The Real Sounds of Africa
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The Real Sounds of Africa

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HUGE, HILARIOUS and utterly unstoppable, the real sounds of Real Sounds reverberate into a rhumba riot of intoxicating rhythms. Forget the patronising World Music label, this indestructible beat of Zimbabwe is as gushingly groovy as Happy Mondays and as poundingly powerful as The Wonder Stiff. Pure, perfect pop.

Twelve strong onstage, they stir up a jumbo-sized jaboree of bellowing brass and intricately rippling guitar. The sheer joy and musicianship they display reflects badly on whichever bunch of moody Manchester haircuts are being hailed as the future of rock'n'roll this week. But most of this is real dance music the sort you don't need dugs for, the sort that shows up every Huse record ever made fro the plastic shite that it is.

Just when you think it must be an end The Real Sounds bring an incredible dancing contortionist onstage and then play for another half hour. The carnival atmosphere is ecsatic (sit too near the speakers and you get a sun tan) and leaves you with a grin so wide you can't get out the exit afterwards. If you like pop music, see this band. - N.M.E June 1989


There has to be something special about a group who can transform a seemingly mundane memory of a goalless draw into a song of exquisite celebration. It's doubtful if Zimbabwean "no-score draws" are any more exciting than the traditionaly drab Highbury equivalent, but The Real Sounds are oblivious to any midfield mediocrity during their superb 'Dynamos Versus Caps (0-0)' as their horn section blazes in and around a shimmering, guitar-driven rhumba sound.

But, rather than just being filed away as an African alternative to 'All I Want For Xmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit', 'Dynamos Versus Caps' is the most obvious introduction to The Real Sounds, currently touring the UK while promotng this, their debut LP.

There are five other scorchers on 'Harare', all being based on a mix of different African sounds. Although they're now permanently based in Zimbabwe, The Real Sounds' music doesn't really resemble the beats which are most associated with the country. The eleven-man group are mainly from Zaire and so The Real Sounds are naturally removed from pure Zimbawean 'Mbira' roots.

But the group have embraced life in their new country with real fervour and their Zairean rhumba is made harder by these Zimbabwean infuences. Their eventual direction will probably aim for an even sharper honing of these disparate sounds but, for now, 'Harare' is a delicious concoction. - N.M.E. May 10th 1986


This was always an ambitious project. Norman Cook, former Housemartin, reverts back to his roots as a dance music DJ and puts together a touring show bringing together 30 musicians, rappers, DJs, hip-hop dancers and a graffiti artist.

At the hub of this rolling perfomance - the artists alternating and joining together - were 12-piece Zimbabwe band The Real Sounds Of Africa and MCs Wildksiand Einstein and, of course, Norman.

He seemed to enjoy every minute, grinning broadly from behing a set of decks, playing guitar or leading the African chants.

As a bold experiment in bringing together traditional African and American-influenced black dance music the roadshow didn't entirely work, but when it did the effect was stunning.

The rap and African music didn't mix too easily, played in separate sets - the show seemed to be in danger of being neither one thing or the other - but when Real Sounds joined the rappers, DJs, RPM dancers and Norman on stage, the different elements came together into a pulsating performnce.

The ska cover of The Special AKA's song Free Nelson Mandela, was the brilliant highpoint of a brave, inventive and ultimately successful experiment. - Evening Post - October 24, 1989


If the Real Sounds of Africa conjures up an image of tribal ritual and airs of hypnotic rhythm bt limited melodic develoment then you'd be half right. Real Sounds has rhythm-a-plenty but the chanting native cry - so beloved of documentary makers and old B movie buffs- has been heavily overlaid with guitar, saxophone and horn. The mixture is pleasant to listen to and eminently danceable as befits Zimbabwe's most popular resident dance band.

This Zimbian-formed 12-piece outift (13 if you count the witch doctor) are visually stunning in their banded head dresses and leopard wrap-rounds. And as a dance band they are no mean movers themselves with each front section (vocal, horn and sax) delighting in a variety of unison routines - some studiedly raunchy with others strangely reminiscent of Hank Mavin and Co.

