It was 1990,a new decade, and South Africa was emerging from years of politically and culturally imposed isolation. Like a slumbering giant the country tentatively made the first steps into 21st century democracy ,the mood on the streets was one of excitement and this was evident in the new music filling the airwaves and exploding out of the clubs.
South African music has always been cyclical ...from the psychedelic explosion of the late 60's with Freedom's Children,Hawk,Suck,Otis Waygood and the like, through the dark days of the 70's when the sound of punk/new wave/rock bands like the Radio Rats ,Baxtop and Corporal Punishment insinuated itself into national youth culture.Later in the early 80's artists like Evoid,Via Afrika,Juluka,Bright Blue and Hotline blazed a new frontier in original music,forging a uniquely South African sound that incorporated strong elements of indigenous African music into traditional pop structures.The end of that decade saw a whole new string of chart toppers including MarcAlex,Mango Groove ,Little Sister ect who dominated the pop airwaves,sold trackloads of albums and drew hordes of fans to their respective live shows.
However the virtual tidal wave of successful new artists that emerged throughout the 90's was ,for the first time, an indication that a brave new world had dawned….a world where contemporary South African music was no longer regarded a poor relation or copy of international sounds,a period where we were proud to say that we had our own idols and that the music was on a par, and dare I say it at times, even better than what London/Hollywood were feeding us.For the first time we had developed a collective national pride in our music…long may this sentiment rule ! "Rocking against the system 2" does not pretend to be a definitive collection of 90's South African rock and pop,that would fill at least a few double albums and sadly we didn't have space for all the other great artists.What it does contains however, are 19 musical snapshots of some of most innovative and challenging music of the decade .It's a worthy companion to "Rocking….Vol.1" which features all the rock-pop masterpieces of the 80's…..
B World – Rain
Despite their Chili-esque influences B World's funk-o-metal rifferama was one of the highlights of 1994.Initially signed to a development deal with Tusk Music the band released a 10 track cassette-only album as well as a 3 track cd single which spawned the massively slinky No.1 hit "Rain". There were few outfits who matched the ferocity and intensity of B World live and despite recording some impressive new material for a full length album the band inexplicably split leaving fans and label alike scratching their collective heads in frustration.
Noa Noa - Remember
Lifted from their debut album "World of men", Noa Noa's "Remember" was an immediate pop hit and remains a staple on AC radio nationally.Based out of Cape Town the band were fronted by the ethereal and wistful voice of Marisa Barbosa and enjoyed critical acclaim with their melange of acoustic folk and electric rock.Despite this Noa Noa did not tour behind the album's release and subsequently broke up soon after the release of their one and only album.
Springbok Nude girls – Managing Mula
Widely tipped as the SA band most likely to rock the globe the Nudies were unquestionably one of the hardest nu-rock bands of the 90's and in the decade produced some sublimely powerful hit singles including "Bubblegum on my boots" and the achingly poignant "Blue Eyes". However it was with "Managing Mula" that the band's unique firebrand rock came to the fore.Its blend of hardcore riffs fused with hectic backbeats and strident trumpet stabs struck a chord with fans countrywide.
Squeal – Runners
Lifted from the band's 1995 debut album, "Runners" was the first in a long line of Squeal singles to breach the pop charts.With the charismatic guitarist/singer/writer David Birch in full creative control the band's reputation as one of the most incendiary live acts was well deserved. This is the radio edit version of "Runners",for the original version with it's cinematic guitar solo we can highly recommend the band's "Long Pigs" album .
Naked – Naked (Missionary remix)
For the most part of 1998 the pop word on everyone's lips was Kaolin Thompson and NAKED..Perhaps one of the most musically eclectic and versatile bands of the period, their self titled debut single shot to the top of the charts with it's quirky half spoken sexually charged ode to love.Sadly after the release of their album the band fragmented but Kaolin has gone on to a successful solo career.
The Usual – The shape that I'm in
In James Stewart, South Africa is blessed with one of the finest songwriters around; Throughout the late 90's and well into the new Millenium The Usual have produced multiple hit singles and albums and have thrilled audiences countrywide with their unique and melodic African tinged pop gems.
Egyptian Nursery – God's Window
Take a Scottish tech-whizz/composer,a 6ft 5" French speaking Congolese rapper and a Rubenesque,flamehaired siren and you have the wonderful Egyptian Nursery.Originally formed by Craigie Dodds (now a top notch UK producer) the 'Nursery melted elements of triphop,dance,world, funk,hiphop and pop into an intoxicating brew that swept up the charts in 1998. "God's Window" is one of those instantly memorable songs that seem to sound perennially 'fresh'.
