Township got soul
April 11, 2009 3:03 AM   Subscribe

Motownship, the combination of Cape Town township music, traditional African instruments and motown tunes, is the topic of this Radio 4 documentary. While purists - both of the African music and motown persuasion - may think this is just a gimmick, it is hard not to have a smile on your face when you listen to the tunes on Abavuki's album Africa Got Soul. What is even more amazing is the background of these musicians - kids who grew up in one of the most deprived townships in South Africa, Langa. To check out the band for yourself, see them playing at the legendary Mama Africa club, via youtube (this is not a motown tune from the album).
posted by Megami (10 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The documentary link is what's on Radio 4 at the moment...
posted by Harald74 at 5:28 AM on April 11, 2009
Try here, can't seem to get linker to work, also Midge Ure alert.
posted by Dr.Pill at 5:52 AM on April 11, 2009

What's amazing about deprived people producing music?
posted by the cuban at 5:58 AM on April 11, 2009

What's amazing about deprived people producing music?

For me, this:

I just heard this album, and it kicks. It's fun, light-hearted and the addition of the African beats adds some spice to songs that are instantly recognizable as classics, without turning them into elevator mush music.

Is it a stunning new hybrid of world music? Not so much, but summer's coming and I guarantee you that when I bust this album out people will stop what they're doing and ask me about it.

So, great post. Thanks!
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:08 AM on April 11, 2009

Mama Africa herself - Miriam Makeba - sang lots of jazz and western-influenced popular music. It's fusion, just like most popular music the world over.

I'm a big fan of 'traditional' African music, just as I am of old folk music from Asia, Europe and the Americas, etc. But I recognise that African music is a living thing, constantly changing, responding to and influencing back music in the rest of the world.
posted by jb at 7:12 AM on April 11, 2009

Now I'm jealous of Lipstick Thespian - I should get this album too.
posted by jb at 7:18 AM on April 11, 2009

"Tears of a Klerk"
posted by Joe Beese at 7:42 AM on April 11, 2009

Don't be surprised. Cape Town is musically rich. Some skilled people make quite a success, busking at Cape Town's Victoria and Albert Waterfront. And many of them are selling CDs direct (I have a few). When there, I usually take a late breakfast at a cafe where they have a steady stream of performers. The crowd are generous in both buying CDs and in tips. Of course, the success of Ladysmith Black Mambazo has helped the whole country along, at least a bit.
posted by Goofyy at 10:20 AM on April 11, 2009

This is right up my alley. Dig this version of 'Papa Was a Rolling Stone,' from the related YouTube videos. Thanks, Megami.
posted by box at 11:06 AM on April 11, 2009

Thanks, Megami. I really enjoyed your post and I am going to buy that cd.

I was in Cape Town last May and had a chance to visit District 6 Museum, Mamma Africa bar and many of the places discussed. And I took a residents-sponsored walking tour of Langa - and like the narrator, found it very eye opening. While parts of it are streets lined with tidy little bungalows that could be almost be anywhere, more of it was jaw-droppingly stark poverty - overcrowded makeshift tin and scrapwood shacks. But I was also struck by the general creative, hopeful, and entrepreneurial spirit of so many people that we spoke to. We went back on a "meet the people" visit to Langa and Mannenberg townships the next night which included meeting various artists and community leaders and having dinner with a local family. This was an awesome experience. In Langa, we met some rastafarian musicians who talked to us about the music and the arts scene. We had hoped to hear some live township music but there was a spot of worrisome trouble that precluded this during our visit.

The break from apartheid is still so very recent and raw. It was boggling to see the razed District 6 still unoccupied and to hear a former resident tell what it was like to be evicted and watch his neighborhood bulldozed before his eyes and hear how he and his family were forced into townships on the Cape flats. Families, friends, and neighbors were torn apart, not just along black and white lines, but along lines of coloured as well - a term I bridled against but which was in free use. Some of the townships are black and some are coloured, still today. I was with my niece who is mixed and we were chilled to realize that had we lived there, it would have beeen illegal for us to interact as a family ... less than two decades ago ... *boggles*
posted by madamjujujive at 12:01 PM on April 11, 2009

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