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South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded on the south by 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline of Southern Africa stretching along the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans, on the north by the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, and on the east and northeast by Mozambique and Swaziland, and surrounding the kingdom of Lesotho. South Africa is the 25th-largest country in the world by land area, and with close to 56 million people, is the world's 24th-most populous nation. It is the southernmost country on the mainland of the Old World or the Eastern Hemisphere. It is the only country that borders both the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. About 80 percent of South Africans are of Sub-Saharan African ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different Bantu languages, nine of which have official status. The remaining population consists of Africa's largest communities of European (white), Asian (Indian), and multiracial (coloured) ancestry.

Links To Peel

John Peel's Sipho Bhengu - Ticky Dopies

John Peel's Sipho Bhengu - Ticky Dopies

The first South African artist to do a Top Gear session, in 1967, was the white soul singer Sharon Tandy, who lived in Britain in the '60s and recorded for Atlantic Records. Another white South African active in the British music scene was John Kongos, best-known for his early 1970s hits "Tokoloshe Man" and "He's Gonna Step On You Again" (later covered by the Happy Mondays for the #8 entry in the 1990 Festive Fifty). Before these, Kongos wrote "Will The Real Geraldine Please Stand Up And Be Counted", issued as a single in 1969 by Scrugg, the group he led at the time. It wasn't a hit but made a big enough impression on Peel to be included in his Record Box of treasured records many years later.

In the late '60's, Peel played recordings of the music of the Bantu tribes of South Africa from the BBC Archives on his Night Ride shows. He later recalled that the first African record he played on his shows was 'Tickey Dopies' by South African musician Sipho Bhengu in 1971.[1] In the early 1970s, there were two Top Gear sessions by the jazz big band Brotherhood Of Breath, which was based around a group of exiled South African musicians led by pianist Chris McGregor, and played in a style combining contemporary jazz and South African township music. Hugh Masekela and Ladysmith Black Mambazo were among the South African artists later featured on his show. By the 80's, many African records Peel played came from South Africa, especially those from the sax-jive genre. Mahlathini and The Mahotella Queens were particular favourites of both Peel and his Radio One colleague Andy Kershaw, who shared his enthusiasm for African music. After the rise of Zimbabwean music in the 80's, Peel played less music from South Africa, although in the mid-90's, Afrikaans Hip Hop from Prophets Of Da City gained significant airplay on his shows.

During the apartheid era in South Africa, Peel supported many anti-apartheid movements, including the imprisoned Nelson Mandela, whose name was included on a record by Special AKA that reached number 41 in the 1984 Festive Fifty. Onyeka The Torch, who were members of SWAPO (South West Africa People's Organization), not only fought for the independence of Namibia from apartheid South Africa, which it achieved in 1990, but also released an LP in 1984 as well as a collaboration with Robert Wyatt's Wind Of Change that reached number 47 in the 1985 Festive Fifty. Peel also introduced Queen on Top Of The Pops in 1984 as 'the boys from Sun City', after the band defied the international apartheid ban and played at the infamous 'leisure resort' in South Africa. Peel also attended the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium and wondered aloud, on his show of 07 June 1988, whether artists who had performed at the show knew the significance of the concert and whether they would remember the importance of Nelson Mandela, who was in prison. (The only African artists on the bill were Mahlathini and The Mahotella Queens, which provoked strong criticism of the concert organisers from Andy Kershaw). After Mandela was released from prison in 1990, Peel remarked on his show from 10 July 1997 that Nelson Mandela was 'the one man on earth that I would really like to meet'.

After Peel's death, the pennywhistle tune “Tom Hark” by South African kivela (kwela) group Elias & His Zigzag Jive Flutes was included on The Pig's Big 78s: A Beginner's Guide CD collection. The song had been a UK top five hit in 1958 and was later covered by Peel session band the Piranhas.[2]


The following artists from South Africa recorded sessions for the John Peel Show:


(Tracks played by Peel from various artist (v/a) compilations featuring music from South Africa. Please add more information if known.)

(LP - Rhythm Of Resistance - Music Of Black South Africa) Virgin

(LP - Soweto) Rough Trade

(2xLP - Soweto Street Music The Definitive Collection) Audiotrax

(LP - The Indestructible Beat Of Soweto) Earthworks

(LP - South African Trade Union Worker Choirs) Rounder

(LP - Thunder Before Dawn; The Indestructible Beat Of Soweto Volume Two) Earthworks

(LP - Homeland A Collection Of Black South African Music) Greensleeves

(LP - The Heartbeat Of Soweto) Shanachie

(LP - Freedom Fire - The Indestructible Beat Of Soweto Vol. 3) Earthworks

(LP - Township)

(LP - Bringing It Down - South African Sax Jive)

(LP - The Kings And Queens Of Township Jive (Modern Roots Of The Indestructible Beat Of Soweto)) Earthworks

(LP - Transkei Special)

(CD - Jive Nation - The Indestructible Beat of Soweto, Vol 5) Earthworks

(CD - Kwaito - South African Hip Hop) Earthworks

(CD - Mzansi Music: Young Urban South Africa) Trikont

See Also

External Links


  1. Band was a mixture of South African and British musicians.
  2. A musical ensemble of South African musicians "exiled" in England during the Apartheid era.
  3. Born in South Africa in 1970, but moved to the UK in 1991.
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