Shifty Records

Lloyd Ross has allowed us to carry the incredible Shifty Records catalogue. This contains a huge wealth of  recordings done during the dark days of Apartheid in the 80′s and then into the early 90′s. The starting point for many successful South African artists. People like Vusi Mahlasela, Sankomoto, Bernoldus Niemand, KOOS, Koos Kombuis, the Genuines, Mr Mac, Mzwakhe Mbuli, Tananas, Johannes Kerkorel, James Phillips, Kalahari Surfers, Jennifer Ferguson and many others  have Lloyd (and all the people who worked for   Shifty Records over the years) to thank  for recording producing , financing and promoting their debut albums.

at the bottom of this page is a great article by Richard Haslop (from Perfect  Sound  Forever ) which puts Shifty into perspective:

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James Phillips music click here

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Bignity cover art
  • Digital Album

    Immediate download of 13-track album in your choice of high-quality MP3, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire.
    all CD artwork included – 10 page booklet w lyrics

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1. Deadends 05:12
2. Pianist 04:13
3. Saving The Scenes 03:54
4. Badmouthing 04:21
5. Fugue 05:01
6. Easy 03:55
7. Lenscap 04:37
8. One Time 04:19
9. Turning Tables 03:28
10. Low Riding 03:08
11. Roses 03:51
12. Misheen 05:24
13. Blue Eyes 03:29

about

Van der Want / Letcher image

chrisletcher.bandcamp.com
matthewvanderwant.bandcamp.com

the sunshines
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Chrome Sweet Chrome

Chrome Sweet Chrome cover art
  • Download Album

    Immediate download of 13-track album in your choice of high-quality MP3, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire.
1. Skin On Skin 04:48
2. Only In The Movies 05:17
3. Twist & Turn 03:47
4. Murder She Wrote 03:38
5. Limbo 03:43
6. Take Me To Your Leader 06:01
7. Which Came First 03:52
8. Pampoensop 03:41
9. Heavy Heart 05:32
10. Credit Control 03:38
11. Itchy Bite 03:05
12. Big Wheel 04:09
13. Raingauges (free) 00:06

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  • Digital Album

    Immediate download of 15-track album in your choice of high-quality MP3, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire.

    Buy Now  $7 USD  or more

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Sea Level 03:22
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Near Me 04:38
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Fly 03:14
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Scheming 03:36
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Wave 03:46
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The River 04:27
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Changes 04:10
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Noah 05:01
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Curious 04:50

about

Urban Creep were a seminal South African rock band.The band was formed in 1994 and recorded two critically acclaimed[1] albums, `Sea Level` and `Tightroper`. `Sea Level` was nominated for Rock album of the year 1995 at the South African Music Industry awards. `Sea Level` and `Slow Thighs` both got to number 1 on the 5fm top 40 in 1995 and 1997 respectively.According to well known musician and critic Dave Marks:”Chris Letcher’s finger-picking acoustic & electric guitar style, unique vocals & song writing abilities combined with the classical & maskanda strains of Brendan Jury’s violin, keyboards & rock vocals, made the Creeps the urban legend & sensation they were”.[2]The band members were:
Brendan Jury (viola and vocals),
Chris Letcher (guitar and vocals),
Ross Campbell (drums) and
Didier Noblia (bass).

credits

released 15 March 2013
www.letchermusic.com
www.benguela.co.za
jurymusic.com______________________
Shot Down w Greg Maranovich pics: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmCkhb6HnoQ
facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Urban-Creep/109042666533

about

Urban Creep image

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Terry 02:58
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Meadowlands (free) 03:01
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Tobianski 02:07
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Kopo 02:21
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Ararai 01:52
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Koloiye 01:36
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Sophiatown
Junction Avenue Theatre CompanySophiatown was the ‘Chicago of South Africa’, a vibrant community that produced not only gangsters and shebeen queens but leading journalists, writers, musicians and politicians, and gave urban African culture its rhythm and style. This play, based on the life history of Sophiatown, opened at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg in February 1986 to great acclaim. The play won the AA Life Vita Award for Playwright of the Year 1985/86.

