentally, the sound often comes close to a relaxed form of soukous, but is also at times reminiscent of African forms of reggae. The treat here is the vocal call and response between Ngobeni and his counterpart the Kurhula Sisters. It’s a little jumpier than most forms of vocal from the area, and benefits some from its uniqueness. Song topics are more forward than the bulk of African lyrical content, celebrating women’s rights and the joys of modernity. For an aspect of South African music usually ignored, this album does a decent job of presentation. There is more exciting music to be heard, certainly, but fans of the Zulu spectrum would do well to hear this neighboring form once.”

And from afropop.org:

“Shangaan groups come from the Northern Transkei region that borders Mozambique, once a Portuguese colony. That proximity led to a Latin flavor in Shangaan music in the ’50s, the heyday of singer Francisco Baloyi. After 1975 though, the Mozambiquan influence faded when Bantu Radio started an all-Shangaan station. The guitar-based Shangaan sound veers towards rowdy party music, and a faster, lighter groove than the Zulus use. Shangaan groups typically feature a male leader backed by a female chorus, as in the top-ranking Thomas Chauke and the Sinyori Sisters, as well as General MD Shirinda and the Gaza Sisters, and Obed Ngobeni and the Kurhula Sisters, whose song “Kazet No. 2″ became a megahit when Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens covered it in 1987.”

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5 Responses to “Shangaan electro: TsheTsha Boys”

  1. steve Says:

    hey props dude, i’m an industrial designer based in durban south africa
    i also dj off vinyl, some off these maskandi afro poppy records i buy cheap in town.
    soo stoked to see this post. i check in here infrequently. love the site.
    when you’re next in town look for a creepy steve gig. also check out mahala.co.za –
    it’s a rad youth culture website, i write articles for them sometimes.

  2. LB Says:

    Thanks, Creepy Steve! It’s funny you should write – I looked at Mahala to write this post. Things have changed in the SA music scene since I was last there – I was thinking about it mainly because SA dance music is getting big here now in Vancouver and the other day I heard something that really reminded me of Shangaan music.

  3. LB Says:

    PS Steve – I can’t find out how to get the track in the video above ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocgbLkayfTE ) – I actually emailed Mr. Nozinja but didn’t hear back. Any help would be appreciated. I love the vocals in this track.

  4. steve Says:

    hey dude i’ll ask about him in local record shops and see where it can be dug up

  5. ÁFRICA: EL LADO B | FOTOGRAFÍA | REVISTA EXCLAMA | VANGUARDIA UNIVERSAL Says:

    […] en esta extravagante y avant-garde cultura africana y fue una fortuna cuando encontré a los Tshetsha Boys  porque ellos me guiaron hacia otros grupos y hacia toda la escena musical del género. Ellos son […]

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