Review: Thanks to increased interest in South African dance music of the late 1980s, original copies of this obscure album from little-known trio The Bees have been changing hands for large sums online. Happily, Johannesburg-based label Afrosynth Records has decided to give it the reissue treatment. It was first released in 1988 and offers a near perfect example of the early Kwaito style blend of "bubblegum" South African synth-pop and contemporaneous U.S house. Highlights include the chanted vocals, sun-bright synth melodies and rubbery bass of "She's A Witch (Tikoloshi)", the glassy-eyed mid-tempo Kwaito richness of "Mjondolo (Bus House)" and "Mathatha", an anthem in waiting rich in country guitar riffs, positive lyrical messages and jangling house piano.
Review: Afrosynth Records' latest must-have release comes from Mabuta, a Capetown-based collective headed up by jazz bassist and occasional electronic experimentalist Shane Cooper. "Welcome To This World" is naturally rooted in jazz, though it's spiritual movements and cosmic vibrations regularly include suitably intergalactic synth sounds and nods towards jazz-funk and Afro-beat. The latter influence comes to the fore on Buddy Wells collaboration "Log Out Shut Down", while the brilliantly out-there "Tafattala" wraps bustling, crashing jazz drums in mind-altering backwards instrumentation and Cooper's booming double bass. Mabuta is of course capable of providing good, old-fashioned laidback jazz moments, as the Cinematic Orchestra-esque "As We Drift Away" emphatically proves.
Review: For the latest release on his much-check Afrosynth label, DJ Okapi has once again turned his attention to the early days of South African Kwaito music. "I Wanda Why?" contains a quartet of cuts plucked from the 1994 album of the same name by Sea Bee, a vocalist who pretty much disappeared without a trace afterwards (this is in sharp contrast to producer Spokes H, who continued to be a key part of the Kwaito scene until his death in 2013). There's much to enjoy throughout, from the bouncy piano riffs, squeezable synth-bass and dreamy chords of "Home Boy", to the glassy-eyed female backing vocals, mid-tempo pump and shimmering, rush-inducing vibes of "Thiba". Closer "Stoppa", a more downtempo and atmospheric Kwaito excursion, is also superb.