Shangaan Electro: New Wave Dance Music From South Africa

Various Artists

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Shangaan Electro: New Wave Dance Music From South Africa Review

by Phil Freeman

This compilation sticks out from the flood of African music packages by not being a reissue effort; despite having the words "New Wave" in its title, it's not a roundup of lost 12" singles from the early '80s. Instead, it's a sampling of what's going on in one small corner of the South African music scene circa 2010, centered around the efforts of producer and studio owner Zinja Hlungwani, who offers four tracks here. The music is extremely minimalistic, featuring very fast programmed rhythms (somewhere around 180 bpm), marimbas that might be real but are probably also digital, and keyboard lines that sound derived from old video games. The vocals are the closest link to African music as most listeners know it, featuring choral chants and call-and-response structure. Hlungwani's own tracks are actually somewhat slower and more spacious than the ones he produces for others; "Nwa Gezani My Love" features an echoing, almost anguished loverman vocal atop a track that sounds like something from the East Village in the early '80s. Another of his tracks, somewhat confusingly also called "Nwa Gezani," sounds like the soundtrack to a children's cartoon with its zapping synths and perky marimba line. This album is decidedly not for all tastes, but folks who like bare-bones dance musics like soca will probably find it an enjoyable novelty.

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