American 60s girl groups have always been a guilty pleasure of mine. Much to my delight, their african counterparts are every bit as delightful.
During one of our vinyl excursions, Lion and I came across this particular recording. it was my first exposure to South African female groups. When I first played it, the songs were reminiscent of Togolese artist, Bella Bellow, but featured a much fuller sound due to the vocal accompaniment. Here’s a little back story on the group and their sound:
The Dark City Sisters (the name refers to the blackout streets of the Alexandra township) was formed in 1958 by famed talent scout and producer, Rupert Bopape, who worked with EMI and Troubadour. The group exemplifes a particular style of South African vocal Mbaqanga, with 4-part female harmonies often accompanied by a solo male backup, which became popular in around the townships of Johannesburg during the 1950s. One of the most famous stars to come to of this scene would be Mariam Makeba who had her own group during this same time called The skylarks.
The Dark City Sisters’ lineup in the studio featured a revolving door of female singers, but a few managed to shine into their own such as Irene Mawela and long-standing member Joyce Mogatusi, who remained in the band until her death in 2012.
Their popularity grew exponentially, and by the mid-sixties they were one of the most popular groups in South Africa.
Star Time with The Dark City Sisters is their first full-length, but consists of previously released singles such as “Rose” and “Change Jive Bafana,” which became a hit within South Africa. The themes covered on here span from tales of the everyday workingman to lost love, all encapsulated by their sweet and haunting falsetto harmonies. A pure joy to listen to.