TV Soundtracks We Love Explained: Vol.1

“One Old Song. A Thousand Old Memories.”

Who could ever forget the intro reel introducing the likes of Sbusiso, Khaphela and Queen with a low pitched background sound that we’d all sing along to at prime time, or the legendary penguin that indicated the end of a good 30 minutes of soapie or for thina abadala the iconic “Bom bom, bom bom” that signaled the start of Shaka Zulu. Oh Nostalgia!

Take a trip down memory lane as we highlight and breakdown some iconic South African televison themes, sountracks and the people behind them.


7de Laan

“Onderskrifte is belangrike mense”

7de Laan is an Afrikaans family soapie revolving around the lives of various residences living in and around a suburban street named 7de Laan. To be frank I’ve never really watched the show, simply put Afrikaans is not a friend of mine. However, while growing up I’ve always stuck around to listen to the intro and watch the credits whenever it aired. As of 2020 7de Laan has had 2 different theme songs; the original from the 2000s (written & composed by the late Louis van Rensburg) and the current iteration, first appearing in 2015 (written by Joe Niemand and Jason Cochrane). The Christmas song won’t be included since it was a special occasion.

As to say which theme is better I believe that is similar to the case of coffee or tea. I like to view both of them as analogies that capture the life on the street during different times of the day. For instance the original gives me afternoon vibes; It’s busy, noisy and vibrant, reflecting on the type of behavior we’d expect to find during this time of day. Here we are treated to beautiful Kwela music comprising of energetic violins, guitars, jazzy drums and an eager progression. On the other hand the current theme portrays life on the street during an early morning; there’s fewer activity, everything is at a state of serenity and slowing awakening. This time we are treated to some relaxing piano, soft drums, tactile percussions, subtle guitars, calm choir vocals and a hint of Kwela style flute. The older tune will always have nostalgia is on its side, the newer one doesn’t have that advantage or at least on this current generation of viewers.

Educate us:

Kwela – A pennywhistle-based street music from southern Africa with jazzy underpinnings and a distinctive, skiffle-like beat. It evolved from the marabi sound and brought South African music to international prominence in the 1950s.

Marabi – An early form of keyboard style South African jazz that had a musical link to American jazz, ragtime and blues. It was infamously played in shebeens, and during weekend-long slumyard parties.


Shaka Zulu

“Bom bom, bom bom”

Shaka Zulu is a historical action mini-series set in South Africa during the early 1800’s based on who alleged as the most powerful man in Africa, King Shaka of the Zulu clan’s encounters and endeavors with the British embassy. Margaret Singana’s (1938-2000) We Are Growing is a sublime theme for the song. It perfectly captures who King Shaka was through the build-up, instrumental and lyrics. The tribal chants and organic drums capture the setting and feeling of a historic Africa. The lyrics capture King Shaka’s character well, laying out an empowering message of what it means to be a man and a leader. The chorus plants words of growth, strength and unity as a troubled nation. The song even went as far as becoming no.1 in the Netherlands’ Top 40 billboard in 1989.


Home Affairs

“**Sad Piano Noises”

Home Affairs is a drama showcasing a story of nine different women whose lives are interconnected, and was heavily focused around their journeys through pain and towards self-discovery. I believe that the composers (Murray Anderson & Warrick Sony) captured the show’s feel and tone superbly. Let me explain…the main piano chords and strings are distinctive and amplify the echoes of the character’s hardships. As the song progresses the added jazzy drums and lively guitar I believe capture the self-discovery aspect of the show. When they are introduced the piano and strings go silent suggesting that finding yourself nullifies the pain. Later every music element plays together simultaneously and harmoniously. This could represent the end of our characters journeys. Even thou they’ve found themselves, the pain is still within them. Only now it pushes them forward instead of slowing them down.


Stokvel

“Stokie stokvela ayeyeye….”

Stokvel is a family sitcom set in Diepkloof, Soweto revolving around the “stokvel” culture among a group of close friends. The theme (composed by Mac Mathunjwa) hugs me like sitting together with friends and family enjoying a warm home cooked meal. It’s catchy, has lovely vocals and positive atmosphere. All the world’s problems seemed to fade away for a good 30 mins whenever it aired and for that it has a special place in my heart. High five if you remember the sneezing penguin that showed up at the end of the credits. And to the penguin itself, You are a legend!


Muvhango

“WORD OF MOUTH!…Okay, that’s a wrap”

Muvhango is a multilingual soapie centered around the lives of a royal family set in the fictional rural village of Thathe and the metropolis of Johannesburg, tackling traditional beliefs and ways of living with the challenges of modern life in the city. As of 2020 the soapie has had four different theme songs since its debut in 1997; Muvhango by Malombo (1998), Umbala Ma G String by Chicco Twala (1998), an original theme by Musa Mhlongo & Mthandeni Mvelase (2014), and it’s current iteration composed by Siphephelo Ndlvovu (2018). As to answer the question whether which one’s the best? Let’s break them down individually.

