In SATURDAY NIGHT: SOUTH AFRICAN DISCO POP HITS, Cultures of Soul explores this period of change, and the intermediary forms that filled the gap between mbaqanga and bubblegum. The years when South African musicians and producers wrestled with the incursion of foreign disco and formulated their own style of homegrown disco-pop.
Starting from the early 80s, when bands like Varikweru, Black Five and Soundburger essayed local attempts at boogie and jazz-fusion, through experiments like the Madonna-cloned diva Margino, who domesticized the burgeoning Italo-disco and NYC electro sounds, up through the massive breakthrough of Brenda and the Big Dudes, who arrived at the right mix between native and international influences to point the way forward for South African pop.
The sound on these records is ostensibly familiar, drawing heavily on models from the 1980s dance culture in Europe and America, but if you listen closely enough you can hear the distinct South African-ness of it all—from the deep, burbling basslines, the brightly hypnotic melodies, and chant-like lyrics—and with sounds as intoxicating as these, you will sure want to listen closely. And often!