Music From The Motherland - Souvenirs To Take Home
A Music Feature

South Africa By: Mandy J Watson on 8 September 2010
Category: Music > Features
Tags: #wc2010 Comments View Comments

To coincide with, and in celebration of, the 2010 World Cup, Sony Music Africa released two albums of official event songs and collaborations between African artists and international headlining acts. The albums were great souvenirs, whether you visited the country and wanted to take some musical memories home with you or even if you never left your couch (or sofa) and just enjoyed the spectacle from across an ocean. However, the two albums didn't tell the whole story - here's a more comprehensive roundup of music from, and by, Africans, with a special focus on South African artists.

I originally envisioned this article as a good roundup of albums for 2010 World Cup visitors to take home with them as musical memories of their time in South Africa, hence the inclusion of a couple of official World Cup albums, but the selection is so good that the World Cup aspect is almost irrelevant. (Also, erm, other things got in the way and we're posting this article later than we wanted to.) The main focus is on South Africa but we've dipped into other parts of Africa as well, and the odd mainstream US artist is also present due to various World Cup collaborations.

If you're reading this well after the World Cup has past - in fact, I hope that in years to come people will still reference this article - know that much of the music in these compilations is timeless and will always be representative of this country and this continent. Depending on your taste, each of these albums is an excellent choice to take home, either as a souvenir of your travels in South Africa or as a gift for friends to introduce them to some of our culture.

The track listings for each album are compiled on a separate, linked page (to reduce the clutter on this page) so you can refer to them easily (just click through from the album entry and then click back) or even print it if you need to. We've also provided shopping links, where possible, and most of the South African sites will ship local music internationally so you will still be able to buy these albums once you're back home, even if they aren't available on Keep that in mind if you forget a couple of friends on your souvenir or postcard list.

Now, on to the music. We kick off (so to speak) with official World Cup compilations.

Listen Up! The Official 2010 FIFA World Cup Album
(An official 2010 World Cup album.)

Listen Up! The Official 2010 FIFA World Cup AlbumThere's a little too much use of Auto-Tune on the official 2010 FIFA World Cup album (notably, though not exclusively, in tracks featuring US artists) but that's more indicative of the current state of popular music rather than a damning indictment of any particular artist featured on this album. It's regrettable but, unfortunately nowadays, unavoidable.

Happily, there are still gems on this album, and some of them have turned out to be tracks you may not recognise and which have received far less airplay than the "official" songs. Nneka's "Viva Africa" is catchy and delightful, "One Day", by Matisyahu featuring Nameless, is an eclectic mix of trippy beats set against more traditional African fare. Judy Bailey featuring UJU's "Spirit Of Freedom" is a low-key kwaito mix that's a perfect introduction for people new to the genre who might not be ready for heavier fare. (This track, along with "Shosholoza 2010" can also be found on the album Hello Afrika, which is next in the list.) "As Mascaras", a collaboration between Cláudia Leitte and Lira, is a jazzy South American dance number with an afro-pop interlude, the combination of which is a musical interpretation of the World Cup transitioning from South Africa in 2010 to Brazil in 2014 (hence its subtitle "South Africa '10 to Brasil '14).

Directly after this track, which is towards the end the album, the compilation dips into sweeping, operatic fare with "Hope" by Siphiwo, which includes spoken words by Nelson Mandela and is backed by the ACM Gospel Choir. The music crescendos with trumpets, horns, and trombones before rolling into the next track, an instrumental version of South Africa's national anthem, "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrica" [sic], played by the Soweto String Quartet.

And then there's another version of "Waka Waka".

(It's actually better - but it'll still get stuck in your head and refuse to budge for days and days and days.)

The album is an interesting mix of American-African collaborations, with largely catchy dance tunes dominating the collection. It's a great introduction to contemporary African music: kwaito meets hip-hop meets pop/rock and dance and, if nothing else, you'll walk away with that beat Africa is famous for coursing through your veins.

Best For: injecting some gees into the neighbours.

Publisher: Epic/Sony Music Entertainment
Catalogue Number: CDEPC7087
Year: 2010
Discs: 1
Tracks: 14
Length: 00:49:26
Track Listing: Click here

Hello Afrika
(An official 2010 World Cup album.)

Hello AfrikaThis is another eclectic compilation. Disc one is primarily middle-of-the-road radio-friendly South African tracks - the kind of popular music, heavy on dance and kwaito beats, that gets airplay and races up the charts. Disc two dips into more traditional, laidback numbers, and a wider selection of African artists, with jazzy interludes and acoustic percussion (rather than the programmed beats that are common on disc one) as well as a number of soft rock tracks.