Just Jinger – Stand in your way
Very few bands have reached the pinnacle of success in the way that Just Jinger have…platinum albums,sellout national tours and more recently international recognition.In Art Matthews the group have a singer and songwriter that compares with the world's best and nowhere is this more evident than on the breakthrough hit from their debut album…the epic "Stand in your way".
Sugardrive – Disco Lazarus
Long recognised as one of the most influential rock bands of the past two decades Sugardrive consistently released albums of consummate power and vision.Taken from the " When I died I was Elvis" album, "Disco Lazerus" fairly bubbles with intellectual menace and is by far one of the best examples of this great band's work.
Henry Ate – Hey Mister
Call her Henry Ate, Karma or whatever but there is no mistaking the sultry,honey dripping voice of Karma Ann Swanepoel…She is a consummate performer who has the knack of writing pop songs that stick in your head and is without doubt one of the country's finest female vocalists."Hey Mister" is taken from the band's debut album.
Blue Chameleon – Hoss
Before there was the wonderfully eclectic and sexually ambiguous BOO there was Blue Chameleon…With a much darker, harder sound Blue Chameleon were signed (along with Bworld) to Tusk as part of the label's development project and cut a 4 track e.p."Hoss" is a brief one minute + snapshot of energy and unpredictability, featuring bassist/vocalist Chris C and the horn wielding Ampie Omo in full on manic mode…loads of fun !
Wonderboom – She cries
Anyone who has seen Wonderboom live will marvel at their sheer ferocity and commitment to the art of live performance.They have been, and still are one of the greatest live bands that this country has ever produced."She cries" is one of the group's many hits and remains a staple in their live set.
Fetish – Constant
Guided by the haunting voice of Michelle Breeze,"Constant" lopes like a lazy river…signed to EMI in the 90's on the basis of their self financed e.p Fetish appealed to the new generation of young fans looking for a fix of rock intensity.Widely regarded as one of the most intelligent of the new breed of bands Fetish released a full length album before relocating to the UK to pursue their career.
Amersham – Monkey
Irreverent, humorous,zany and a whole lot of fun are some of the adjectives used to describe Amersham…but none of the above detracted from the fact that the band had a knack of writing some incredibly catchy pop songs like "Monkey".
Arapaho –Wild Warrior
Bursting out of KZN,Arapaho's "Wild Warrior" is the musical equivalent of Durban Poison…starting out slow and mellow before exploding into a riot of sound and colour….. it rocks big time with a hook as big as the Drakensberg.The band recorded two highly acclaimed albums before splitting but the majestic "Wild Warrior" is a testament to Arapaho's big heads down ass kicking rock 'n roll.
Louise Carver - It don't matter
Big pop/rock songs don't come better than this ! As evidenced by her debut album Louise Carver has a way with a song that combines an edgy rawness with instantly memorable hooks."It don't matter" is powered by the chiming guitars of the late John Mair and swept into the pop charts within weeks of release.The multi talented Ms.Carver has gone on to achieve additional success as a experimental dance diva and continues to make music with verve and style.
Qcumba Zoo – Cloud Eyes
Perhaps the most colourful of all the 90's bands, Qcumba Zoo 's debut single " Child inside" propelled the band to the top of the charts and led to a lucrative deal with Arista Records in the US.The followup "Cloud Eyes" is a slice of dreamy pop heaven and is regarded by many as one of the finest pop songs ever released in this country.
AntiGravity – Disaster (I don't think so)
Signed to the then fledgling Fresh Music in 1998, AntiGravity's dance inflected hardcore rock was influenced by band's like the Prodigy,808 State and the emerging nu-rock.Powered by frantic beats,slamming guitar and swirling synths the band rocketed onto the charts with "Disaster" but in true SA fashion imploded within months .Vocalist Trenton Birch as since relocated to the UK.
Slam Factory – Listen
Of all of the new dance-rock bands that permeated the Johannesburg dance scene in the early 90's none funked harder than the fabulous Slam Factory.With a gorgeous lead singer who had the voice of a young Aretha Franklin and an absolutely electrifying live set, the band first conquered the charts with a hot version of the classic soul tune "Respect".However it was with "Listen" that people started to really notice just how innovative and damn funky the Slam Factory really were !After two albums of original 90's funky soul they moved to London where producer/writer Pete Martin continues to work in music.