Junction Avenue Theatre Company image

  • Immediate download of 10-track album in your choice of MP3 320, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire.
    album download includes an extra hidden song
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Angelfish 05:06
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Snakes 03:51
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Iris & Co 04:04
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Master Jack (bonus) 06:48

discography

  • Hand Around The Heart
    Dec 1985
  • Untimely
    Dec 1989

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  • Digital Album

    Immediate download of 11-track album in your choice of MP3 320, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire. album download includes loads of photos from the archive – many taken at the album launch

    Buy Now or listen in full quality

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Van 04:43
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Shot Down 02:51
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R45 Perm 02:47
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D-Luxe 03:18
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Positive 05:25
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Ovalovio 01:46

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Made In South Africa

James Phillips

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TABANE 04:12

download album released 19 December 2012
album download includes a shitload of rare photos by Herby Opland, Issy Lagardien, Peter Wright , John Hogg, Peter Tishhauser, Mark Guthrie, Shaun DeWaal, Steve Hilton -Barber, Paige ,Steve, Lloyd and others

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  • Digital Album

    Immediate download of 10-track album in your choice of MP3 320, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire.Includes scans from Celluloid CD release and French liner notes
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Nada 04:00
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Saki Pai 05:09
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Tananas 02:23
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released 22 January 1988
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SOUND FUTURE

by the Happy Ships

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CIGARETTE 05:22
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TEETHING 04:08
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BRASSHOLE 05:27

about

The HAPPY SHIPS was the last band that I was a fully-fledged member of before I gave up the glamour, bright lights, groupies and wheelbarrow loads full of money that defined the life of a gigging alternative musician in sleepy Cape Town in the early 80’s. What helped the Ships’ rake in even more cashwas the fact that we were experimental and played only once a year. As an early indication of how eclectic the Shifty catalogue was going to turn out, this album came out hot on the heels of Shifty’s first release, Sankomota. Listening to “Sound Future” after all these years makes me feel…kinda…proud. It still sounds fresh, full of fab ideas and whacky youthful vigor. Hey, but don’t take my word for it. Read the thoughts of Swami Hamish and Warrick Sony, download the freebees and give the album a wee preview and decide for yourself.www.shifty.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=53&Itemid=79Lloyd Ross__________________here is a podcast called HAPPY SHIPS LIVE & DISTORTED:
This podcast is really very badly recorded, but its the only existing document that we know of that allows one to experience the barely controlled chaos of a live Happy Ships happening. www.shifty.co.za/vault/happyships/shipslive.mp3

thehappyships image

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Sankomota (Shift 01)

