Joyful and influential South African music: The Indestructible Beat of Soweto
Today I want to strongly recommend a seminal compilation of South African music entitled The Indestructible Beat of Soweto. Soweto (short for South Western Township) is an urban area in the City of Johannesburg, South Africa. It first came to the attention of the West through its struggles with apartheid in the 70’s and 80’s. During this period of struggle and oppression, the region was producing some fantastic, joyful music. Trevor Herman and Jumbo Van Renan (if I have a son, I’m naming him Jumbo) collected some of the very best and released it in 1985.
It’s an amazing collection. The many styles of a rich culture are represented, but there are no jarring transitions or songs you wish hadn’t been included. They’re even well sequenced. The sound isn’t as strange to Western ears now as it was when it was released, but that is due at least in part to this album itself.
It was well received and was an international success. The year after it was released, one of the artists, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, was asked to back Paul Simon on “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.” I clearly remember how transfixed I was by their performance of that song on Saturday Night Live. Indestructible Beat introduced much of the world to South African Music and 23 years later I can still put it in and listen to it end to end.
Ladysmith is probably the only band on the disc with which you are familiar. The rest had me stumped and most of the names have more letters than a Military Post Office. Try on Mahlathini Nezintombi Zomgqashiyo, or maybe Nganeziyamfisa No Khambalomvaleliso. So while I usually link to specific tracks, today I won’t. What you should do is follow this link to the Amazon listing and hit the Preview All button at the top of the page.
My guess is that you will want to simply purchase the disc ($8.99 for all 12 tracks), but if you want to pick and choose, you can do it that way.