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Shangaan Electro – New Wave Dance Music From South Africa review

If the recent over exposure to the distinctive noise of the vuvuleza has put a dampener on your inclination for African music, we recommend you immerse yourself in the smile inducing, marimba heavy 180+bpm booty shaking afro electro world of Shangaan Electro courtesy of the good people at Honest Jon’s. Label boss Mark Ainley curates Shangaan Electro: New Wave Dance Music From South Africa with a little help from iconic Basic Channel figure Mark Ernestus. The duo select twelve tracks which document the best moments of Shangaan Electro since its emergence in 2005.

A super niche genre from the Soweto region of South Africa, Shangaan Electro was borne out of the mid tempo Shangaan Disco sound that has dominated the region since the 1980s. Sowetan composer and producer Nozinja is largely responsible for inventing the genre by upping the Shangaan tempo exponentially and replacing bass and guitar with marimba and mid keyboards. Shangaan Electro has subsequently become a local phenomenon, with Nozinja a central figure, overseeing weekly dances and producing the most popular Shangaan Electro groups that include the distinctively dressed Tshetsha Boys and Zinja Hlungwani – both of whom feature prominently on this compilation.

It would be a mistake to categorize this genre by the devilish speed and over abundance of marimbas alone as every track is infused with a real sense of soul and passion with Zinja Hlungwani’s “Nwa Gezani My Love” the most startling example  – Hlungwani’s haunting vocals wrapped in a choir of synthesized yelps and harmonious backing vocals. Similarly Hlungwani’s “Thula” is a spell binding end to this impressive compilation.

The Fader recently drew comparisons with Baltimore house, Argentinean cumbia and Mexico’s tribal guarachero stating that Shangaan Electro’s inherent hyper local regionality lends the genre a beguiling charm lacking in more conservative musical movements and it is true. In fact the only way to improve on Shangaan Electro is to search out the rich volume of accompanying YouTube videos which improve the experience no end for fans and will help convince listeners not instantly taken by the charm within.

Review: Tony Poland