'What South Africa could be like

November 13, 1991

Mango Groove
Playing at the Palace, Melbourne, on November 13,
ANU Bar, Canberra, on November 14
and at the Enmore Theatre, Sydney, on November 16
Reviewed by Norm Dixon

Mango Groove, one of South Africa's premier pop groups, has been described as a "huge sounding, exciting cultural mishmash". Its gig at Sydney's Three Weeds Hotel on November 6 proved this description to be an understatement.

Apart from the tremendous enthusiasm and genuine enjoyment of the band's 11 members, the lasting impression Mango Groove made on this reviewer was the incredibly rich culture that a free South Africa will set loose on the world. Despite all efforts of the apartheid regime to prevent it, South Africa's various racial and ethnic groups are forming a united nation. This multiracial, multicultural pop powerhouse proves what is possible once the untapped potential of this nation is free of racist restrictions.

Mango Groove is a dance band. It blends the sounds of South African mbaquanga, mbube and marabi (better known as township jive) with western pop. The spirited response of the packed audience proved that the mix works. The blistering trumpet workouts by Banza Kgasoane and the haunting penny whistle solos of Mduduzi Magwaza were the highlight for me.

Mango Groove make few openly anti-apartheid statements during their performances. But in South Africa, simply being a mixed band creating a fusion of cultures in defiance of the racist system is subversive.

"The message is there, but it's incidental", bass guitarist and Mango Groove founder John Leyden explained in a recent interview. "We want to be a pop act, but there's more to it than that. We want to communicate what South Africa should look like. What South Africa could be like if we could surpass racial and ethnic boundaries. We want to create a universal South African sound. A sound for a unified South Africa." n

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