 Sankomota

released 11 November 1983
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Madhouse 03:57
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Monoana 05:08
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Uhuru 04:23
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Woza 04:47
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Mope 03:36
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Ramasela 05:17
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Vukani 06:03
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Hero 03:57
about
Ironically, the first full Shifty project was not a punk or new wave band at all, but Sankomota , recorded in Lesotho in late 1983. I had heard them whilst working on a documentary in Lesotho earlier that year. At that stage the band was a three piece, but they had previously toured South Africa with a larger outfit under the name Uhuru. Because of their lyric content, their name and the provocative onstage outbursts of a band member who went by the name of Black Jesus, Sankomoto were thrown out of the country.They were now in a pretty dire situation for a band wanting to record. There were no studios in Lesotho, which was and is the only country in the world completely surrounded by another country – in this case South Africa, where they were forbidden entry. They were of course too broke to fly elsewhere. This is when I discovered the benefits of owning a mobile studio. I parked the caravan outside the recently deserted studios of Radio Lesotho, ran a cable inside to one of the rooms and we were in business.Frank LeepaRecording Sankomota taught me a lot about producing music and working with artists, but I also learned painful lessons about the recording industry in South Africa at large. We had made what was patently a good album; it’s subsequent track record and critical acclaim confirms that. But no record company was willing to release it. The music did not conveniently fit into any of the industry’s pigeonholes, and no one could see past that. This bias against original, or edgy music was reinforced by the broadcast media with their safe and restrictive play lists. Sankomota failed a number of tests in this regard. Firstly, they sang in different languages, which violated grand apartheid’s pipedream of keeping all languages pure and separate. Secondly, the lyrics referred to what was really happening in the country, which was of course a total no-no. And finally, the music was eclectic, a concept that has confused industry marketing departments since the invention of the gramophone.
These experiences were to repeat themselves with almost every record that I produced over the next decade. But I was young and naïve at the time, so I decided to set up my own record company and do what nobody else was willing to do. Thus Shifty Records was born.
Lloyd Ross : Shifty Records ,Johannesburg -2010
credits
released 11 November 1983
Frank Moki Leepa – Guitar
Moss Nkofo- Drums
Maruti Selate-Bass& sessions by:
Sunshine Moena – Keyboards
Sponky Tshabala – percussion
William Ramsey – tenor sax
Rick Van Heerden – alto sax
Stompie Monana – trumpet ,flugel horm
Warrick Sony trombone & percussion
Lloyd Ross – producer ,additional guitar,keyboard, etcphotos by Lloyd Ross
cover by Caroline Cullinan
Shifty Record: Shift1Maruti, Moss and Frank outside the Uhuru Cub in Maseru 1983
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  • Digital Album

    Immediate download of 14-track album in your choice of MP3 320, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire.download includes original covers for cassette and CD and a shitload of photos of the band from various photographers at the time

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Frog Jive 03:37
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107 02:27
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Pyp Dans 02:56
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End Jive 02:38
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Opdra 03:34
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Tomorrow 02:38
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Pee Wee 03:02
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Nokuda 04:20
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Quickly 03:01
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Great Arc 03:34

about

Winston Nyaunda – Alto saxophone
Adam Fieinecke – Guitar
Sipho Shange – Keyboards
Reggie Mfega – Bass
Jannie van Tonder – Trombone
Steve Howells – Drums
Melissa James – Violin
Harvey Roberts – Tenor saxophone (on Wait Awhile & 107)
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SHOTDOWN

a recent compilation album of 20 great tracks inspired and used in the cult movie directed by Andrew Worsdale.

The first of many releases we will be doing from the Shifty catalogue complete with liner notes and extensive scans

(plus a free bonus track with album download.)

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download of whole album gets you a free copy of the original Bernoldus 7″single “Hou My Vas Korporaal” and “My Broken Heart “on the flip side – there is also another surprise free track for the dedicated downloader of albums.

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EET KREEF

Johannes Kerkorrel en die Gereformeerde Blues Band

EET KREEF Cover Art

Two Classic 7″ single digital download re-issues

Boksburg Bommer (7″ single)

by Bernoldus Niemand

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This song was written before Gerrie Coetzees defence of the WBA boxing championship. Bernoldus went along to the weigh in and gave Gerrie the single hoping he’d play it before the match. He didn’t and was consequently knocked out.
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The night the Boksburg Bomber struck:Coetzee’s reign as WBA champion was short. Amid more controversy, he lost to Greg Page in his first defence on December 1, 1984 at Sun City.
Ticket prices for the fight were at an all-time high for South Africa – a minimum of R100, and R450 for ringside seats.
Page, rated No 6 by the WBA, arrived in Johannesburg eight days earlier than scheduled to prevent efforts by the US anti-apartheid lobby to block his visit.
Coetzee was the overwhelming favourite. Most critics predicted a win inside the distance and Coetzee was the betting favourite at 10 to 1.
However, the champion was knocked out in a sensational finish in the eighth round.A major row erupted over the duration of the last round. The pay-off punches from Page came at a time when his manager, Janks Morton, was shouting to the time-keeper that the round was over.
Coetzee had been down for the first time after the bell in the sixth round when Page caught him with a right that saw him sink to his knees.
In the seventh round, a barrage of punches put the South African down for the mandatory eight count.
Towards the end of the eighth, Coetzee was beginning to outbox the challenger. Then Page landed a left hook to the jaw that left Coetzee flat on his back – 3 minute 50 seconds after the start of the round.
The Coetzee camp claimed that the knockout was illegal and appealed to the WBA to have the result nullified. However, the appeal was turned down.
Despite the controversy, Page was a worthy winner.
credits
released 12 January 1984
Bernoldus – voice guitar
Lloyd Ross – bass, producer, photos
Warrick Sony- drums
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Hou My Vas Korporaal (7″ single)

