Sipho Hotstix Mabuse VS Strange Loving – BURNOUT
STRANGE LOVING Revives Popular Gallo Classic!
STRANGE LOVING and Gallo Record Company have released a brand new single – a rework of Sipho Hotstix Mabuse’s classic ‘Burnout’ which became one of the first major crossover hits in South Africa in the early 1980s, selling more than 500 000 copies.
A spur of the moment idea, sparked by a friend who thought it would be a great idea to revive an old classic from the past, STRANGE LOVING was inspired by the 90s Daft Punk method of production to rework this 80s release into a silky offering with a hint of seductive flavour.
Instead of Re-editing the track by using the exact sampling from the original 30 year old record, STRANGE LOVING added some fresh percussion and hats as well as their signature bassline which shines through in the end result.
Featuring their own edgy mass appeal style heard on previous STRANGE LOVING radio singles, at first they were not expecting Hotstix and management to approve their version, but were delighted when he and his manager did.
Hotstix comments “I am delighted with the remix as it keeps the essence of the song alive and this mix has a really good feel about it . Hopefully people will go and explore other songs I have done over my career”
“Anyone and everyone who is a lover of classic South African music would be able to identify with our version of BURNOUT, and hopefully our release of it as official single starts a revival of this old classic for today’s youth!”- Strange Loving
In 1985, a hot new single was pumping in most clubs, house parties and cars. Whenever Burn Out played, people would stomp to the dance floor. Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse became known as the hottest musician in South Africa.
The music, which fused township pop, traditional mbaqanga groove and the disco of the era, was a powerful step in bringing young white people to African popular music.
Mabuse regards the 1985 Concert in the Park at Ellis Park to be a significant highlight of his career. This event brought 22 of the most popular bands of all genres and races around South Africa to Ellis Park and packed the venue out with 125 000 people of all races. Juluka was the headline act and the only mixed race band to perform. Mabuse performed with Harari – a pioneering afro-rock band.
From the Beaters to Harari
Mabuse was born on 2 November 1951 in Masakeng (Shantytown), Orlando West, a bedrock of political resistance. A traditional healer from Lesotho lived opposite his home where he first heard the drums. Mabuse said, “This is where I got the feel of the drum. It was more of a spiritual influence than an academic influence.”
In high school in Orlando West, Mabuse became a drummer for the cadets. Guitar player Selby Ntuli spotted his talent and invited him to form a band with his fellow scholars, bass player Alec Khaoli and guitarist Monty Ndimande (Saitana.) In June 1966 The Beaters were formed, the name inspired by The Beatles. They performed all over Soweto at high-schools and matric dances.
“The media picked up on that.” Mabuse fondly recalls, “the brat pack of the era – Aggrey Klaaste, Percy Khoza – were fascinated that these youngsters were coming out of high-school and playing pop music.” The soul sound of the Beaters travelled widely. By 1969, at the height of apartheid, The Beaters were the first black South Africans to fly domestically, when they toured Durban. In 1976 they performed for three months in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Outside SA, The Beaters were exposed to and strongly influenced by modern African sounds in the form of Zairian (Congolese) music. The Beaters transformed into a pan-African rock-funk ensemble with a strong concept of Black Consciousness. They changed their name to Harari, after a township near Salisbury, Rhodesia.
Harari founder and band leader Selby Ntuli died in 1978 during a failed tour in America undertaken on the invitation of Hugh Masekela. Mabuse took over and transformed the band into a registered business and collaborative ensemble. He was given his moniker “Hotstix” at this time, after a particularly inspired drum solo. Harari was the first black pop group on SA TV and they entered the American Disco Charts in 1982 with the single Party. However, despite the commercial success, conflict over money and leadership sent the band members in separate, solo directions.
Some of the highlights Mabuse recalls from his more than 50 years in the music industry, include the 46664 concerts in London and New York, and the Southern African tour with Eric Clapton that took them to Swaziland and Namibia for Independence celebrations and Mozambique for the peace accord.
He says: “The most important part is being able to do what I do and bring joy to people who come to support and watch me perform.”
In 2012, just before his 62nd birthday, Mabuse went to Thaba Jabula High School in Klipspruit to study and complete his matric examinations, a move that earned praise from President Jacob Zuma. Mabuse has since enrolled at Unisa to study anthropology.
In October 2016, two weeks short of his 65th birthday, Mabuse travelled to the Maputo Morejazz festival to receive recognition for his 50 years of performing and recording achievements in the South African music industry. He performed Burn Out alongside Judith Sephuma and Moreira Chonguica.
Mabuse met with students at the University Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo and emphasised the importance of reading. “Let us all begin to go back to books. Forget about your economics subjects that you think are going to make money for you, there is education beyond that. And then you begin to understand how important the cultural values and the music you listen to, plays in what you do,” he said.
