BONGO MAFFIN (SOUTH AFRICA)
Four years is a long time in the fast-changing world of kwaito. This home-grown style based on slinky house and hip hop beats spiced up with sundry local ingredients has dominated South Africa’s pop charts since the mid-1990s, but only a handful of its stars have showed much longevity. Even fewer have made an impact outside South Africa and its closest neighbours, but the curiously named group Bongo Maffin are one exception. Their fifth album Bongolution (2002) was the first to get an international release, and now they’re back after a four-year break with New Construction (2006).
Muffin or Maffin? No one seems quite sure how it became the latter, but if you’re singing in five languages, (Xhosa, Tswana, Sotho, Shona and English) a little thing like spelling probably doesn’t seem such a big issue. Maybe one reason for Bongo Maffin’s continued popularity is the fact that their music has never been just kwaito. It’s as much about R&B and reggae/ragga, as well as township grooves, and their lyrics are more concerned with spiritual matters than the gangster poses some of their colleagues prefer. Also, unlike most kwaito acts, they use a real live band onstage as opposed to DATs and the like.
Formed in 1996 in Cape Town as a trio of male rappers, the group gained their fourth member Thandiswa Mazwai the following year, later shrinking to a threesome when founder member Speedy went solo. Zimbabwean-born rasta Appleseed and rapper Stoan stayed on, and this is line-up they’ve kept ever since. After Bongolution, Appleseed threw himself into dancehall and roots reggae in club and radio sessions and Stoan started his own record company Stoan-Aig (and released a solo album which he claims Universal failed to promote). But it was Thandiswa who made the biggest splash with her 2004 solo album Zabalaza, which earned her three Samas (South African Music Awards) and a nomination in these awards the following year. She’s also the most obvious vocal star on
New Construction, a slick, confident and diverse modern African pop production, with more of a dub/club feel than before and even a touch of bhangra.
Bongo Maffin on the web
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