by Bernoldus Niemand

Hou My Vas Korporaal (7" single) Cover Art

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the first single from Bernoldus
released 06 December 1983
produced and recorded by Lloyd Ross
P&C Shifty Music
incredible stream of unconsciousness from James Phillips in an audio letter to his record producer: http://www.shifty.co.za/vault/​james/boptist4rap.mp3
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Mr Mac and the Genuines

At a time when the youth of Britian were rediscovering the fun and liveliness of 60′s  Jamaican Ska, and bands like Madness and the Specials were riding a wave of popularity, the Genuines decided to re-introduce  early “Goema” music of the Cape to a younger audience. Largely ignored and undiscovered this album has to rate as one of the finest South African fusion albums ever.
Listen in full fidelity to tracks from this album, digitally remastered and available for download for the first time ever in Flac or high quality MP3 formats. Samuel “Mr Mac” McKenzie (1924-1990) played banjo for over 50 years and was one of the last wave of the true exponents of “Goema” music of the people of Cape Town.  On this album, the magic of Mr Mac’s Banjo combines the traditional Goema tunes with the razor sharp performances of his son’s band
“The Genuines” .
Mr Mac Cover Art X
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Moonbeams 02:29
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Off Side (hidden) 04:20
credits
released 02 February 1987
Samuel “Mr Mac” McKenzie: banjo
the Genuines:
Gerald “Mac”McKenzie: Bass,Vocals
Hilton Schilder: Keyboards, Percussion, vocals
Gerard O’Brien: guitar
Ian Herman: Drums
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recorded at Shifty Studio July to October 1987
produced and engineered by Lloyd Ross
c&p Shifty Records
cover by Sarah Hills
photos by Peter McKenzie and Lloyd Ross
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Wie Is Bernoldus Niemaand

classic re-issue of the original vinyl release of the first Afrikaans punk album ever.

Wie Is Bernoldus Niemaand

Wie Is Bernoldus Niemaand Cover Art

album download includes a free track and never seen before photos of original Bernie photo shoot and cover skrepboek etc etc.

Bernoldus Niemand

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Snor City 04:28
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Visse 02:46
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credits
released 02 February 1985
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  • album download gets you a free unreleased Vusi Mahlasela track from demos recorded by Lloyd. Also included are some photos taken during the recordings and the original Caroline Cullinan cover

    Buy Now 

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Ke Fosatu 02:18
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SASOL 2&3 02:26
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about

20 April 1979
Federation of South African Trade Unions (FOSATU)

The Federation of South African Trade Unions (FOSATU) was the first South African trade union federation that organised mostly Black employees that aimed to be a national, non-racial umbrella organisation that could coordinate Black trade union movements. It came into being after the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) and Federation of Free African Trade Unions (FFATU) disintegrated in the 1960′s. It had 12 partners representing 45 000 workers.

