Artists & Bands performing music of style «Mbaqanga»

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Mbaqanga is a style of South African music with rural Zulu roots that continues to influence musicians worldwide today. The style originated in the early 1960s.

Historically, laws such as the Land Act of 1913 to the Group Areas Act (1950) initially prevented people from integrating from different tribal communities, consequently making it almost impossible for most music artists to gain recognition beyond their tribal boundaries. The music genre mbaqanga developed during this time (1960s) and to this day most of the major record labels are white-owned companies with very few black artists that have contributed to their own material.

In Zulu, the term mbaqanga means an everyday cornmeal porridge. Mbaqanga aficionados were mostly plebeian, metropolitan African jazz enthusiasts. Many of them were not permitted to establish themselves in the city, but they were unable to sustain themselves in the rural areas. Mbaqanga gave them a staple form of musical and spiritual sustenance; it was their "musical daily bread."

Mbaqanga musicians received little money. For example, Simon "Mahlathini" Nkabinde, one of the most well-known mbaqanga singers (and arguably the most famous mbaqanga "groaner", nicknamed the "lion of Soweto"), died a poor man. This was partly due to the exploitation of black South African musicians at home and abroad as Mahlathini pointed out. Mbaqanga groups of the 1960s also found it difficult to get air time on local radio stations, and had to perform outside record stores to attract audiences.

Mbaqanga developed in the South African shebeens during the 1960s. Its use of western instruments allowed mbaqanga to develop into a South African version of jazz. Musically, the sound indicated a mix between western instrumentation and South African vocal style. Many mbaqanga scholars consider it to be the result of a coalition between marabi and kwela. A South African tourist website sponsored by the government describes mbaqanga as "the cyclic structure of marabi . . . with a heavy dollop of American big band swing thrown on top." Mbaqanga also provided a very early forum for black and white interaction in a segregated areas. As a result, the "white Nationalist government brought this vital era to an end" by razing the townships that supported mbaqanga such as Sophiatown.

The genre gained popularity as a result of radio play by stations under the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Early artists included Miriam Makeba, Dolly Rathebe and Letta Mbulu. Mbaqanga maintained its popularity until the 1980s when it was replaced by South African pop music known as bubblegum. Bubblegum is a genre highly influenced by mbaqanga. One of the few remaining mbaqanga bands is The Cool Crooners. This band consists of a coalition between two rival bands that eventually merged.

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