By Norm Dixon
Australian audiences have another opportunity to enjoy the vibrant and liberating musical culture of South Africa from the 11 members of Mango Groove, now on tour. Like the other recent South African tourists, Lucky Dube and Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens, Mango Groove is committed to building a new South Africa with the barriers of apartheid removed forever.
Mango Groove draws its inspiration from the Sophiatown community near Johannesburg, which by the early '50s was a haven for non-racial culture. In these rough and ready neighbourhoods, South Africans of all races met, drank, sang and danced to "township jive" played on the penny whistle and saxophone.
This emerging urban culture was considered such a threat by the apartheid regime that Sophiatown was physically torn apart by government bulldozers following the implementation of the notorious Group Areas Act during the '50s.
Mango Groove describes its music as an amalgamation of all the musical cultures of urban South Africa. It "has its roots in heritages as diverse as mbaquanga, country, swing, mbube, jive, reggae, classical, calypso, house and hooky pop potjeieko, layered on top of a marabi-Kwela pop base"!
The group is a founder of the South African Music Association, whose fundamental principles are freedom of expression and association. Its song "We Are Waiting" was composed to celebrate the release of Nelson Mandela.
In the past year, Mango Groove has been number one on South Africa's music charts on two occasions, and its albums have remained in the top 20 lists for over a year. The group also played to an enormous crowd at the Namibian independence celebrations and has toured the Frontline States.
Australian tour dates are: Sydney: November 6, Rose, Shamrock and Thistle Hotel, Rozelle; November 7, Paddington RSL; November 16, Enmore Theatre.
Perth: November 8, Fremantle Port Authority; November 9, Sundowners Hotel; November 10, Belvoir Amphitheatre, Swan Valley.
Melbourne: November 13, The Palace.
Canberra: November 14, ANU Union Bar.