The Soul Brothers

The Rough Guide to the Soul Brothers

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At last, listeners finally have a comprehensive compilation of South Africa's legendary Soul Brothers. The Soul Brothers were the first true pop stars of South African music, straight from the townships. With a sound that was equal parts jive, reggae, modern soul, B-3 groove, Nigerian funk, and Aboriginal folk music, the Soul Brothers created a hybrid form that became synonymous with the township sax jive that took the entire world by storm in the late '70s and early '80s, and became known as the "indestructible beat of Soweto." This comp collects many of the band's early singles from the early to mid-'70s, including "Malume," "Isiphiwo," "Mshoza," and "Uthando," and comes right through to the end of the '90s with "Ibahadi lami," "Aminkiniki," and "Intombi Yami." There are 20 tracks in all, and not a weak one in the bunch. The fascinating thing to note while listening to this set is that, as the band members became more knowledgeable about how the recording studio could work for them, they made it an organic part of their writing, playing, and recording process. The arrangements never became bogged down in studio trickery or slick, compressed production gimmicks. If anything, perhaps one of the reasons that the Soul Brothers often outsold every other form of music in South Africa was that their music, no matter how sophisticated and elaborate, remained extremely close to the pulse of township rhythms and folk melodies. This is a staggeringly fine slice of the Soul Brothers' history, which should compel listeners to seek out their full-length albums as well. What can be said? The folks at the Rough Guides have done it again.

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