Once again a variety of genres are represented so there's sure to be something that will appeal to every musical taste. What's also great about this album is that it features African artists almost exclusively, and South Africans primarily, with lots of collaborations between artists who usually don't work together because their styles and audiences are so different. There are some great tracks in the mix, though preferences will vary, which is why this is a great album to take home as a souvenir of the continent's musical prowess to play for friends who may have diverse tastes.

The spirit of South Africa is woven throughout the tracks, most of which have a great beat, although Auto-Tune has also crept in in a couple of places. What is missing, though, is a nod to Afrikaans artists. There's a huge Afrikaans-music market in South Africa, which ranges from traditional oldie conservative stuff ("traditional folk music") inherited from Europe to incredibly progressive, interesting alternative rock that would be completely at home on disc one of this album, and (horribly tasteless) pop, but the only vague references on Hello Afrika, all on disc one, are instrumental refrains from "Die Stem" included in "Zinbi 'Ndaba" by Brothers Of Peace and the concertina, a staple of boeremusiek, used as one of the background instruments in Tau Ea Matsekha's "Bafana Bafana". It's unfortunate that the circle of happy inclusiveness wasn't made just that little bit wider.

Disc one's highlights include "Shosholoza 2010", which exists as a stand-alone collaborative track (the same one that's found on Listen Up!, although its refrains can also be heard elsewhere on the album, and don't think that you're escaping the vuvuzela, which is incorporated into at least three tracks on this disc. (The first time you hear it it's novel; by the third time you're thinking "...meh", although it's amazing to see how versatile the world's most monotonous instrument can be.) "Zouglou Dance" by Cote d'Ivoire's Magic System is a catchy dance track featuring irresistible French lyrics and robot English. There's also something quite mesmerising about "Mundo Via Afrika (House Mix)", by Gavin Hardkiss featuring Rita Bonita, a house track that stands out amongst the numerous light hip-hop and kwaito numbers, at the same time (successfully) navigating that fine line between being amusingly cute and incredibly annoying. The first disc is rounded off with "Victorius" by Tumi featuring Zubz, which is a subtle mix of styles but most prominent are R&B and hip-hop. It's a powerful anthem to perseverance of the underdog and ultimate achievement, much of it due to the soaring vocals in the chorus.

A highlight of disc two is the official UN song "8 Goals Away", a collaboration between Angelique Kidjo, Baaba Maal, Mingas, Eric Wainaina, HHP, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Oliver Mtukudzi, Soweto Gospel Choir, and Hugh Masekela, which was composed by Jimmy Dludlu and Eric Wainaina. Freshlyground also features, with "I Am An African", which samples sections from the famous "I Am An African" speech made by former South African president Thabo Mbeki. The track is a much better example of Freshlyground's talent than "Waka Waka", the group's official World Cup collaboration with Shakira (which you can find on the Listen Up! album. Twice. I know I mentioned that already but it needs to be repeated). UJU's "Take The World" is another great number, as is "From Africa 2 U" by Nneka. In fact, I came close to saying that it's hard to find a weak point on this disc, which makes up for the handful of weaker numbers on the first disc, but the final track, MI's "Victory", uses Auto-Tune liberally, and intentionally, in the chorus, which is unfortunate as it mars what is otherwise a catchy, inspiring end-off to the album. Don't let it put you off, though - there are enough great tracks elsewhere in this compilation.

Best For: a house party with a dance floor (disc one) or an informal dinner party with good friends (disc two).

Publisher: Sony Music Entertainment Africa
Catalogue Number: CDBSP3228
Year: 2010
Discs: 2
Tracks: 26
Length: 01:49:09
Track Listing: Click here
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Barney Simon's Radio Revolution

Barney Simon's Radio RevolutionI was very disturbed that there was no rock music in any of the other selections in this article, so I went in search of some because otherwise it would be annoyingly incomplete. Earlier this year Barney Simon, a legendary local radio DJ who introduced generations to new, up-and-coming, and iconic local and international independent rock music, released this compilation that (admirably) condenses much of South Africa's rock history into two discs.

The compilation kicks off with "Fokofpolisiekar" by Fokofpolisiekar on disc one, a seminal track by a band from the new generation of Afrikaans artists that started making its presence felt in the late 2000s. This new wave, primarily comprising artists that were born at the tail end of apartheid (or even after it had completely come to an end), was not representative of the more traditional Afrikaans music - or ideologies - of old, as we had come to know them. (Although I must point out that protest against these ideologies did already exist in the creative output of many Afrikaans artists in the form of art, music, theatre, and literature for many decades prior to this; this new wave just largely represents a clean break from the past and a subconscious attempt to move forwards and forge a new identity.) The track is followed by another noteworthy song of this ilk, Karen Zoid's tongue-in-cheek, catchy anthem "Afrikaners Is Plesierig".

