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Music Review Global Routes with Tony Burke: July 26, 2022

Ground breaking stuff from China and a walk down one of South Africa's memory lanes

THE Chinese province of Yunnan in south western China has been considered a “frozen in time backwater” — a land of mountains and dense forests closed to all but the most intrepid anthropologists, linguists and ethnomusicologists.

The music of Yunnan was often sloppily labelled “Chinese music.” However, that should change with The Rough Guide To The Music Of Yunnan released on World Music Network/Rough Guide which compiles 19 tracks of unique sounds, both ancient and modern.

Yunnan music passed down traditional knowledge and stories but the region has moved into the digital age with the building of new highways, railroads and airports which have seen the province open up to new musical sounds and influences led by folk rock bands such as ShanrenManhu, and Puman (all featured on this new set), who are now internationally known artists.

While there are traditional sounds here, the tracks that grab the attention are Wood and Fire’s, Sixty Four Generations, the reggae-based Bulang Beauty by Punam, Moqui’s rock number Mountain Village, and the pulsating Left Foot Dance Of The Yi’ by Shanren.

The standout track is Banquet Dance recorded by the Chinese — Appalachian musical collaboration of the Yunnan band Manhu and North Carolina’s old-time mountain music group Jenny and the Hog Drovers from 2017.

It’s ground breaking stuff.

Analog Africa’s The Movers, Volume 1 1970–1976, compiled by label boss Samy Ben Redjeb, features 14 tracks by the South African soul-jazz group who were hugely successful in 1970s apartheid era.  

In 1996 Redjeb, on a “record safari” to southern Zimbabwe, stopped off in Jo’Burg, South Africa, visiting a store in search Township Jive records.

He found some cassettes and one in particular with tracks Hot Coffee and Phukeng Special by The Movers — both included here.

In 1969 the band had cut an album which exploded onto South Africa’s racially segregated music scene. The organ led soul — jazz set sold 500,000 copies and they were the first South African black band to have their music cross-over into white radio stations.
 
In the mid 1970s their Soweto Inn (also featured here) with vocals by Sophie Thapedi provided the soundtrack to the mid 1970s student revolts which signalled a new uprising against the apartheid regime.

The Movers made over a dozen albums and countless 45s and the tracks here feature a band at the peak of their powers.

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