Some songs have obvious themes: in one the praises of Harare's rival football teams, the Dynamos and Caps, are sung while the band practise their footwork in green and blue stripes. Obviously people have better things to get worked up about in Harare, since the score (0-0) delights everyone.

The there is the witch doctor who bends his lithe body into a bewildering array of contortions and cajoles a guitarist into attempting the same. He fell over, of course. - Glasgow Herald


An evening of beads, beer bellies and robust ballads from the neat of modern Africa. Three hours of solid dance music and a UK debut for the 12-piece, Harare-based The Real Sounds who play a unique blend of sounds from Zaire and Zimbabwe.

Clad in a variety of animal kins, grass headgear and enough beads to cover an elephant's trunk, the band arrive on stage in a blaze of Salsa, heralding their fascinting mixture of Murenga tunes and rhumba rhythms.

Their style is at its best in the marathon 'Kapinga' which begins with convincing thumb-harp images as all four guitars circle around each other, the beat changing abruptly to an Afro-Latin carnival in full swing. Stomping rhythm and full-blooded brass carry the powerful voice of bandleader Ghabi Mutombo until the song trails off with a solo trumpet conjuring up an eerie last-post at a sleazy bar.

Mindful of traditional roots, The Real Sounds music is nevertheless a reflection of African city life. Appropriately they reappear for an encore dressed in green and black football strip and set about working a few inches off those waistlines. At this stage you can forget about the spirit of your ancestors as the band break into "Dynamos vs Caps (0-0)", their best-selling single to date, which captures the mood of a young Harare audience. It turns out to be a cup-final anthem to Zimbabwe's two big soccer teams and reverently includes namechecks for comrades Mugabe and Banana. The ball's in the net. - Tim Jarvis


Question: How often do you see reviews as consistently rapturous as these?

“I’m feeling wonderful… transformed… I’ve shed my clothes wishing this was a nudist beach with them playing live” FOLK ROOTS

“The room throbbed rhythm. Not a soul was still. The witch doctor danced, contorted and bounced around in some of the most bone-defying positions imaginable – would you dare to go to bed with this man?” TNT

“The frontline troops in the assault on sterile pap… a powerful flow of rhythm that picks you up and won’t let you down. Totally groovy.” NME

“More humour, style and energy than most chart bands put together … I haven’t spoken to a single customer who didn’t think that they were the most exciting live band to play in the capital.” SUNDAY POST

“Hypnotically captivating contemporary African music.” SOUNDS

“Collecting rave reviews like other bands collect dust… they have to be seen to be believed.” THE LIST

“One of the best live acts in the world… the contorting witch doctor provided the most magnetic movement I’ve ever seen in my life. You’ll not have seen or heard anything like it.” TNT

“Joyous… riveting … expect Cup Final atmospheres.” CITY LIMITS

“Two numbers in and they’re dancing in the aisles… a climax of joyous drum rhythms”. THE INDEPENDENT

“Blew the roof off with their horns and vocals”. THE GUARDIAN

“More infectious than the Bhundu Boys… more energy than a vat of Lucozade… the sound is hypnotic, rich and irresistible…” EDINBURGH FESTIVAL TIMES

Answer: Once a year when THE REAL SOUNDS OF AFRICA come to town! - Out of Africa


If the Kosh are aiming at the hearts and mind of their audience, several other companies are determined to get the Fringegoers up and dancing. Certainly The Real Sounds of Africa from Zimbabwe didn’t have to try very hard.

Their elated Assembly Rooms audience needed no encouragement to dance in the aisles and between the seats during their late night performance where fine percussive rhythms held sway.

It’s a show they obviously have great fun with and their changes of costume include both loin cloths and full football strip.

In a particularly memorable performance one of the group dances while taking up the sort of contorted dangerous-looking yoga postures that can never have been intended for meditation. - The Scotsman


The Real Sounds of Africa finish their week of gigs at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms tonight.

And I haven’t spoken to a single customer who didn’t think they were among the most exciting live bands to play the capital.

This 13-piece comprises four guitarists, four wind section, two percussionists and two lead vocals.