Outspoken on the issues of leadership and the wisdom economy, Mabuse said: “I have always considered artists as creators of the wisdom economy. Arts and music speak to the soul and heartbeat of the country.”
Mabuse is committed to upliftment through music. He’s received extended recognition in South Africa, has sat on the boards of The National Arts Council and the South African Musicians Rights Organisation and received a SAMA lifetime achievement award. He is also chairperson of the annual Music Exchange Conference in Cape Town. Music Exchange brings presenters from the music industry together with young musicians to share their knowledge and experience. “It is simple,” says Mabuse. “Success is a product of hard work and dedication. And don’t believe the hype because when the phone stops ringing, what next?”
Today he’s in the early stages of writing his memoir with his manager Martin Myers. They’re working on concepts to piece together this legendary story and promote it. Their plans include touring the smaller South Africa towns, such as Queenstown, Caledon and Franschoek – places Mabuse’s never played in. They’re also planning a free show for the people of Soweto, where Mabuse has lived all his life, to thank them for their support.
This year, one of the world’s most admired and respected musicians – Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse – celebrates his 50 year anniversary in the music industry.
Highlights for Mabuse in 2016 include shows in Botswana and Swaziland and performances with the likes of Johnny Clegg. “I was even celebrated as the keynote speaker at Music Exchange #MEX16,” he recalls. “I also performed at the annual music indaba, Moshito, as well as part of Joy of Jazz and Metro FM, all while inviting a request to be the guest of honour at More Jazz, series six, in Maputo. Media support has been amazing. Thank you,” Mabuse adds. “Particular thanks must go to Kaya FM, who gave me a whole day to celebrate the work we are doing and we even got the hashtag #Hotstix to trend.”
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 32 years since I released Burn Out. I am humbled by all the love and support. Thank you, all.”
As for 2017, Mabuse says, “I have started on my book. It will be a memoir of my life, and it will be out in September next year. There will also be a national tour. I’m not about to stop walking on my road. I’m a voice in a space that speaks truth to power.”
Burnout is more than just a song by Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse. It is a singular signifier of what it meant to be South African in the 80s. The slow-building, passionate delivery and the unforgettable keyboard riff resonated with pretty much everyone who heard it.
Kids in the township reclaimed it, throwing their own nonsensical lyrics to its keyboard melody and passing them down to the next emerging set of latch key kids. It was urban folklore long before it was legendary.
In the song, its author pines for a love lost, but there is a nagging subtext; he is singing about a country he’s about to set on fire. In real terms, though, it was simply love in the time of revolution.
Although Hotstix had already recorded a solo album after the dissolution of Harari, a successful band he founded with his high school mates, it was Burnout that properly announced his arrival as a solo act.
“While many groups would play mbaqanga then, we wanted to play what we called Afro-rock. We became the first black group to appear on national television, which was only for whites. We were defiant of the system because of the black consciousness influence,” says Hotstix of his former band. “Groups like Dashiki, Malombo … these were groups that were very politically inclined. So we belonged in that era.”
As Hotstix explains, the band Harari went through various stages conceptually. “[We were] the first group that went to Zimbabwe, which was influenced by a very strong period of black consciousness. Then we had Selby [Ntuli], myself, Oom Alec [Khaoli] and Monty [Ndimande]. After we came from Harare, we changed from The Beaters to Harari. Then Selby died. We had to regroup and introduce the concept of pure Afro-rock with ‘Funky’ Masike Mohapi, Alec and I, and Charles [Ndlovu] and Thelma [Segonah]. Commercially, that was the more successful group. After that, Masike left the group and Condry Ziqubu joined, and there was a continuous changing of concepts as and when people came into the group at that particular time. Obviously, understanding what the concept would be was quite a challenge to a number of people who came in.”
In 1982, things were looking promising for the group, having signed a deal with Herb Alpert’s A&M Records. “I guess you reach a stage where one’s success becomes overwhelming. Once we were invited to the US to go and perform at the invitation of the record company, some of the members decided they weren’t going. That was the most heartbreaking period for me − because here we were on the brink of international success − especially with Masike, because he was the lead singer of the band and he decided he was not going to go overseas. And when we got there, there were all these acrimonious relationships. So when we came back, there was this split.
“Two people stayed behind. I guess at that period we saw success differently. In our eagerness to achieve success, with hindsight, maybe I became dictatorial in my leadership style. I felt strongly that we should be a clean-living group − no alcohol. I used to be physically fit and I used to work out and do all sorts of things, but my colleagues were different and we’d always fight about these things. They felt that I was too controlling in my leadership style, to such [an extent] that they felt they didn’t want to go overseas to support my cause, as they put it. When we got to the States, even the two founding members, Oom Alec and I, were not on good terms because of my style of leadership. He said to me, ‘Listen, I no longer want to be part of this group.’”
Hotstix remembers that time as the most depressing period of his career − like realising a marriage you had tried to make work was doomed.