Original

Muvhango by Malombo is the intro track of Malombo’s 2nd studio album titled ‘Muvhango’ (1998). In this song we are treated to guitar riffs, congo drums and a female vocals harmonizing in pain. Perhaps her cries are related to the word Muvhango – which translates to ‘conflict’ in Tshivenda. I’m not sure whether the album was exclusively composed for the show or if it already existed and the show creators just simply liked it. Either way it served as solid ground on what was to come in the future.

Second

Umbala Ma G String tells a tale about a rural wife that went to the city for a chance of a better life. When she returns to the village, she she feels as if she’s too good for the rural lifestyle. The concrete jungle has changed her and she now only wears expensive garments as opposed to her traditional attire. It captures the theme of the show like a mirror and sounds distinctive and memorable. The blend of kwaito and traditional music elements are a nice touch as they in emphasize the transition made by this woman.

Third

The 2014 intro samples Ngwana Wa Kgaetsedi, a song from the aforementioned Muvhango album . It sounds like a remaster and the added tribal drums hand it a more grounded feel. I appreciate that when the composers gave the theme a refresh, they remained respectful and considerate to the source material. It’s worth noting that the visuals link this intro to the previous iteration in showcasing the effects of transitioning from rural to city life:

Breaking down the visuals: Firstly we are introduced to a group of women walking away from an initiation ceremony, then the village chief sitting highly on his throne and presumably granting the women permission to venture on to the city. The next series of clips showcase the effects of the city life on these women and other characters of the show. All dressed in fancy attires, walking by expensive houses, luxurious cars and handling corporate meetings. The last scene showcases a group of men walking in a field holding torches, perhaps they represent the villagers/elders who aren’t happy with these changes.

Current

And finally the 2018 theme, this one doesn’t sample the album although the acoustic guitar style and chords sound very similar to the ones featured on the song Nkupi. Its main focus is simplicity and refinement. The percussion, drums, sound effects are crisp almost as though you can feel them through your finger tips. However I can’t help but feel that it sounds a bit too simple, hindering it from becoming a memorable experience. Visuals suffer the same case, as they barely touch on the show’s overall plot and seem to heavily focus on the rural side of things.

For better or worse I can at least appreciate that each theme attempts to deliver the same recipe in a different way. Do check out the Muvhango album, alot of its tracks serve as background music for many of the show’s scenes.

Educate us:

Malombo – A legendary jazz group is based in Mamelodi, led by the multi-instrumentalists Duze Mahlobo and the late Philip Tabane (1934 – 2018).

Riff – a short repeated phrase in popular music and jazz, typically used as an introduction or refrain in a song.

Kwaito – A form of house that emerged from Johannesburg, during the 1990s the features the usage of African sounds and samples.

Remastered – changing the quality of the sound or of the image, or both, of previously created recordings, either audiophonic, cinematic, or videographic.

Orchestra – a group of instrumentalists, especially one combining string, woodwind, brass, and percussion sections and playing music.


Conclusion

These artists made our childhoods without us even realizing. I hope that this article shed some light on their work and that you may have at least learned something new. Which were or are your favorites? We love to hear your thoughts and opinions so do leave us a comment. Click the image on the left for the full playlist. 


“One Old Song. A Thousand Old Memories.”

Who could ever forget the intro reel introducing the likes of Sbusiso, Khaphela and Queen with a low pitched background sound that we’d all sing along to at prime time, or the legendary penguin that indicated the end of a good 30 minutes of soapie or for thina abadala the iconic “Bom bom, bom bom” that signaled the start of Shaka Zulu. Oh Nostalgia!

Take a trip down memory lane as we highlight and breakdown some iconic South African televison themes, sountracks and the people behind them.


7de Laan

“Onderskrifte is belangrike mense”

7de Laan is an Afrikaans family soapie revolving around the lives of various residences living in and around a suburban street named 7de Laan. To be frank I’ve never really watched the show, simply put Afrikaans is not a friend of mine. However, while growing up I’ve always stuck around to listen to the intro and watch the credits whenever it aired. As of 2020 7de Laan has had 2 different theme songs; the original from the 2000s (written & composed by the late Louis van Rensburg) and the current iteration, first appearing in 2015 (written by Joe Niemand and Jason Cochrane). The Christmas song won’t be included since it was a special occasion.

As to say which theme is better I believe that is similar to the case of coffee or tea. I like to view both of them as analogies that capture the life on the street during different times of the day. For instance the original gives me afternoon vibes; It’s busy, noisy and vibrant, reflecting on the type of behavior we’d expect to find during this time of day. Here we are treated to beautiful Kwela music comprising of energetic violins, guitars, jazzy drums and an eager progression. On the other hand the current theme portrays life on the street during an early morning; there’s fewer activity, everything is at a state of serenity and slowing awakening. This time we are treated to some relaxing piano, soft drums, tactile percussions, subtle guitars, calm choir vocals and a hint of Kwela style flute. The older tune will always have nostalgia is on its side, the newer one doesn’t have that advantage or at least on this current generation of viewers.