And, as if that isn’t enough, they even have their own witch doctor along with them – and his dancing and gyrations have to be seen to be believed!

He ties his feet behind his head and walks around the stage on his hands!

The band’s music is rhythm with a capital R, and the carnival atmosphere they create as soon as they hit the stage would make the dead get up and dance.

This outfit have more humour, style and energy than most chart bands put together, and their tribute to the Zimbabwean football cup final called “Dynamos v Tornadoes” is a real show-stopper. - The Sunday Post


The Real Sounds of Africa have, along with the Bhundu Boys, benefited the most from the rapidly-blossoming interest in African pop in this country. Originally from Zambia, now based in Zimbabwe, The Real Sounds been collecting rave reviews for their live shows like other bands collect dust, and present pop that’s truly exciting and a tonic for the soul: melodic, rhythmic, percussive, irresistibly danceable. Real Sounds are, the Bhundu Boys claim, ‘better than us’. High praise indeed.

In Zimbabwe they are superstars: their 1000-capacity residence in Harare is sold out on every one of the three nights a week they play. While they’re over here the owner has had to close the club, knowing that no-one else could hope to pull in such a dedicated crowd.

Their biggest hit so far in their adopted homeland has been ‘Dynamos v Caps (0-0)’, a tribute to Harare’s two top football teams. Watch out, though, when the band don football strips to perform it – their ball control doesn’t quite match up to that of their heroes.

Real Sounds number thirteen: twelve musicians and their quadruple-jointed, rubber-limber witch doctor who performs with them and has to be seen to be believed. So see them and believe them. - Review


The Best Live Act in the World

RAVE ON!
On their second European Tour in 1987 THE REAL SOUNDS OF AFRICA played over 100 venues in the UK. The majority of these were sell-out shows. They also excited crowds at most of the major European Festivals: Womad, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Belgium, Ireland.

They recorded two programmes for network television: the prestigious Arts magazine The South Bank Show (one of only four popular music acts on the SBS in 1987); and the more rock-orientated Meltdown. They also appeared live on a number of regional TV shows such as Scottish Television’s Edinburgh Festival Programme.

They recorded sessions for Radio One’s Andy Kershaw (already transmitted twice) and Radio Two’s Night Owl.

Their Harare-recorded album WENDEZAKO came out on Cooking Viny, and rapidly became the label’s second best–selling title (the first being MICHELLE SHOCKED).

As the Edinburgh and Glasgow magazine The List succinctly put it: “The Real Sounds have been collecting rave reviews like other bands collect dust”.

The REAL SOUNDS never get bad reviews because they rarely leave an audience anything less than ecstatic.

The REAL SOUNDS are back from Zimbabwe in May 1988, and will be her until November, with an entirely new show that moves from a theatrical event with startling acrobatics and infectious good humour, to some of the hottest dance rhythms that you are ever likely to hear.

MISS THEM AT YOUR PERIL! - Artists Unlimited


Real Sounds are the frontline troops in the assault on sterile pap, with their rhumba-hinged rhythm and marzipan vocals, shot through with horns and contas and more than faintly reminiscent of Franco (not the general). But this is no watery fluid: put the band in a bottle and label it ‘Concentrated’ – pop the cork and out comes a powerful flow of rhythm that builds and breaks, picks you up and won’t put you down. Every poke of the horns, every pulse of the voices shifts the patterns but doesn’t alter the direction of the flow, which goes on and up.

The Real Sounds are one of the best live acts in the world. Whatever your plans for this Thursday, drop them and rush to the Town & Country Club to see this outstanding band. On last year’s trip from Zimbabwe some 12 of them decorated the stage with the most gorgeous dance rhythms, passionate vocals and traditional dress you could wish to see in a decade, before changing into football gear for their getting-to-be-legendary Dynamo v Caps (0-0). For this they even had a football on stage, thus proving that however good your music and dancing it doesn’t make you a Gary Lineker. Their contorting witch doctor provided the most magnetic movement I’ve seen in my life. Be there. You’ll not have seen or heard anything like it.

They have more rhythm, more melody, more humour and more zip than the entire Top 20 stuck together. They make Whitney Houston sound life Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Like Margaret Thatcher, even.

