The Movers – Vol. 1 – 1970 – 1976

A blast of sunshine from South African legends…

Combining elements of American jazz, soul, funk, and a little homegrown magic, The Movers were a South African outfit whose infectious melodies were strong enough to cross over to white radio stations within a racially segregated music scene. Formed in 1967 and eventually releasing around 20 albums, the band’s boom years were the 70s. This latest compilation from Analog Africa captures 14 of The Movers’ finest cuts during this creative and commercial peak. While recent releases from the label have seen them dive into strange synthy soundscapes and rough garage funk, The Movers’ material, in contrast, drips with laid back charm. These are tunes for Sunday drives and cool drinks.

Most of the songs on offer are instrumental but always foot-tapping fun. Elevated by some first-rate organ lines (Sankie Chounyane), the lazy western comparison one could give would be to imagine a Zimbabwean Booker T. & the M.G.’s. Sure, they’re just as funky, but their material is less dense and filled with a sense of joyous energy sometimes missing from The Booker’s stoned-out jams. ‘Soweto Inn,’ for instance, is purely a product of its surroundings. Filled with beautiful guitar flourishes and featuring the vocals of Sophie Thapedi, the song became one of their biggest hits and inseparable from the student revolts that signaled a new resistance against the apartheid government of the time. 

Elsewhere you have the pure summer jam of ‘Ku – Ku – Chi,’ a sickly sweet number that dreamily floats by, strange vocal clicks only adding to the sense of otherworldliness. Adding a little more swagger to proceedings is ‘2nd Avenue’, three minutes of chugging bass and tight rhythms courtesy of founding members Norman Hlongwane, brother Oupa, and drummer Sam Thabo. Carefree and fun as The Movers’ material may be, the core unit holding the band together showcases a tightness forged by years of performances together. With most of the songs not even hitting the three-minute mark, the band had to pack a lot of funk and soul into a pop-song format that was fit for radio. 

This – presumably – first volume of hits from The Movers’ may not be the most esoteric or interesting thing Analog Africa has ever released, but once more, this beautiful boutique label had done the Lord’s work. Yet again, they’ve saved some solid gold from relative obscurity and delivered it to a new generation of listeners globally. A worthy addition to any fan’s vinyl collection


Words: Sam Walker-Smart

The Movers Vol.1 – 1970-1976 (Analog Africa Nr. 35) by The Movers
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