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RECORDING THE FOSATU WORKER CHOIRS -Lloyd Ross

“In the mid Eighties, at a time when the unions weren’t really centre stage, I had been filming the resistance that was building against apartheid for my outfit Video New Services. My friend Lloyd Ross was wanting to find vital music outside the mainstream and what was obvious in my line of work was that wherever resistance occurred there was song. At a rally we had seen a trade union choir and I raised the idea with organisers in FOSATU that we make recordings of some of their affiliate’s choirs. They were surprised, but thought what the hell, why not?

“Soon we were on the road to meet a choir in Brits at a community hall. They sang some resistance songs and some that felt like disco. We found that this type of eclecticism was not uncommon as, together with Fosatu organisers, we set up trips to shop floors on the east Rand, then on to Natal, recording in Mooi River, Durban and Maritzburg. On the whole, the songs were a mixture of church rhythms and worker aspiration. Of the large body of songs that were recorded, only the more political made it onto the Fosatu Worker Choir compilation. It was a small idea at a time when no one else was doing anything like this”.
Thus remembers Brian Tilley, then of Video News Services.

Me, I remember even less, but a few moments stick out, One of which was when we went to the Dalton Road Hostel in Durban on a Saturday night to record the Clover Choir only to discover that they were part of a scathamiya singing competition. The Danger Boys were co-contestants and were renowned to have the best soprano singer in Natal. They were not a “trade union” choir, but I recorded them on the sly anyway because they were so damn hot. An interesting thing about this recording is the perspective one gets as a listener. I had set the stereo mics up on stage, thinking the guys would at least be somewhere in that vicinity when they delivered their performance. “Shit” I thought, “can’t use this” as they began singing at the back of the hall and then proceeded to not stand still once throughout their entire set. On listening to it a quarter century later, it of course sounds brilliant. You hear the men walk/dancing from the back of the hall, onto the stage and then you hear the individual voices passing back and forth in front of the mics. Put on some headphones, turn it up loud and enjoy an immersive experience. A rough translation of the title is: “Where’s the money, boss”.

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Kaalvoet 02:40
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Baskitaar 20:57

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Ver Van Die Ou Kalahari

Koos Kombuis

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Elmarie 03:44
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Lalie 03:31
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Valerie 02:43
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about

VER VAN DIE OU KALAHARINotes:
All tracks were recorded live onto two tracks at Shifty Studio in May 1987. I wanted the atmosphere of the recording to be just like the demo of these songs that Andre had sent me. So when he came up from Cape Town to do the recordings, I pointed him to the microphone, switched on the tape recorder and went and drank tea for an hour and a half. Apart from the kak quality raps that were taken from that original cassette, what you have in your hands is what happened in that fateful session, puisies and all.
The Producer, Lloyd Ross

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  • Digital Album

    Immediate download of 17-track album in your choice of MP3 320, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire.album download includes liner notes,lyrics,drawings from CD release , scans from original vinyl album cover and the
    video of “South African Male” made by Robyn Aronstam and Neria Cohen

    Buy Now OR listen in full quality 

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Sally 03:22
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the aeroplanes image

