Various Artists

Heartbeat of Soweto

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Part of an extensive division of Shanachie dealing with South African popular music, this album covers a bit of the Zulu, Shangaan, and jive styles. All of it has a nice bouncing beat to it which is popular in the continent. While none of the biggest names in any of the genres are present, there are still worthwhile representatives available; while Ladysmith Black Mambazo has no songs featured, Amasw Azi Emvelo provides the same style of Zulu male vocal harmonies. While the Mahotella Queens and Mahlathini aren't present, Thomas Chauke and the Shinyori Sisters take their place in presenting the jive genre. This is the basic course that the album takes throughout. The music isn't bad by any measure, but it's still not the usual bands that Shanachie would pull from the archives. While not a bad thing, one might note that there is a reason that the few well-known bands dominate the album scene in western markets. That reason is that they're generally the best representatives of their respective styles. Despite this, the album presents a relatively coherent picture of the liveliness of the South African styles, largely based in Soweto. The harmonies are always present, with the group dynamic being the important factor in each song. The instrumental backings are also competent throughout, giving the vocalists the beat to follow. Unfortunately, only rhythmic accompaniment is given in general by the instrumentalists, not showing off the virtuosity attainable by some of the musicians within these genres. Overall, this album is worth hearing, but shouldn't be picked up until the other, more notable artists of the genres have been thoroughly listened to. Indestructible Beat of Soweto is a worthwhile compilation for the jive style and a good collection of Ladysmith Black Mambazo's albums would make a better introduction into Zulu popular music. Look for the primary albums before dropping down to this largely mediocre alternative.

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