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Back to Soweto

by Lucas Nwananga and His Band

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    ★★★★☆ "Nwananga has absorbed his forebearers with ease and grace... channelling the spirit of the likes of Marks Mankwane and West Nkosi with restrained passion and care. What shines through most brightly is a sense of unbridled joy that echoes both the boiled-down essence of township jive and Nwananga's enduring feeling for the genre that he discovered in his younger years" - Songlines, January 2021
    • "One of the most joyful albums I’ve heard in 2020" - Global A Go-Go, WRIR, November 2020
    • "His music could fool many into believing it was 40 years old" - RootsWorld, January 2021
    • An homage to 1960s Soweto from lockdown 2020
    • 1960s and '70s mbaqanga township sounds lovingly replicated in another land and century
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Isobho Lethu 03:05
Zwavhuḓi 04:29
Ungamkhohlwa 03:57



Inspired by the roots of authentic 1960s township guitar jive, this is the exciting debut album from Lucas Nwananga.

Lucas is a Yorkshire-born lad with a keen love of the sound of South Africa. From a young age, Lucas began collecting rare 78s, 45s and LPs of mbaqanga music, the electrified township beat of the 1960s. This happy, carefree music deliberately defied the harsh realities of life for the black population of South Africa.

Among the pioneers of this music were guitarists and bassists such as Marks Mankwane, Vivian Ngubane, Sam Jagome, Hansford Mthembu, George Mangxola, Ray Phiri, Joseph Makwela and Lazarus Moncho, as well as vocal stars such as Mahlathini, Irene Mawela, Saul Tshabalala, Sannah Mnguni, Robert Mkhize, Hilda Tloubatla, Mazambane Zuma, Julia Yende and countless others.

In his teens, Lucas picked up a guitar and never looked back. He eventually learned to play lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, drums and melodica by ear, with no knowledge of music notation – just like his South African heroes and heroines. Eventually, he began connecting with the legends behind this wondrous music and was lucky enough to form lifelong friendships with them.

Lucas deliberately keeps all of his material stripped back in an effort to echo the raw studio environment in which this music was originally developed. Only the traditional combo of lead and rhythm guitar, bass, brushed snare and lead instrument (in this case, a melodica) was used. Although the alto saxophone was commonly used as the lead in instrumental jive, Lucas here pays homage to the brief mid-1960s ‘melodica jive’ craze behind such hits as “Jive Smodern Jive”, “Ice Cream and Suckers”, “Jive March Time” and “Tetemuka Jive”.

While the recording technology has evolved hugely since the 1960s – Lucas recorded this album completely from his home during the lockdown – the same joyous and vivacious sentiments that underpinned the releases of the Makgona Tsohle Band, Abafana Bentuthuko and other veteran bands certainly runs through each track in Back to Soweto.

“Shaluza Lucas” echoes the archetypal 1960s-era guitar jives penned in self-praise, such as “Shaluza Marks”, “Vala Nzimande”, “Bathathe West”, “Baphinde Joe” and “Vula Bops”.

“Isobho Lethu” is an atmospheric number created in celebration of the great kitchen table and the laughs, tears and food we share around it. The tune revolves purely around the beauty of intense guitar rhythm.

“Bakhala Ngawe Ntombi” is the story of a township girl whose beauty touches the heart of every guy she encounters. But her heart belongs only to one man. Here, he serenades her as only he knows how – through intense Soweto jive.

If 2020 has taught us anything at all, it is that the line between life and death is miniscule. The sentiment behind “Ungamkhohlwa” encourages those who have lost loved ones to carry their memories high forever.

The frenetic “Godimo Ga Thaba” hails the ‘jive mabone’ craze of the early 1970s that spawned some monster hit records, such as West Nkosi's "Two Mabone", Marks Mankwane's "Umthakathi 500", the Zwino Zwino Boys' "17 Mabone" and Joseph Makwela's "Manyeledi, Manyeledi". Melodica, guitar and tambourine combine in pulse-fast harmony. The title refers to the comic spoken introductions made by producer Rupert Bopape in some of these records. "Godimo ga thaba!" ("up on the mountain!"), he would shout eccentrically in his native Northern Sotho.

From the dusty streets of the townships to the urban heights of the English city... this is Lucas Nwananga’s love letter to a crazy, bittersweet era of black life.

Contact Lucas at: lucasnwananga@gmail.com


released October 19, 2020

Producer: Nick Lotay
Musical arrangements: Nick Lotay and Lucas Nwananga
All instruments performed by Lucas Nwananga
All tracks composed by Nick Lotay and Lucas Nwananga except track 4: composed by Lazarus Moncho; track 7: composed by Marubini Jagome and Roger Xezu
Recorded between March and October 2020
Artwork: Lucas Nwananga
Mixed and mastered in the United Kingdom
All songs published by Umsakazo Records

An Umsakazo Production


all rights reserved



Umsakazo Records UK

Welcoming back the joyous sound of South Africa's townships. UK-based record label celebrating the heritage of vintage African jive through reissues, new beats and compilations of out-of-print music

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