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Mahlathini: King of the Groaners

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Album Review

A nice collection of recordings from 1972-1977 from Mahlathini (Simon Nkabinde), the king of groaners. He specializes in a deep bass style of singing in South African township forms. Accompanying him on this album is a plethora of backup singers and musicians. What a listener will notice is the layered vocals dousing every track — the hallmark of South African music. Another noticeable item is the unstoppable half-soukous guitar that bounces along in the background of every song. For a fan of South African music, an album devoted to Mahlathini's hits would certainly be a pleasure. For a casual listener, or someone new to the genres encompassed by his work, one may wish to start out with something else from the same Earthworks label, perhaps — the Indestructible Beat of Soweto series would probably cover all bases.


Born: 1964

Genre: World

Years Active: '80s, '90s

Simon Nkabinde Mahlathini (nicknamed "the Lion of Soweto") came to international attention via the 1985 sampler The Indestructible Beat of Soweto. He began to tour internationally with female singers the Mahotella Queens, although he has been playing and singing his brand of mbaqanga (Zulu pop music, heavily influenced by traditional singing styles) since the early '60s. Mahlathini started singing on street corners, graduated to men's choral music, and went on to form his own smaller group in the...
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