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1x Vinyl LP
Sep 4, 2023
With one foot planted in jazz and the other in the township groove of Mbaqanga, saxophonist Sello Mmutung was a powerful crossover figure in the history of popular music in South Africa. Using the stage name Bra Sello, meaning “brother” and used as a term of affection and respect in the jazz community, he came up in the era of shellac 78s as an exponent of the 1960s sax jive sound that brought the swinging rhythm of kwela into the domain of South African jazz. Despite the injection of American rhythm and blues into South African pop in the late-1960s, Bra Sello’s first releases on vinyl on the CBS label saw him backed by the group Abafana Bentuthuko and holding down an unapologetic township sound.
Joining the independent Soweto label under producer Cambridge Matiwane in the mid-1970s, Bra Sello recorded two records in the hit-making bump jive style popularised by serious jazz musician Dollar Brand on the one hand and prolific studio group The Movers, operating in funk and soul territory, on the other. Blending modern American and traditional African elements into joyful hip-swinging rhythms, Butterfly (1975) and The Battle of Disco (1977) reflect the vivacity of urban life in South Africa and document an era when dance music was performed by bands as extended jams laced with jaw-dropping solos. With music trends shifting dramatically in the late-1970s, the title of The Battle of Disco was an ironic call to arms in response to the territory that group musicians were beginning to cede to synthesisers and DJs.
For enthusiasts of African music from the 1970s, a full appreciation of the continent’s output is incomplete without South Africa’s pop-jazz sound providing a regional counterpoint to the funk experimentation of West Africa. Reissued for the very first time, Bra Sello returns in 2023 with limited replica editions from Afrodelic using master tape sources from the As-Shams/The Sun collection. Afrodelic’s unique edition of Butterfly features a previously unreleased track on Side B.