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Shangaan Electric, The New Zulu Dance Music

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It's not often that something really new pops up in music, genres have a tendency to stick around, especially if they have earned a name. But when something new does pop off, it can be quick. This has especially been the case with some of the new dance music being created in South Africa. And like anything new that ends up being considered good, it's actually not that new. 

The inspiration for this post as well as today's Sound Travels is the trickle of new releases on Honest Jon's records picking up on the new dance music coming out of Southern African called Shangaan. The excellent compilation Shangaan Electro: The New Dance Music of South Africa, as well as Foster Mangyani's Ndzi Teke Rienzo No. 1, both on Honest Jon's Records serve as an elementary education in this bouncy, fast dance music. Here's what I played on the airwaves today...

Foster Mangyani "Fambani"

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Tshetsha Boys "Nwampfundla"

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Vana Vasesi "Mancingelani"

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Thomas Chauke "Xipereta" 

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There is a group of people, a tribe if you will, called the Shangaan. The Shangaan people are a large group of people living mainly in southern Mozambique as well as parts of South Africa. A traditional African culture and Zulu at that. Their traditional music, not unlike folk traditions anywhere else, has begun to incorporate modern techniques of music production, and this is where things get interesting. As it turns out, one man has played a pivotal role in this musical evolution, Richard "Nozinja" Mthetwa is that cat and here is what he's got to say about it all...

 

 

In an interview featured on the Honest Jon's website, he goes on...

My name is Richard, my stage name is Nozinja, from Nozinja Music Productions. I'm from Giyani in Limpopo. 
I'm an engineer, I'm a producer, I'm a composer. It's my record label. I'm the marketing manager. I transport them — I've got a micro-bus. I do everything on my own. I've got manufacturing. I buy CDs, I will silk-screen myself. I sing, too. 
I'm a scout for talent. When you look at the person, you must see the artist. He or she must be able to dance. If you can dance, you can sell. Shangaan dancers, they dance, they can go on for almost an hour with that speed, without getting tired. When you see them dance you feel like they have got no bones. It's similar to the Zulus, but faster and we put a lot of style inside. There's disco in there, we use Pantsula moves. 
We don't use the sounds of the hip-hop guys, or the afro-pop, or whatever, we're using Shangaan sounds. The traditional Shangaan music is fast. You play it slow, they won't dance. 
Firstly it was played with bass and lead guitar. I'm the one revolutionized it, because when I came I didn't use any guitar or any bass, I just used marimba and the organs. We are not using the live bass, we are using the marimba bass which is played from the organ. A small sample of voices, that's what I specialize in. We use them in English. Those are the new aspects they never had before. At first people thought I was mad, and now it's the in-thing. You can play that music with bass, that's the old-timer music. 
Shangaan is fast. While others play at 110, we are at 180, 182, 183. And when you hear those marimba beats and that live guitar through the keyboard, you know it's Shangaan. You hear those toms, then you know, this is Shangaan music. 
Shangaans don't typically love Joburg. They work in Joburg, but their heart is in Limpopo. People want to go back to the country and to their families. Limpopo is rural. It's hot, very hot and vibey. Shangaan music is about love. It's about a wife and a husband. We are family-oriented musicians. 
Now Shangaan music is both, rural and urban. We jumped the boundaries by changing that bass into playing with the marimba, that's when we touched the nerves, and now it's all over. 

Shangaan is also a dance...