hey ! Where’s the Jol

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about

Free People’s Concert list of bands
BENNY B’FUNK & THE SONS OF GADAFFI BAR-MITZVAH BANDPhoning Benny
One more shot
(Dax Butler) John Trafford: Tenor sax Dax Butler: Alto sax Llewelyn Alberts: trumpet / Simon Faulkner: drums /Paul Rapley: bass
Chris Williamson: guitar
Brett “Osmosis” ?: keyboards
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WASAMATAMombasa (Simba MorriNatti)
Wimbo (Simba MorriNatti)He’s not sure, but Simba reckons this is the band:
Simba Morri: guitar & vocals
Gito Baloi: bass & vocals
Maurice: drums
Dumisani Mabaso: percussion
Jannie “Hannepoot” van Tonder: trombone
Carl: sax
___________________________IAN FRASER aka: Anthony Gordon (for SADF anonymity purposes)
Waiting (Ian Fraser)
______________________________CHERRY FACED LURCHERS
Better way (JamesPhillips)
Barbed wire (JamesPhillips)
James Phillips: guitar & vocals
Lee Edwards: bass
Richard Frost: drums
Mark Bennett: keyboards & vocals
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THE SPECTRES
Crow on the highway (Rathbone Lusk, Frost)
Bebop pop (Rathbone,Lusk, Frost)
Richard Frost: drums
Gary Rathbone: guitar & vocals
Tara Robb: vocals
Hillary Kromberg: keyboards
Allan Lusk: bass & vocals.
Alex Jay: keyboards on Bebop pop
______________________________GENUINESOffside of balance (Mac McKenzie)
Goema (Mac McKenzie)Ian Herman : drums
Hilton Schilder: keyboards, percussion and vocals
Mac McKenzie: bass & lead vocal
Gerard O’Brien: guitar
___________________________________________WINSTONS JIVE MIXUPPull up your socks(The Dynamics)
Winston Nyandu: alto sax
Harvey Roberts: tenor sax
No-one remembers who made up the rest of this incarnation of
the band.
__________________________________THE KERELSThe Bezuidenhouts(Gary Herselman)
Golden Days (GaryHerselman)Gary Herselman: guitar & vocals
Neil Fishwick: drums
Gary Sparks: bass
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ABSTRACTIONSPlaces people go (Carlo Mombeli)Carlo Mombeli: bass & vocal
Johnny Fourie: guitar
Jo Runde: guitar
Neill Ettridge: drums
released 07 July 1987
notes by Lloyd Ross:
While digitizing PCM tape 27 of the Shifty archive, I came across a live recording of the 1987 Free Peoples concert and thought, hmm, what a great window into the scene of those particularly depressing times. The Krokodil was still healthy and the tunnel looked as dark as ever…so what did the youth do? They partied! Inspired contributions can be heard on this hour-long podcast from Benny B’Funk & the Sons of Gadaffi Bar-Mitzvah Band, Simba Morri, Ian Fraser, the Cherry Faced Lurchers, the Spectres, the Genuines, Winston’s Jive Mixup, the Kêrels and the spectacularly out of place but brilliant Abstractions, Carlo Mombeli’s avant jazz outfit, featuring the guy that Al Di Meola rated as one of the world’s top guitar virtuosos, Johnny Fourie.

Dread Warri0r (1986) The Shifty Sessions

The Shifty Sessions Cover Art
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about
“The first proper South African reggae band ..before Lucky Dube” Keith Jones
director of the award winning documentary “Punk in Africa”
credits
released 06 June 1986
“But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me. ” Jeremiah 20:11
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the native who caused all the trouble

South African Musical Underground Legends
by Richard Haslop
(August 2010)

Curious as it may seem, the fact that the first release by Shifty Records, a South African record company whose significance far outweighs its fame, was by not by a South African artist at all, or even recorded in South Africa, somehow typifying the Shifty method. It was the self-titled debut by Lesotho band Sankomota, and was recorded by the label in the group’s homeland, where Shifty’s Lloyd Ross temporarily parked the caravan that housed its mobile studio. Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa, and Sankomota was not allowed across the border on account of the political nature of its output, which featured several languages, including English, and embraced several musical styles, including rock.

Ross, previously a member of highly regarded local rock band the Radio Rats, had formed Shifty to give independent, politically orientated South Africans a voice in an era when independent, politically orientated South African voices were stilled by the censorship not only of the government and its heavily controlled airwaves – radio employees would physically gouge certain LP tracks so they couldn’t be played – but also of the mainstream record companies. There was, they say, even a cutting engineer at the country’s only record pressing plant who would refuse to cut records which he didn’t approveof, and get away with it.

