The Rough Guide to the Soul Brothers

Soul Brothers, The

album cover

Township Jive Without Borders

Every eight bars of "Isiphiwo"—one of twenty stellar grooves on this career overview of South African legends the Soul Brothers—brings a slight change of scenery. The tune begins with Moses Ngwenya's Hammond B3 organ, and a big flourish that resembles a Baptist call to worship. That phrase forms the basic outline of a groove, and when the rhythm section enters, it kicks out a high-stepping version of South Africa's signature beat, "township jive." Then the two voices start singing; as they repeat a single phrase several times, their twinned declaration has the fire of Southern soulman Otis Redding in stereo. That verse is followed by a horn section riff that sends things back to the township again. On and on it goes, spongy groove spinning into deep verse, the lightness of dance music supported by the sound of strong, purposeful souls gathered in worship.

Not all of the Soul Brothers' material has that range, but it all speaks to the internationalization of pop music—and how even the most potent indigenous style can be expanded and enhanced by contact with the outside world.

First known as the Groovy Boys, the Soul Brothers caught fire when Ngwenya and singer David Masondo joined forces in 1976, after discovering a shared love for reggae and American R&B. Determined to push indigenous South African music in new directions, they blended enthusiastic pop refrains with rolling, propulsive rhythms. The sound caught on quickly, and for a while in the 1980s, the Soul Brothers were among the few "rock star"–type acts in South Africa, putting out at least one album per year. This overview, which contains hits from just about every phase of the band's storied career, offers huge helpings of that indestructible beat. It's a great way to encounter one of the underappreciated trailblazers of African pop.

Genre: World, South Africa
Released: 2001, Rough/World Music Network
Key Tracks: "Mama ka s'bongile," "Isiphiwo".
Catalog Choice: Jive Explosion.
Next Stop: Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens: Paris/Soweto.
Book Page: 726

Buy this Recording

Share this page:


#1 from Lennox Andile Majola, Orange-farm - 02/12/2010 3:53

I am happy to be a Soul Brothers fan and proud to be African.The late Japan Sidoyi Contriobuted a lot in The Soul Brothers music and he is my uncle so i don’t hear so much about him as a lergent.i am also an upcoming musician and where i am know is because of my uncle i am talking about mr ‘mjay’japan Sidoyi.You are my inspiration also my heroe not forgeting David Masondo and Black Moss Ngwenya keep that spirit of music burnig guys best regards u Rooi Ushana ka Mjay.Nginifisela impumelelo.

Commenting is not available in this content area entry.
site design: Juxtaprose