Various Artists

Next Stop... Soweto, Vols. 1-3

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The South Western townships (aka Soweto) of Johannesburg, South Africa, have produced hundreds of excellent recordings over the years, from the dawn of mbaqanga's rhythmic folk in the '50s to equally impressive and virtuosic township jazz. Strut, the dance imprint that gradually expanded its focus to embrace the whole world, released three great volumes of Soweto-based music during 2010, brought together into the four-disc box Next Stop... Soweto, Vols. 1-3. The first volume of Next Stop... Soweto concentrates on mbaqanga from the late '60s and early '70s, when groups such as Mahotella Queens, Dark City Sisters, and the Soul Brothers brought the music to its commercial and artistic peak. Next Stop... Soweto, Vol. 2 takes in mbaqanga's growing embrace of non-African styles -- from funk to psychedelic rock -- during the '70s. The final volume, Next Stop... Soweto, Vol. 3, is a two-disc set surveying township jazz from artists including Dudu Pukwana, Chris McGregor, Themba, and others. The individual volumes allowed listeners to pick and choose based on their interest, but the box set is no less an achievement. Although a few great artists are left off for unknown reasons, there are few releases that do more to introduce the curious to great South African music of the '60s and '70s.

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