“You become angry at yourself and bitter towards the people you feel have let you down,” he says. “For about a year or two I was at sea, lost as to what to do. Johnny [Clegg] called me, because their drummer had just left, and asked me whether I wanted to play drums for Juluka. For me it was a very difficult period to make a decision on that because I had been a band leader. Selby had been the leader and I became the leader after he died, so I couldn’t see myself going to join another band. I decided to go to the studio and start working on a few things.
“The first album I recorded was called Set Me Free, which, frankly, I attributed to Harari, and it became successful. I guess in a way I was still attached. There was still that sentimental attachment to the group because of the success. Then I realised I was alone, because all the other members of the band had gone solo, doing things individually. I was a drummer, so it was going to be difficult to become a frontman. Then I realised that many of the frontmen had been drummers. I got my solace from that consideration and I went on to record other albums – Burnout, Rise…”
Hotstix says he recorded Set Me Free on his own. He hadn’t even picked up the saxophone at that stage, but he was an adept drummer, pianist and flautist. “I didn’t consider myself an exceptional pianist; I could get by, just to enable me to compose things. As a drummer it would have been difficult to compose, especially as I wasn’t good in notation.”
Set Me Free, a four-track EP, sold about 200 000 copies at the time. “It was almost like I was making statements, because I went on to record Rise, which became another big seller, moving 150 000 units. Then one day while preparing to record an album, we got into the studio around 12 midnight. I was travelling with a pianist, but I decided to play piano while the sound engineer was doing something. For some reason I was feeling this riff in my head. I started playing it. I was looking at the pianist and he was really bobbing, you know. And I felt the same way. I said to the recording engineer, ‘Listen, can we put this thing down before I forget it?’ We stopped everything we were doing. We put this track down and I started writing things. Lyrically, what you’re hearing. It literally took me 10, 15 minutes, and the whole track was done. The whole song was recorded in 20 minutes.”
Hotstix says he was capturing a happy mood, but at the same time his mind was reflecting on past relationships. Did he know he had made something magical when he laid it down?
“There’s hardly any musician who will tell you they’ve captured the magic. When you’re a creative person, it’s always hit and miss. If you’re an honest writer, you don’t write because you want to write hits, because there’s no formula. But there’s that moment of creativity that just happens. That’s why as a writer there’s what you call writer’s block, but once you capture that moment of writing things, you find things happening. If you find all the hit songs written by people, they have never been able to repeat that magic, because it happens at a particular time. I mean,Thriller was probably [Michael Jackson’s] most successful album, but however much Michael tried to sustain and retain the formula, it just did not happen the same way. The Beatles were songwriters of note, but there are certain songs they wrote that you still think are better than the others. A lot of people will point to certain songs and say these are the hits. There’s absolutely no formula, whatsoever.”
Check out this video of The Con’s interview with Hotstix by Tseliso Monaheng
Main Pic by Tseliso Monaheng
TIMELESSNESS 50 years on
On Wednesday evening, 1 October, for one-night-only, one of South Africa’s, and indeed the world’s, most admired and respected musicians – Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse – is set to perform at The Lyric Theatre, Johannesburg, in a special, single performance, affair.
Titled Timelessness, a name coined by Mabuse, the show will tip its hat to the masters, taking fans on musical journey filled with extraordinary, one-of-a-kind, performances.
2014 is a momentous year in Mabuse’s 50-year career immersion in music. Not only is it his golden anniversary of his unwavering commitment and contribution to South African music, it is 30 years ago his now 500 000 copy-selling single “Burn Out” changed the face of shape of Afro-pop and township jive like no other song or artist in pop music history.
From his first group, Harari, through to his stellar solo career that spans the better part of his adult life, Mabuse’s Lyric Theatre reveal is going to be jam-packed with so many hits and memories, beyond “Burn Out”, that “we might not be able to fit it in,” he jokes.
Beyond competent and hugely applauded, the magic this musician makes is practically impossible to pigeonhole. Drummer, flautist, alto flautist, pianist, saxophonist, kalimba player, timbale and African drummer, Mabuse’s raw ability and talent know no limit!
His name became synonymous with township jive nearly three decades ago, and today his live performances still present the master’s art as the stuff of legend.
As the musical ambassador for South Africa, performing in virtually every country in Africa and touring the US, England, France, Germany and Italy, amongst many more, Mabuse’s recorded and produced the likes of Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Ray Phiri and Sibongile Khumalo.
Head out to The Lyric Theatre, at Gold Reef City, and come celebrate the multiple anniversaries with his friends, peers and contemporaries. Expect tributes, tears and Timelessness aplenty as Sipho”Hotstix” Mabuse unpacks, retells and delights the night with songs that remain as perpetual as the master maker himself.
Tickets are available from Computicket.co.za or call: 0861 915 8000 or click on link below
For more information contact:
Triple M Entertainment
Mobile: +27 83 448 4475