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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.

world tour

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.



“Ode to Billie Joe”Bobby Gentry

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.

Featured Songs

  1. Goose Island Credit Music: Pure Sunray,“Caramel,”Pure Sunray, 2013
  2. Power Boyz, Tchuna Baby, Tchuna Baby (Single), Self-Released, 2012
  3. Tinariwen, Tenhert, Imidiwan: Companions, Independiente, 2009
  4. Group Anmataff, Tinariwen, Music from Saharan Cellphones, Sahelsounds, 2011
  5. Kaba Blon, Moribiyassa, Music from Saharan Cellphones, Sahelsounds, 2011
  6. Mdou Moctar, Tahoultine, Music from Saharan Cellphones, Sahelsounds, 2011
  7. Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds, Mbube, Mbube (Single), Gallo, 1939
  8. The Tokens, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, RCA, 1961
  9. Johnny Clegg and Juluka, Sky People, Universal Men, Rhythm Safari Pty Ltd, 1979
  10. Imithente, Amagwababa, Mbibi, Gallo, 2011
  11. Paul Simon, Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, Graceland, Warner Bros., 1986
  12. Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Thalaza (I Miss My Home, I Miss the Farm), Songs from a Zulu Farm, Razor & Tie, 2011
  13. Tshetsha Boys, Nwa Pfundla, Shangaan Electro: New Wave Dace Music from South Africa, Nozinja Studio, 2009
  14. The Brother Moves On, Good Times, ETA, Self-Released, 2012
  15. Blk Jks, Lakeside, After Robots, Secretly Canadian, 2009
  16. Spoek Mathambo, You Should Have Called (My Heart), Escape from '85, Freely Released Mixtape, 2013
  17. Chicco, We Miss You Manelow, We Miss You Manelow (Single), Philips/Phonogram, 1989
  18. Mahlathini & the Mahotella Queens, Nyamphemphe, Stoki Stoki, Shanachie, 1996
  19. Vampire Weekend, Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, Vampire Weekend, XL, 2008
  20. Brenda Fassie, Black President, Black President, CCP Music, 1990
  21. Arthur Mafokate, Kaffir, Kwaito Classics of the Early 90's, CCP Music, 2006
  22. MGO, Yes (Bongo Disco Mix), Ayobaness! – The Sound of South African House, Out Here Records, 2010
  23. Black Coffee ft. Thiwe, Crazy (Manoo & Francois A. Main Mix), Crazy (Single), Foliage, 2010
  24. Driemanskap, Camagu, Igqabhukil' Inyongo, Pioneer Unit, 2009
  25. Bittereinder, A Tale of Three Cities, 'N Ware Verhaal, Rhythm, 2010
  26. Dear Reader, Took Them Away, Rivonia, City Slang, 2013
  27. John Wizards, Lusaka by Night, John Wizards, Planet Mu, 2013
  28. John Wizards, Hogsback, John Wizards, Planet Mu, 2013
  29. John Wizards, Limpop, John Wizards, Planet Mu, 2013
  30. Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Motherland, Best of Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Universal, 1995
  31. Bobbie Gentry, Ode to Billie Joe, Ode to Billie Joe, Capitol, 1967
  32. The Sylvers, Hot Line, Something Special, Capitol, 1976
  33. Dirty Projectors, Gun Has No Trigger, Swing Lo Magellan, Domino Records, 2012
  34. The Clash, White Riot, The Clash, CBS, 1977
  35. The O'Jays, Love Train, Back Stabbers, Philadelphia international, 1972

Footnotes About Christopher Kirkley Shop SahelSounds SahelSounds cell tunes Digital Music, the African Way iRoking Deezer in Africa The Kleek Tweet Andy Davis Mahala Magazine Johnny Clegg,“Great Heart” Brenda Fassie,“Black President” Rap in Afrikaans Rap in Xhosa South African House South African folkpop South Africa playlist The John Wizards“Lukasa at Night”“Ode to Billie Joe”