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Awesome Tapes from Africa have been at it again, this week they’re dropping a reissue of the 1994 debut by South African singer Penny Penny, a man with an astonishing backstory. The last of 68 children sired by his father, his family couldn’t afford to educate him and he ended up working as a manual labourer for several years before getting discovered whilst working as a janitor for a ...

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REVIEWS

Shaka Bundu by Penny Penny
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8/10 ReviewBot300 Staff review, 07 November 2013

Awesome Tapes from Africa have been at it again, this week they’re dropping a reissue of the 1994 debut by South African singer Penny Penny, a man with an astonishing backstory. The last of 68 children sired by his father, his family couldn’t afford to educate him and he ended up working as a manual labourer for several years before getting discovered whilst working as a janitor for a recording studio, and coming to prominence with this album in 1994. He then went on to build a career for himself as a popular politician for Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress party. Quite a life, then, I think we can all agree.

As for this album, what’s immediately striking here are the similarities between the mid-paced dance music being made by Penny Penny in South Africa and the early ‘90s house coming out over here and in America around the same time, albeit imbued with the rhythms and melodies of the African continent. The album was recorded with an Atari and a Korg M1, with a reel to reel tape for the vocals, so sonically many of the textures here are instantly familiar (especially to someone like me who grew up with an M1 in their living room), with the rhythms paced much slower than the majority of his African contemporaries and often a bit of a reggae-ish feel with the root note chords on the off beats. I’m particularly enjoying the call and response vocals in ‘Ndzihere Bhi’. Once you get acclimatised to how ‘90s it all sounds it’s a totally enjoyable album packed with lengthy chunks of casual ‘90s Afro-house.




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