Ross claims not to have been particularly politically inclined. In fact, his original idea was to provide unsigned rock bands in the style of punk and new wave with a relatively cheap recording facility. The orthodox industry usually wouldn’t sign anybody even vaguely controversial, and frowned upon any even vaguely controversial material that sometimes snuck out from a few brave souls. But it was virtually impossible to avoid having a political opinion in 1980s South Africa and Ross’s recognition of the need to expose the music and musicians that Shifty did certainly had political consequences.

He named the fledgling label after the mobility that the caravan studio provided, rather than the crafty, sly or furtive nature of the business, although those were certainly useful characteristics for anybody hoping to operate in opposition to the oppressive South African regime. The year, appropriately enough, was 1984 and meaningful political discourse seemed far away, with the most significant political opposition in jail or exile. Towards the end of that year, troops comprising mainly young white men serving an initial period of two years of compulsory military conscription were sent into the local townships to quell any hint of unrest by their black countrymen.

But a groundswell of resistance was beginning to take hold. The trade union movement was starting to flex its muscles, the United Democratic Front had been formed the previous year, and the End Conscription Campaign, dedicated to achieve what its name suggested, would be launched in October. In many ways, Shifty Records represented the musical face of this surge of defiance.

Ross’s original partner in the Shifty enterprise was Ivan Kadey, the guitarist in National Wake, highly unusual if not unique in South Africa in that it was a punk-infused mixed-race rock band, but Kadey soon emigrated to the USA. Warrick Sony, a soundscape artist and experimental composer who continues to release albums under the name of the Kalahari Surfers, bought his way into the business by providing it with a 16-track tape recorder, and the Surfers’ strongly political Own Affairs was its second release. Sony’s method included cutting, pasting and juxtaposing the recorded voices of local political and other authority figures over a musical sensibility informed by Robert Wyatt, Krautrock and others not generally heard in a South African context. Several of the Surfers’ recordings, whose provocative titles included Sleep Armed and Living In The Heart Of The Beast, had to be pressed in the UK by Recommended Records, run by Henry Cow’s Chris Cutler, and then clandestinely imported back into South Africa.

James Phillips, whose music was an interesting combination of punk attitude, Dylanesque and Randy Newman like songwriting and the slightly eccentric roots rock of Little Feat, was arguably the leading figure on the punk and new wave inclined scene that gave birth to the Shifty idea in the first place. He remains, a decade and a half after his death as the result of a car crash, a cult figure among South Africans of his musical generation. His bands included in your face East Randers Corporal Punishment, the short lived Illegal Gathering and the much loved Cherry Faced Lurchers, all of which feature in the Shifty catalogue. However, his most important effect on local music may have been under the name of his Afrikaans alter ego Bernoldus Niemand, whose 1985 release proved vastly influential on an increasingly large body of disaffected Afrikaner youth. Their own disenchantment then expressed itself on Shifty through songwriters like Koos Kombuis and Johannes Kerkorrel – and his Gereformeerde Blues Band (the word means ‘reformed,’ but refers to the overarching and overbearing influence on traditional Afrikaans culture of the Dutch Reformed Church) – and then turned itself into a South African rock subgenre of its own. Phillips/Niemand’s song “Hou My Vas Korporaal” (“Hold Me Tight, Corporal”) became an anthem of the End Conscription Campaign and among local draft dodgers and even those who, in order to avoid arrest or exile, reluctantly answered the Defence Force’s call to protect South Africa’s borders (and townships) from an alleged Communist-led invasion.

Needless to say, none of these records gained any airplay on the formal stations, they received almost no mainstream press, and even finding them in conventional record stores was little short of a shopping miracle. Yet the company kept going thanks to word of mouth inside South Africa and sponsorship received from outside and, during the second half of the decade, it had what was, by its standards, a hit record.

Mzwakhe Mbuli was a poet whose vehemently anti-government recitals, delivered in a deep and ringing baritone, were often heard at resistance rallies. He was recorded by the label over musical backing, and Change Is Pain (released 1986), which sounded a bit like an African version of a highly politicized Prince Far I, was released. It was immediately banned, but underground copies sold and otherwise changed hands in surprisingly large numbers and the album remains iconic even today. Mbuli released further albums and performed at the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as State President, but the advent of democracy did not prevent him from speaking out as vociferously against what he still believed to be wrong. Jailed for armed robbery in 1999, he spent four and a half years in prison. He has always claimed his innocence, and his supporters believe that he was set up.