The focus of disc one is Afrikaans artists and, bar one song ("Help Me" by Albert Frost), all the music is in Afrikaans (although with the occasional smatterings of English phrases). The music ranges from pop rock, soft rock, and bluesy rock ("Suitcase Vol Winter" by Piet Botha), past country ("Ossewa" by Johannes Kerkorrel en Die Gereformeerde Blues Band), all the way to Rammstein-level aural blasts ("Doodstraf" by Kobus). It's a fantastic overview of the many styles and artists to be found in this country. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to condense years of amazing songs into 16 tracks but Barney Simon has done a wonderful job.

The same is true of the 16 tracks on the second disc, which is devoted to English South African artists. It may seem as though it's a strange way to compile the album, separating the two discs by language rather than styles, but the rock music of the two languages developed largely independently and they have only really started to converge in the past decade or so (as have the two cultures: historically there was almost as great a divide between Afrikaans and English as there was between black and white). Unfortunately, although Barney Simon has a wealth of knowledge of the rock-music scene, going back decades, the album liner notes comprise nothing more than a track listing that acknowledges the publishers and a brief note from Barney dedicating the album to South Africa's rock music fans. I wish there had been more from him detailing his choices and their significance. I imagine that he just wants the music to speak for itself but context is always so interesting - and complicated - when it comes to South Africa.

Back to disc two. Once again we have a wide variety of rock sub genres represented and it's hard to pick favourites. A notable track for me is "Disco Lazarus" by Sugardrive, which breaks the typical "two guitars and a drummer" formula with the incorporation of subtle electronica with traditional rock aspects (but then I'm an electronica fan). I'm also very fond of "No Disguise" by New Holland and "Warsong" by James Phillips, which has great brass instrumentals and a very catchy chorus. In general, the entire selection (both discs) is fantastic and what you'll be in the mood for at any given moment will depend on how you're feeling at the time.

The last track on the album is an absolute classic 80s pop-rock hit, "Weeping" by Bright Blue, which was an anti-apartheid protest song that somehow flew under the radar of the government of the day and right into our hearts with its catchy, emotional melody and clever strains of "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" woven into the background. It's a beautiful way to end the album.

Best For: cultural retrospection (disc one) or simply pumping the speakers at full volume on a road trip (disc two).

Publisher: Rebel Records
Catalogue Number: REBEL 004
Year: 2010
Discs: 2
Tracks: 32
Length: 02:04:22
Track Listing: Click here
Note: Contains explicit lyrics
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The Great South African Trip

The Great South African TripThis album presents more traditional South African fare from some of the country's most internationally recognisable musical heavyweights, including Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Miriam Makeba, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela, and Stimela. It's the kind of selection, complete with an interpretation of "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" and opening and closing tracks comprising snippets of Nelson Mandela's 1994 inauguration speech, that makes South Africans living abroad instantly homesick (and those of us living here incredibly proud).

There are a number of a capella songs with strong, rousing vocal harmonies woven between tracks that incorporate soft, percussive rhythms and the occasional Cape jazz guitar, piano flourish, or brass instrumentals tossed in here and there. Genres include mbaqanga, maskanda, jazz, pop, and folk music. Disc one, titled "ntwela nkwela" (dawn), includes a lot of the standards - "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" (as mentioned), "Homeless", "Mbube", and "Mama Tembu's Wedding" by Ipi Ntombi being some - while disc two, "Ukuhwelala" (dusk), features some tracks that may be less familiar, but by many South African artists whose names are well known, as well as notable artists from a handful of countries slightly further afield in Southern Africa. If you're curious, make sure you have a look at the liner notes tucked away in the sleeve. They're to the point due to space limitations but still very informative and they will help you to undestand each track or its artist in a greater cultural context.

This is a rousing compilation and both discs are a treat; in fact it's hard to pick any particular ones as favourites - this is an album that should be played through from beginning to end, every moment savoured. While a number on the first disc will stand out simply because they are so well known, the two discs as a whole have been compiled so well that the music flows wonderfully from one track to the next. The album really is a celebration of South African music, our history, our heritage, and our culture.

Best For: remembering where you come from (or where you've been) (disc one) or down time on a Sunday evening before preparing for the work week ahead (disc two).

Publisher: African Cream Music
Catalogue Number: ACM-CD011/3
Year: 2007
Discs: 2
Tracks: 28
Length: 02:04:52
Track Listing: Click here

The Great East African Trip

The Great East African TripNext we head up the east side of the continent to countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi. Although none of these countries qualified for the World Cup this year the tournament was Africa's World Cup as much as it was South Africa's. You'll find Kenya's Eric Wainaina, who collaborated on the UN's song "8 Goals Away" that's on the Hello Afrika album, included on The Great East African Trip, as well as many other heavyweights from the eastern side of the continent.

