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You Need to Hear This Throwback South African Kwaito Track

Professor Rhythm's 1991 release is the perfect blend of mbaqanga, house, hip-hop and kwaito.

Professor Rhythm was the production moniker of South Africa's Thami Mdluli, who made "club music with a township style," as he's mentioned.

His third album Professor Rhythm 3, which came out the same year apartheid ended in South Africa (1991), is a clear reflection of what the nation's urban centers were listening to at that pivotal time.

"Our music gave hope to the hopeless," Mdluli mentions about his sound, which sought to unite black South Africans.

It was a time when the "dominant mbaqanga and American R&B-based bubblegum sounds being produced in Johannesburg and other urban centers were transforming into house and hip-hop-inspired kwaito," the label Awesome Tapes From Africa, who are re-releasing the album, explains.


"We were Influenced by foreign bands and so people updated their sound," Mdluli mentions about the influence of American house music on the growing house scenes of Pretoria and Johannesburg. All of which was happening as he was producing Professor Rhythm 3.

It was a new sound that was also aided by the increasing availability of house and hip-hop records from outside of South Africa and pushed forward by a sense of positivity from the public, who felt that apartheid was finally ending. "1991, '92, '93… Mandela was released. People were upbeat, they were happy, the music was good," he mentions.

Awesome Tapes From Africa will be re-releasing Professor Rhythm 3 on June 1. The album is available for pre-order now.

Listen to our exclusive stream of "Professor 3" below ahead of the release.


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Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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