Another African artist initially on Shifty who has gone on to international acclaim is Vusi Mahlasela, often known simply as “The Voice.” Though his subsequent output has drifted inexorably towards the middle of the road, the quiet political strength of his early ’90′s When You Come Back debut remains impressive.

Shifty continued to release albums relatively regularly until the mid ’90′s and its catalogue is now around 70 strong, if you include a handful of albums that it licensed by artists from elsewhere in Africa, that introduced local audiences to the wonders of Salif Keita and a few others. Shifty features recordings of political speeches, trade union choirs, intrinsically South African acoustic guitar instrumentalists, English and Afrikaans language rock from the fringes and the barricades, township jive irrepressible and updated for the ’80′s and ’90′s, a rocked up version of the high spirited goema music of the Western Cape’s Coloured communities and more.

The Shifty release schedule slowed considerably after the birth of South African democracy in 1994, with internationally recognized author Rian Malan’s 2005 Alien Inboorling (“alien native”), a typically sardonically honest reflection on contemporary Afrikaner issues, its first album for several years and its latest except for the excellent Shot Down, a compilation of “resistance music from apartheid South Africa” drawn from the Shifty archive.

Indeed, the best way into the Shifty legacy is probably through this, or one of three older compilation albums that may constitute the label’s most important contribution to the South African musical landscape. A Naartjie In Our Sosatie (literally “a tangerine in our kebab”, but a play, partly in a South African accent, on “anarchy in our society”) was the earliest, followed by Forces Favourites, an ironic reference to state radio’s armed forces request programme that played music which could not have been further removed from Shifty in spirit or intent, and then Voëlvry, which documented the incipient Afrikaans music revolution. These collections were, for much of the label’s audience, its introduction to a range of artists of relative degrees of obscurity, including one, Timothy, and who recorded one song and was never heard of again, who represented an essential slice of South African cultural territory that might otherwise have been completely ignored

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original Shifty logos by Walter Meyer

12 thoughts on “Shifty Records

  1. James Lorimer says:

    What about The Softies?

  2. pete spong says:

    i am trying to find out more about the end conscription album as i wrote don’t believe and
    played guitar with simple english any help out there?
    pete spong

    • wrexony says:

      what do you want Pete? I have the album as wav files and am thinking of putting it up on the site for posterity. Do you want a copy? Its sort of around as vinyl and I think Lloyd may have put out a CD. Not many sold I imagine and as far as I remember all the proceeds would have gone to ECC -( ANC now ) but it never covered the hours of studio time anyway but it was cool to have done.

  3. Piero Botha says:

    It is wonderfull to get these albums again. Is there any of these albums still available on LP vinyl?

  4. I’d be after Koos (the purple cassette album) and the Lurcher’s OtherWhite album, which is for some reason (too depressing?) often overlooked. Are those available?

  5. Ross says:

    Hi Warrick – can u also put up the Shifty compilation that had us and J Ferguson’s Salt River Valley Road? Love that song

  6. pspong2011@gmail.com says:

    Very funny,does it actually sell at all?i am interested,it was a good project to work on during an interesting(to say the least)time,I am also trying to find out about the free peoples recordings ,were all the bands on the festival recorded?I wanted to see if there was any simple english stuff in any archives anywhere,I would really appreciate it if you know of any!! Cheers, and all the best,
    Pete spong
    Sent via my BlackBerry from Vodacom – let your email find you!

  7. Vernon J says:

    I bought the album too back when it came out. And loved it too. Many good artist there.

  8. wrexony says:

    I’ll put it up then asap – we can do a freebie

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