Friday, January 04, 2008

shalawambe, amayenge, the four brothers and the bhundu boys - zimbabwean and zambian bands of the old school

"I saw the Bhundu Boys at Glastonbury and they solved the world's problems. They knew the answers and they related them to us. It was that simple. They collected us together, muddy and exhausted and we danced. I had nowhere to sleep and nowhere to go; I was tired and alone and downright fucking lonely. But for the time the Bhundus played nothing mattered."

- Clare, from SARAH 4

if you are a fan of the greatness of c86 the record - and let's face it, anyone still passing thru this moribund fanzine probably is - these are the kind of songs you should be super-interested in, you know, if you don't have them already. when you consider that all these guys, despite differences in styles, somehow mix the guitar sound of mighty mighty with the trebly jangle you might expect from the chesterf!elds and the kind of roving, random basslines and complex percussion manouvres that turned up on ron johnson records or the mbira-style guitars that decorate some of the shrubs' tunes, for example, it is really not that great a leap. it's only the vocal style, and of course the language barrier, that might seem truly unfamiliar.

and of course all four of these bands, just as much as mccarthy and the shrubs to name but two, were responsible for reasonably ace peel sessions (including versions of "rugare" and "rudo chete"). listen to the early bhundu boys stuff, before they became world music posterboys, and it's like hearing those tentative yet beautiful early mccarthy intros - the first b.b. 7" has all the nervous, muted but electrifying glory of "red sleeping beauty". or check out the "falling and laughing" style strumming or the joyful "felicity"-style whistles of all bands. best of all, because it's getting so hard to find this stuff, it makes it all the more rewarding when you find any (ooh, on a similar theme, the first wolfhounds comp - parading fab tunes like "cruelty" and "stars on the tarmac" - is now on i-tunes, if like us you never managed to track it in yr local secondhand shop).

also, how fab is this, but shalawambe's day job was actually being farmers. can you imagine farmers from the uk being in a band making such a fabulous noise ? no, of course not - a band of farmers from this country would sound like hard-fi. so come on - do you need any more encouragement than the fact that any band with a "sha-la" in their name are gonna make you smile ? go for it, and believe us we are serious (when are we ever not): there is so much more where these came from.

best places to start:
the bhundu boys: "the shed sessions" (2xCD of early singles and recordings)
four brothers: "the hits of the four brothers volume 2"
shalawambe have a couple of tracks on the "zambiance!" compilation
amayenge feature both on "zambiance!" and also "zambush volume 1: zambian hits of the 80s". the songs are better than the puns!

as you can tell, we're struggling to track down shalawambe and amayenge stuff in particular, so any suggestions always welcome...

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