Various Artists

Tsonga Tremors: Explorations in Tradition, Technology and South African Dance Music (1983-1991)

Release Notes
  • 18 rare cuts, reissued on vinyl for the first time, compiled by chOOn!! featuring Shangaan-influenced dance music, Tsonga Disco & neo-traditional releases from South Africa (1983-1991)
  • 180g heavyweight vinyl (2LP) remastered at Bonati Mastering in Brooklyn and flanked with sleeve artwork by the internationally acclaimed book designer Luke Bird
Tsonga Tremors: Explorations in Tradition, Technology and South African Dance Music (1983-1991)
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In the last decade, the breadth of plugged-in African music has become increasingly apparent. Samplers and synths have spread across the continent; nowhere is this more striking than in South Africa, where the end of apartheid coincided with the gradual move away from funk and soul-based township sounds and the emergence of electronic styles.

Enter Shangaan Electro, a seminal compilation released in 2010 of 180-plus bpm South African dance tracks; its rapid dispersal through global dance channels introduced ecstatic audiences to a previously marginal scene.

Shangaan Electro has its own prehistory in electronic variations of neo-traditional Tsonga music (Tsonga has replaced Shangaan as the favored designation since the 1994 national elections). A new style materialized, pioneered in the early 1980s, integrating Western elements with electrified neo-traditional sounds, known as Tsonga Disco.

Tsonga Disco emerged at a time when apartheid-dictated radio censorship laws exerted near-impenetrable control over radio airwave access. Despite the restrictions, a raft of Tsonga musicians rose to national prominence.

Tsonga Tremors highlights a small but necessary sign of an emerging future. A stunning example of home-grown magic; something both organically arrived at and politically expedited through a cross-wiring of local rhythms, imported dance-pop, cultural censorship, emerging technology and limited means that became the catalyst in shaping the future of South African dance music, paving the way for Shangaan Electro’s international emergence nearly two decades later.

This compilation seeks to revive an important moment in Tsonga music history. These 18 tracks compiled by chOOn!!, a label specializing in obscure, archival and forgotten releases, should serve as a necessary starting point. Featuring early Shangaan-influenced dance music from legendary producers Paul Ndlovu and Richard Siluma alongside lesser-known Tsonga Disco and neo-traditional rarities from South Africa (1983-1991), they offer a disorientating and frenetically accelerated rhythmic bricolage of programmed drum patterns, cascading percussion, squeezebox keyboard lines and truncated vocal interjections sung in rich harmony. Infinitely absorbing and tangled with rhythm in knotty osmosis between beat and pitch. The effect is both ecstatic and unusually elegiac, a DIY brand of pastoral neo-traditional soul, amplified minimalism and infectious body music.