Much of the album comprises jazzy, acoustic numbers with brass instruments, pianos, and exceptionally skilled guitar work that would easily be at home in many of the clubs in Cape Town even though it originates from vastly different countries in East Africa (although in some tracks there is very definitely an East African flair, though I can't quite describe what it is - perhaps it's the rumba lilt (especially evident on disc one), the languages, and something intangible in the music that just evokes thoughts of the Indian Ocean). The album also dips into other genres, such as Afro pop and reggae, and mixes songs from different decades effortlessly due to the expert selection compiled by music journalist David Makali. (If you aren't familiar with the music you'll have no idea that some back-to-back numbers were composed 10 or 20 years apart.)

The first disc kicks off with four acoustic jazz tracks in a row, which sets the mood for the majority of the tracks on the album, but then synths kick in on track five, "Speed Controller" by Uganda's Afrigo Band (it's a fun track with a sombre origin), to remind you that Africa is not one country and African music is not one style or genre. And so it goes, jazzy, acoustic, rumba works over and over, interspersed with some surprises but, for the most part, all gentle, warm tracks that are calming, yet spirited, and very enjoyable. They all make me think of hot summer days, white beach sand, and bright cocktails.

Highlights on disc two include the very catchy first track, "Kitobero", an Afro-pop number by Saida featuring Benjamin (Tanzania), as well as "Fire Anthem" by East African Basement Crew (Kenya/Uganda) (an Afro-jazz track that's a collaboration by multiple artists), and "Joka" by Kenya's Eric Wainaina, another female-vocalist Afro-pop number, which kicks off with vocals reminiscent of Kate Bush before drifting into familiar African harmonies, great piano work, and that groovy lilt that characterises much of the music on this album. In contrast, "Ono Ye Mwana" is a ragga track from Uganda that's equally at home on this album. Although there's a bit of an edge to the instrumental there's a lovely interplay between singer Angela Kalule and various male vocalists.

As with The Great South African Trip, the liner notes for each track, while short, are very informative, explaining very succinctly what each track is about as well as its cultural or musical significance that led to it being included on the album. I would like to suggest that you play through both discs a few times before you read the liner notes (sometimes it's important that you first just let the music speak for itself) but don't then forget that the little booklet is tucked away in the album sleeve.

Best For: laid-back sundowners at the end of a lazy summer day, preferably on a deck overlooking the sea (disc one), or getting in the mood for a frivolous night out on the town (disc two).

Publisher: African Cream Music
Catalogue Number: ACM-CD0042
Year: 2007
Discs: 2
Tracks: 26
Length: 02:34:21
Track Listing: Click here

Cape Of Good Dope Volume 2

Cape Of Good Dope Volume 2I've left my favourite for last and, oddly, I don't have as much to say about it, but know that I think it is fantastic. Cape Of Good Dope Volume 2 is the successor to volume one, which was released nearly 10 years ago, and features a selection of underground producers, mixers, and vocalists, all from Cape Town (hence the "Cape Of Good Dope" play on the city's nickname "The Cape Of Good Hope"). The music pleasingly drifts between turntablism, elektro swing, jazz, groove, light hip-hop, drum and bass, dubstep, and ragga - with the odd bit of harder rap, hip-hop, and zef interspersed with the lighter tracks just to mix it up a bit. English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, and a hell of a lot of local slang and more "colourful" language make appearances on the album, making it feel as though you're hearing a typical day in the Mother City (Cape Town's other nickname). Artists from Die Antwoord even make an appearance on the album in the guise of one of their former incarnations, MaxNormal(.tv). (I burst out laughing during my first run through of the album when the voice of Yolandi Visser drifted through my headphones and I realised what I would be in for. I wasn't disappointed.)

Some of the highlights include "Smoke", by Sifiso Sudan, with its smooth vocals contrasting with the mesmerising backing vocals; Fletcher's ragga dubstep "Dreadlox Dub"; "Lizardflange" by Shoulderblade (an instrumental elektro-swing piece that reminds me of The Propellerheads); and the collaborative effort "Shall We Swing" by Fletcher, Mix n Blend, and Sindy, which is a groovy swing number with some modern instrumental twists.

This is a much more inclusive album than some of the others and it accurately reflects the diversity of the music scene in Cape Town, as well as the wealth of talent. Disparate styles mix effortlessly within tracks, not just in the flow of this album's compilation order, and it really is an excellent snapshot of some of the more interesting music being produced and performed in the city.

Best For: chilling out with headphones (or cruising down one of Cape Town's long coastal roads in an open-top car).

Publisher: African Dope Records
Catalogue Number: n/a
Year: 2009
Discs: 1
Tracks: 20
Length: 01:19:24
Track Listing: Click here
Note: Contains explicit lyrics
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Review copies of all of these albums were provided by Sony Music South Africa, Rebel Records, African Cream Music, and African Dope Records.

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