See them. - NME


The man from the record company said they’d given one of the five best gigs he’s seen in his life.

They played two sets, and at the end the witch doctor did his turn, rubber limbs contorting unbelievably. As the guitars frolicked he tied his feet around his head and danced on the palms of his hands. The hall, until now a swaying bopping throng, stopped. On and on he went.

The Real Sounds, over for the second year running from Zimbabwe, are one of the greatest acts you could hope to see.

Two numbers in and there’s dancing in the aisles. By the encore, it becomes a question of how many people will fit on stage as the band is joined for a climax of joyous drum rhythms. - The Independent


These Zimbabweans’ name still seemed more than a little immodest: choose a British band at random and imagine it touring Nigeria billed as The Real Sounds of Europe. But, beyond that, the reconstituted Real Sounds ensemble has gained dignity while losing none of their overwhelming exuberance.

The fake leopardskin loin-cloths and dubious “traditional” dancing seen during the last UK visit have thankfully been abandoned. Such cheap tourist-attraction visuals are hardly necessary when you’ve got guitars that flow and swirl so hypnotically, and a flame-thrower of a brass section, combining fire and precision. At the front of it all is a natural star called M Sangana, dancing madly round and finally on top if his congas.

But what would take real madness, or at least dreadful sadness, would be to hear this sound and not want to dance; to resist its effortless energy, its natural life-force. Don’t laugh but in certain hip clubs they’re paying pocketsful of pounds for chemicals that are meant to simulate this ecstasy.

And these Real Sounds, like all the best African music, are about a joy that has to be shared. So if you’re at all serious about wanting music that involves the abandonment of self and ego, look here. - Melody Maker


Ladies and gentlemen, could you please all rise – Zimbabwe’s number one soccer fan, his excellency Canaan Banana is now arriving here at Gwanzura Stadium for this important soccer league clash between Dynamos and Tornadoes.”

And so, with a wave of chiming guitars, The Real Sounds of Africa signal their main interests – football, music, and a big dash of comedy. “After I left school in Form 6 I just worked for three months and from then on I studied music and football” says Jojo, one of the band’s front-men.

Obviously a good all-rounder, Jojo played as a central defender on the 1st Division of the Zaire Football League until the age of 29, combining this with the beginnings of a musical career.

Decision taken, the Real Sounds secured a record deal in Zimbabwe, and released their first singles; “In part of Africa we were doing well so we decided to introduce our music to Europe”… The band received rave reviews for their Dynamos vs. Caps single in 1986, and followed this with the Wende Zako album and a successful set of shows at the 1987 Edinburgh Festival.

Live, the Real Sounds’ amiable dance music is transformed into a melodic storm of high life guitars, propelled along by Johnnie, the band’s diminutive percussionist and a born star if ever I saw one.

A new album, Seven Miles High, has just been released in Britain on Big Records, a label launched by the band’s new British management team. A more mellow affair, the album should reassure purists by the inclusion of only one English language song, appropriately about the 1987 match between the “Rest of the World” and the Football League. “We were her in Britain and watched that match on television”, says Jojo, “it was fantastic”.

“I’ve been in a band for almost twenty years now. In 1971-72 I used to play copies – people like Tom Jones (he launches into “She’s a Lady”…), James Brown, Wilson Pickett. A long time back, the Real Sounds was a band playing in nightclubs; we used to do cabarets with artists from the UK, United States and France. Then”, he says, emphatically, “we decided ‘non’”, lapsing into the French which seems to take over when he becomes excited.

On the perennial issue of whether African bands lose something when they use modern technology, Jojo is pragmatic. “In Africa you must change each year, otherwise people say ‘ah, you people, you’re still playing the old way’… As a musician, you must listen to Western music and hear what they’re doing now, what kinds of instruments they’re using now.” He cites Mory Kante’s success in France as an example of successful, synthesizer-based African music, yet to my mind the Real Sounds’ own music is still a refreshingly natural creation, with real kick to it (particularly live – they used to play football on stage!).

