Fans of world­beat, take note: Strut Records is reviv­ing a pop­u­lar African music com­pi­la­tion series from its recent past. Next Stop Soweto 4 brings back the tit­u­lar series, this time with a vol­ume that explores the dis­co and funk-influ­enced sounds that popped up in South Africa dur­ing the ‘70s and ear­ly ‘80s. It sounds like a real adven­ture of cul­tur­al anthro­pol­o­gy, unearthing 15 tracks rarely if ever heard out­side South Africa. Read on for all ambi­tious Afro-funk details, includ­ing a full track list­ing and a free song sam­ple…

NEXT STOP SOWETO 4

NexStopS4-covStrut con­tin­ue their acclaimed ’Next Stop Soweto’ series in March 2014 as they return to the rich archives of South African music to spot­light the fer­tile era of the late ’70s and ear­ly ’80s. Tightly con­trolled by oppres­sive Apartheid laws, South Africa’s music scene had nev­er­the­less pro­gressed into myr­i­ad new direc­tions, embrac­ing funk, soul, rock and dis­co.

The era marked a cross­roads for the country’s black musi­cians. While domes­tic stars of mbaqan­ga like Mahotella Queens had tem­porar­i­ly dis­band­ed dur­ing the onslaught of dis­co, younger artists like T.Y. Boys and Elias Maluleke embraced and pro­gressed the style in new ways, adding punk and dis­co touch­es to the famil­iar bassline swing.

Imported US R&B and the pow­er­ful socio-polit­i­cal mes­sage of the Afro- American soul stars, cham­pi­oned by pio­neer­ing pro­duc­ers like Hamilton Nzimande in South Africa since the ’60s, con­tin­ued to be a pow­er­ful force. Influenced by bands as diverse as War, Edwin Starr and Yes, as well as pro­duc­ers like Norman Whitfield, South African col­lec­tives includ­ing Xoliso, Marumo and Kabana new soul and rock direc­tions, led by Zulu lyrics, town­ship har­monies and top lev­el musi­cian­ship.

For all South African musi­cians dur­ing this time, it was a con­sid­er­able strug­gle to oper­ate. Following
the Soweto Uprising in ’76, bands would play live shows despite live per­for­mance restric­tions with free­dom of gath­er­ing strict­ly cur­tailed and cur­fews imposed. The Radio Bantu group of sta­tions were among the few media out­lets for black musi­cians to get their music heard. For most, music was no way to make a liv­ing and many musi­cians were forced to hold down oth­er jobs.

Despite the harsh con­di­tions, the peri­od doc­u­ment­ed in ’Next Stop Soweto 4’ was a huge­ly impor­tant one for South African music, set­ting the stage for the ’world music’ explo­sion of the 1980s when South African artists like the reformed Mahotella Queens, Hugh Masekela and Ladysmith Black Mambazo would find a glob­al crossover audi­ence and Western artists like Malcolm McLaren and Paul Simon with his infa­mous ’Graceland’ project would embrace the sounds of the town­ships.

As with all pre­vi­ous vol­umes, ’Next Stop Soweto 4’ is com­piled by Duncan Brooker. It will be released on 1CD, 2LP and dig­i­tal for­mats with phys­i­cal for­mats fea­tur­ing sleeve notes by author Francis Gooding along with artist inter­views, rare pho­tos and sleeve art­work.