Brian Shimkovitz unearths some of Africa’s finest musical gems. Sharing his discoveries on his blog and label of the same name, Awesome Tapes from Africa facilitates a beautiful journey from cassette to wax. Interestingly, its latest offering, 'Shaka Bundu' by Penny Penny, is something of an exception. A massive hit in South Africa, the album actually sold over 250,000 copies during its first run in the early 90s.
Riding unashamedly poppy keyboard hooks and call-and-response vocals, Penny is undoubtedly the star of the show. Having risen from janitor to politician, the South African also stands as a leading figure of the Tsonga disco scene. Penny’s trademark laugh and almost slurred delivery is at its best on key anthems ‘Zirimini’ and ‘Shichangani’. Alongside bright female chants, Penny’s own wails and yelps are just as infectious as the tracks' feel-good synths. Indeed, it would be a shame to only shower Penny with praise; his producer, Joe Shirimani, clothes the album with its distinctive slow house rhythms and resultant summer warmth.
For a taste of Awesome Tapes check out Brian's marvellous Beats in Space mix and his Boiler Room appearance, featuring two tape decks and a mixer.
Shaka Bundu LP - Penny Penny [Awesome Tapes From Africa]
Penny Penny's 'Shaka Bundu' is available from Juno.
Words by: Isaac Rangaswami