With an appearance on the new album by ex-Housemartin Norman Cook, and yet another album ready to be recorded, thing are going well for the Real Sounds. Jojo himself is looking forward to returning to Scotland, still euphoric about the Celtic-Aberdeen match he went to when here last year. So could there be a Scottish football song on the new album? “Perhaps… but we always make these songs a score-draw; we want the supporters of each team to be happy”. Now that’s what I call quite good… - Frontlines


Zimbabwe-based Zairean band he Real Sounds of Africa have made a reputation her with a frenzied set, tribal costumes and attention to their music.

They’ve followed up their rather lukewarm LP, Wende Zako, with a collaboration with mixmaster Norman Cook (of Housemartins fame) and while a record deal is pending, they’re warming up with a special event at London‘s Town and Country Club tomorrow. Entitled Club Harare, it re-creates an African club atmosphere, except the band won’t be playing their usual 10-hour set. They’ll also be diverging from their normal set by playing covers – possibly a mixed blessing, as they’re threatening to include their versions of Rick Astley and Billy Joel. Zimbabwean rumba master Jonah Moyo and his band Devera Ngwena – meaning Follow the Crocodile – join in the fun. - The Guardian


The conditions under which we get to hear World Music often made a nonsense of the original context. There are important reasons why “re-presenting” – misrepresenting, even – ethnic source music for Western ears is still a valid exercise, but consider how strange it must be for, say, African and Asian artists to come here only to find themselves on the same bill and in a rock venue playing host to somebody like Sigue Sigue Sputnik 24 hours later.

With their full-brass sound, acrobatic dancing skills and leopard skin “native” costumes, Zimbabwean rumba band The Real Sounds of Africa are no strangers to this country. But nobody here has ever seen them play the kind of show that Zimbabwean revellers would be familiar with. Tonight for the first time in the UK, a London venue is being fitted out to recreate the atmosphere of a Harare nightclub, complete with African beer and food (plentiful supplies of sadza, kapenta and mapenta we are informed) and Zimbabwean comperes. And even if the Real Sounds do stoop to few Rick Astley covers, be assure that Zimbabwean audiences do not expect them to dress up as pantomime zulus – so no fake animal skins tonight. In support, guitarist Jonah Mopyo and his rumba-jive band Devera Ngwena are reckoned to be their country’s third or fourth most popular act. - The Independent


Discography

Seven Miles High
Get Real

Singles:
Dynamos vs Caps (0-0)
Soccer Fan

Photos

Bio

The classic world football anthem and the signature tune of BBC 5live's world football show 'Soccer Fan' by The Real Sounds of Africa originally mixed by Norman Cook is remade in a special 2010 World Cup mix. Joined by rappers MC Buzz and Eminemmylou and producer Latest Bill, The Real Sounds create a truly global ecstatic feel of the joys of football.

The Real Sounds of Africa have always been one of Africa’s top groups. Their music combines Zairean rhumba with mbira music of Zimbabwe to make their own sound 'the real sound of Africa'.

Their records Seven Miles High mixed by Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim as he is now) and Get Real mixed by Stomp founders Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas have been successful worldwide. Before that Wende Zako featuring the football anthem Dynamos v Tornadoes (3-3)
became Cooking Vinyl’s top selling record. Before that their album Harare featuring their other great football song Dynamos v Caps (0-0) was number one all over Africa.

On film The Real Sounds have been immortalised on the South Bank Show with Melvyn Bragg with voice-over by the late great Charlie Gillet and have appeared for the BBC on their Edinburgh Festival programme and have appeared on countless TV channels across the world. Radio sessions include BBC Radio One and BBC Radio Two and practically every other radio station in the world!

The Real Sounds have played almost every major festival in Europe – Glastonbury, Womad, Pink Pop. They have headlined shows at all the major venues in the UK including The South Bank, Brighton Dome, Cardiff St David’s Hall, Plymouth Theatre Royal, The Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh, the Tron Theatre in Glasgow and hundreds more!

On stage they are visually stunning. Half way through their performance they change into football strip for their hit football songs. They stretch, jog, kick a football and dance with amazing energy. World Cup Final atmosphere and then some!