Various Artists

Next Stop Soweto, Vol. 2: Soul, Funk & Organ Grooves from the Townships 1969-1976

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It would be understandable if you were to mistake this set as an exercise by South African musicians to replicate their Western counterparts' soul golden years. There are numerous tracks fitting that bill, but there are also songs that merely integrate rhythm & blues stylings into the local South African township mbaqanga. One such song, the compilation's opener, "Khubani" by J.K. Mayengar & the Shingwedzi Sisters, is the least Western of the bunch, although it does feature a call-and-response chorus over the top of a driving percussion section. The influence really starts to overtake the traditional South African sounds in songs such as the Down Tones' "Short Man's Soul," which has elements of guitar work similar to the feel of "Save Me" as performed by numerous artists such as Aretha Franklin and James Knight & the Butlers. Accompanying it is some sizzling organ work by an unknown player as the main rhythm carries on. Equally, the Soul Prophets' instrumental soul-jazz piece "Soul Imbaq" could easily fit into the third volume, focusing on jazz from the townships. The vocal tracks bring the compilation back to a more international affair, mainly because most of the songs are not sung in English and feature one of the other near-dozen official languages of the nation. "Tiba Kamo," which starts off with a hi-hat solo à la "Theme from Shaft," switches gears into a dancefloor burner with some timely chicken-scratch guitar work. The Mahotella Queens' "Wozani Mahipi" is another excellent representation of the blend. The male lead's cigarette-stained vocals contrast with the females' sweeter refrains, laid over the top of a nasty drum break midway through. Compilers Duncan Brooker and Francis Gooding have gone to great lengths to assemble an assortment of tracks representing a marriage of styles and influences in this set (and in the series in general). Their painstaking work is a living document to be kept in the annals for musical posterity.

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