The Sound Opinions World Tour in South Africa

The Sound Opinions World Tour touches down in South Africa. Jim and Greg learn where Paul Simon picked up that Kwela guitar and hear the latest in Township Tech.

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This week’s World Tour takes Jim and Greg to South Africa. But first, they’ve got a layover in Mali. Christopher Kirkley is the founder of the SahelSounds record label, where he’s been releasing recordings of Malian cell phone music. Jim and Greg ask Christopher about the recent arrival of legal digital music services in West Africa. Can streaming services like iRoking, Deezer, and The Kleek gain a foothold with African music fans? Kirkley says low income in West Africa make paid streaming subscriptions a non-starter. And besides, he points out, West Africans already have a thriving music-sharing network: they’re swapping digital music on their phones. Check out some of the Malian cell phone music Christopher has collected.

South Africa

The Sound Opinions World Tour has been to Sweden, Japan, and Mexico. This week, Jim and Greg finally touch down in the African Continent – South Africa to be exact. Their field guide is Andy Davis, editor of the South African music and culture website Mahala. Andy confesses that his first record was The Boss’s Born in the U.S.A., but he says he quickly embraced the music of his homeland with a little help from Johnny Clegg and the Queen of Afropop, Brenda Fassie. Davis says what’s special about South African music is its hybridization: the way musicians combine traditional guitars, rhythms, and vocals with synths and global genres like hip-hop. The result is a music scene varied enough to include rap in Afrikaans and Xhosa, South African house, and folk-pop about the apartheid struggle.

To find out what it’s like to be a band in South Africa post-apartheid, Jim and Greg speak to rising Cape Town act John Wizards. The two main men behind the band are John Withers, a white South African from Cape Town, and Emmanuel Nazaramba, a black Rwandan. The two men met outside a café in Cape Town, and despite their differing musical backgrounds, John says his tracks and Emmanuel’s vocals clicked right away

Here’s our South Africa playlist on Spotify.

Jim

Jim’s list of favorite country tunes runs short, but he’s got a soft spot for Bobby Gentry’s country-pop crossover hit Ode to Billie Joe. A story-song about what happened one fateful evening on the Choctaw Ridge and the Tallahassee Bridge, Ode to Billie Joe revolves around one central question: what did Billie Joe toss into the river before he killed himself? Stranded on the Desert Island, Jim has plenty of time to ponder that mystery.

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