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Irene Mawela: South Africa's 'Unknown' Legend

Electric Jive features Irene Mawela, a South African girl group vocal legend.


Electric Jive, purveyors of classic South African sounds from the 50s to the 80s, recently put together an in-depth account on the musical career of Irene Mawela, one of the country’s most prolific recording artists whose distinctively sweet voice is more famous than her own name. After her first songs in 1957, Irene recorded a frankly astonishing amount of material as part of some of the most famous girl groups in South African music from days gone by. These include the Dark City Sisters, The Sweet Sixteens, Mahotella Queens, Irene & The Sweet Melodians and a whole host of others, as well as several tunes under her own name during the 80s and 90s.

A gifted songwriter as well as songstress, Irene also generously wrote hit tunes for top artists with whom she rubbed shoulders. Electric Jive’s comprehensive biography of Irene details every inch of her musical life, from her first steps towards the recording studio, to the challenges she faced within it, to the distinctive characters she met along the way (all drawn from conversations with the lady herself) – and includes an extended compilation of 30 tunes from across her career. Head on over to Electric Jive to read Irene’s fascinating story and download the mixtape featuring her very best work.

>>>Read the full story + download a 30-track mixtape at Electric Jive

IRENE MAWELA THE ‘UNKNOWN’ LEGEND

1. NDIALA – THE SWEET SIXTEENS (1972)

2. SELEMO SEKENE – THE ZEBRAS (1976)

3. INSIZWA – THE TELEGRAM SPECIALS (c.1962)

4. ARIYENI MURALENI – IRENE MAWELA (1982)

5. LALA KAHLE – THE SWEET SIXTEENS (1971)

6. ABAKHULU – IRENE AND THE SWEET MELODIANS (1974)

7. MME ANGA KHOTSI ANGA – IRENE MAWELA (1983)

8. BAJIKA BEJIKILE – IRENE AND THE SWEET MELODIANS (c.1976)

9. ANGILALA – MGABABA QUEENS (c.1973)

10. JULY HANDICAP – KILLINGSTONE STARS (c.1957)

11. TAP TAP NTSHEBE – DARK CITY SISTERS (c.1961)

12. MAMORWESI – KILLINGSTONE STARS (c.1961)

13. BUYA KUNZIMA – THE SWEET SIXTEENS (c.1962)

14. OUR LOVE SO GREAT – THE PRETTY DOLLS (c.1962)

15. ROSE – DARK CITY SISTERS (1962)

16. THULA THULA – THE ZEBRAS (1976)

17. MALUME LEBELLA – IRENE AND THE SWEET MELODIANS (c.1976)

18. SIDL’IMALI ZETHU – MGABABA QUEENS (1973)

19. TSHIWANYANA – IZINTOMBI ZOMOYA (1974)

20. MOGADIBO – IZINTOMBI ZOMOYA (1974)

21. UZWILE NA? – MGABABA QUEENS (1972)

22. NTSHWARELE NTATE – MAHOTELLA QUEENS (1975)

23. LOVA NGIYEKELA – IZINTOMBI ZOMOYA (c.1975)

24. RE BASADI KAOFELA – MAHOTELLA QUEENS (1979)

25. EMARABINI – IZINTOMBI ZOMOYA (c.1975)

26. YOU PROMISE – IRENE AND THE SWEET MELODIANS (1978)

27. THABA TSWEU – IRENE AND THE SWEET MELODIANS (1982)

28. MPULELE – MAHOTELLA QUEENS (1979)

29. HAO NKARABE – IRENE MAWELA (1983)

30. OITSHWARE HANTLE – IRENE MAWELA (1983)

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Photo: Courtesy of Radswan

Freddie Harrel Is Building Conscious Beauty For and With the African Diaspora

Formerly known as "Big Hair Don't Care", creator Freddie Harrel and her team have released 3 new wig shapes called the "RadShapes" available now.


Photo: Courtesy of Radswan


The normalising of Black and brown women in wigs of various styles has certainly been welcomed by the community, as it has opened up so many creative avenues for Black women to take on leadership roles and make room for themselves in the industry.

Radswan (formerly known as Big Hair Don't Care), is a lifestyle brand "bringing a new perspective on Blackness through hair, by disrupting the synthetic market with innovative and sustainable products." Through their rebrand, Radswan aims to, "upscale the direct-to-consumer experience holistically, by having connected conversations around culture and identity, in order to remove the roots of stigma."

The latest from French-Cameroonian founder and creator Freddie Harrel - who was featured on our list of 100 women of 2020 - has built her career in digital marketing and reputation as an outspoken advocate for women's empowerment. On top of her business ventures, the 2018 'Cosmopolitan Influencer of the Year' uses her platform to advocate for women's empowerment with 'SHE Unleashed,' a workshop series where women of all ages come together to discuss the issues that impact the female experience, including the feeling of otherness, identity politics, unconscious bias, racism and sexism.

And hair is clearly one of her many passions, as Freddie says, "Hair embodies my freest and earliest form of self expression, and as a shapeshifter, I'm never done. I get to forever reintroduce my various angles, tell all my stories to this world that often feels constrained and biased."

Armed with a committee of Black women, Freddie has cultivated Radswan and the aesthetic that comes with the synthetic but luxurious wigs. The wigs are designed to look like as though the hair is growing out of her own head, with matching lace that compliments your own skin colour.

By being the first brand to use recycled fibres, Radswan is truly here to change the game. The team has somehow figured out how to make their products look and feel like the real thing, while using 0% human hair and not negotiating on the price, quality or persona.

In 2019, the company secured £1.5m of investment led by BBG Ventures with Female Founders Fund and Pritzker Private Capital participating, along with angelic contributions from Hannah Bronfman, Nashilu Mouen Makoua, and Sonja Perkins.

On the importance of representation and telling Black stories through the products we create, Freddie says, "Hair to me is Sundays kneeling between your mothers or aunties legs, it's your cousin or newly made friend combing lovingly through your hair, whilst you detangle your life out loud. Our constant shapeshifting teaches us to see ourselves in each other, the hands braiding always intimately touching our head more often than not laying someone's lap."

"Big Hair No Care took off in ways we couldn't keep up with," she continues, "RadSwan is our comeback.It's a lifestyle brand, it's the hair game getting an upgrade, becoming fairer and cleaner. It's the platform that recognises and celebrates your identity as a shapeshifter, your individuality and your right to be black like you."


Check out your next hairstyle from Radswan here.

Radswan's RadShape 01Photo: Courtesy of Radswan


Radswan's RadShape 02Photo: Courtesy of Radswan


Radswan's RadShape 03Photo: Courtesy of Radswan

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