Soul Brothers: Rough Guide to the Soul Brothers
The 13-piece Soul Brothers is one of the most uplifting bands South Africa has ever produced. Considering that they started producing hits in 1976, and have over 30 albums to their credit, a “greatest hits” effort like this one could hardly miss, and no surprise, this one doesn’t! The Soul Brothers’ sound starts with the strongly Zulu-flavored mbaqanga and township jive of Soweto in the 1960s and 70s, but it adds distinctive elements: exuberant melodic bursts from Moses Ngwena’s Hammond B-3 organ, shivering vocal melodies from David Masondo, and some of the most beautiful horn arranging in all of Afropop. Masondo’s vocal sound has gospel roots, reflecting his religious background. A lot of African gospel music shies away from strong, swinging rhythms, and so comes across as rather stiff, unlike the best American gospel. Here, couched in seductive dance rhythms, those sunny, spiritual melodies and wafts of organ add a beatific quality to first-class boogie, and the result has been winning audiences over for nearly three decades.
These 20 tracks sample all the periods of this band’s long history. Some tracks will be familiar to those who have been collecting this band’s work through Earthworks releases. But none of those releases offers the scope you’ll find here. Especially interesting are the early, 1970s tracks, like “Ogandaganda” and “Indawo Yokulala,” where the American soul influences are more strongly evident, and the vocal sound has a harder edge. There are favorites like “Uthando,” with its anthemic descending horn line, and “Indaba,” with the rhythm section pumping in overdrive. There are also lots of discoveries and surprises, and no false steps. However big your Soul Brothers collection, you’ll want to add this to it.
Contributed by Banning Eyre for www.afropop.org