The career of MANGO GROOVE has spanned an exciting and turbulent time in the history of South Africa. Since its first iconic multi-platinum release in 1989, the band, together with its charismatic lead singer Claire Johnston, has gone on to become a household name in South Africa, and to reach out to audiences throughout the world.
To date, Mango Groove has sold over a million albums with 20 Platinum albums in South Africa alone, and in terms of its airplay across all radio and TV
stations, continues to be an act that truly reaches the hearts of all South Africans.
Many people have tried to define the Mango Groove sound, and have resorted to a host of adjectives and phrases to do this: Kwela/Marabi Pop, SA Pop, Big Band Swing Pop, Eclecto-Pop, and so on. Certainly, the Mango Sound is a pop sound, aiming at simple and accessible songs, grooves and melodies and certainly it is eclectic. This eclecticism is primarily reflected in the extent to which Mango Groove has drawn on the rich legacy of South African urban music forms from the Forties and Fifties:
- Kwela Music: the pennywhistle-based sound from the Fifties made famous by such legends as Spokes Mashiane and Lemmy Special
- Marabi/African Jazz: The rich, bittersweet, horn-based sound best exemplified by the Big Bands of the Sophiatown era.
- Swing: The Glenn-Miller influenced swing rhythms of the South African townships of the Forties
- Mbube: The male acapella/gospel best represented in the early styles of Ladysmith Black Mambazo
- The urban girl-group sound of Fifties South Africa, exemplified in the sound Miriam Makeba and the Skylarks.
- The Gum Boot rhythms originating in the harsh conditions of Johannesburg gold mines in the Thirties and Forties.
Listen to the various Mango Groove albums, and the above influences certainly shine through: the exquisite dexterity of the penny whistle, the big brass arrangements, the lashings of doo-wop harmonies and the thundering swing and gumboot rhythms. Feed into this a modern pop sensibility, however, and front it with the inimitable and soaring voice of Claire, and the end result is a sound that is utterly distinctive and utterly unique.
And those songs! From “Special Star” to “Moments Away” to “Hometalk”, “Dance Some More”, “Hellfire”, “Penny Whistle”, “Another Country” and so many more: timeless songs that are instantly familiar to all South Africans of all ages, and that continue to inspire us, move us, and get us dancing! Putting it simply, nothing sounds quite like Mango Groove.
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