Educate us:

Kwela – A pennywhistle-based street music from southern Africa with jazzy underpinnings and a distinctive, skiffle-like beat. It evolved from the marabi sound and brought South African music to international prominence in the 1950s.

Marabi – An early form of keyboard style South African jazz that had a musical link to American jazz, ragtime and blues. It was infamously played in shebeens, and during weekend-long slumyard parties.


Shaka Zulu

“Bom bom, bom bom”

Shaka Zulu is a historical action mini-series set in South Africa during the early 1800’s based on who alleged as the most powerful man in Africa, King Shaka of the Zulu clan’s encounters and endeavors with the British embassy. Margaret Singana’s (1938-2000) We Are Growing is a sublime theme for the song. It perfectly captures who King Shaka was through the build-up, instrumental and lyrics. The tribal chants and organic drums capture the setting and feeling of a historic Africa. The lyrics capture King Shaka’s character well, laying out an empowering message of what it means to be a man and a leader. The chorus plants words of growth, strength and unity as a troubled nation. The song even went as far as becoming no.1 in the Netherlands’ Top 40 billboard in 1989.


Home Affairs

“**Sad Piano Noises”

Home Affairs is a drama showcasing a story of nine different women whose lives are interconnected, and was heavily focused around their journeys through pain and towards self-discovery. I believe that the composers (Murray Anderson & Warrick Sony) captured the show’s feel and tone superbly. Let me explain…the main piano chords and strings are distinctive and amplify the echoes of the character’s hardships. As the song progresses the added jazzy drums and lively guitar I believe capture the self-discovery aspect of the show. When they are introduced the piano and strings go silent suggesting that finding yourself nullifies the pain. Later every music element plays together simultaneously and harmoniously. This could represent the end of our characters journeys. Even thou they’ve found themselves, the pain is still within them. Only now it pushes them forward instead of slowing them down.


Stokvel

“Stokie stokvela ayeyeye….”

Stokvel is a family sitcom set in Diepkloof, Soweto revolving around the “stokvel” culture among a group of close friends. The theme (composed by Mac Mathunjwa) hugs me like sitting together with friends and family enjoying a warm home cooked meal. It’s catchy, has lovely vocals and positive atmosphere. All the world’s problems seemed to fade away for a good 30 mins whenever it aired and for that it has a special place in my heart. High five if you remember the sneezing penguin that showed up at the end of the credits. And to the penguin itself, You are a legend!


Muvhango

“WORD OF MOUTH!…Okay, that’s a wrap”

Muvhango is a multilingual soapie centered around the lives of a royal family set in the fictional rural village of Thathe and the metropolis of Johannesburg, tackling traditional beliefs and ways of living with the challenges of modern life in the city. As of 2020 the soapie has had four different theme songs since its debut in 1997; Muvhango by Malombo (1998), Umbala Ma G String by Chicco Twala (1998), an original theme by Musa Mhlongo & Mthandeni Mvelase (2014), and it’s current iteration composed by Siphephelo Ndlvovu (2018). As to answer the question whether which one’s the best? Let’s break them down individually.

Original

Muvhango by Malombo is the intro track of Malombo’s 2nd studio album titled ‘Muvhango’ (1998). In this song we are treated to guitar riffs, congo drums and a female vocals harmonizing in pain. Perhaps her cries are related to the word Muvhango – which translates to ‘conflict’ in Tshivenda. I’m not sure whether the album was exclusively composed for the show or if it already existed and the show creators just simply liked it. Either way it served as solid ground on what was to come in the future.

Second

Umbala Ma G String tells a tale about a rural wife that went to the city for a chance of a better life. When she returns to the village, she she feels as if she’s too good for the rural lifestyle. The concrete jungle has changed her and she now only wears expensive garments as opposed to her traditional attire. It captures the theme of the show like a mirror and sounds distinctive and memorable. The blend of kwaito and traditional music elements are a nice touch as they in emphasize the transition made by this woman.

Third

The 2014 intro samples Ngwana Wa Kgaetsedi, a song from the aforementioned Muvhango album . It sounds like a remaster and the added tribal drums hand it a more grounded feel. I appreciate that when the composers gave the theme a refresh, they remained respectful and considerate to the source material. It’s worth noting that the visuals link this intro to the previous iteration in showcasing the effects of transitioning from rural to city life:

Breaking down the visuals: Firstly we are introduced to a group of women walking away from an initiation ceremony, then the village chief sitting highly on his throne and presumably granting the women permission to venture on to the city. The next series of clips showcase the effects of the city life on these women and other characters of the show. All dressed in fancy attires, walking by expensive houses, luxurious cars and handling corporate meetings. The last scene showcases a group of men walking in a field holding torches, perhaps they represent the villagers/elders who aren’t happy with these changes.

Current

And finally the 2018 theme, this one doesn’t sample the album although the acoustic guitar style and chords sound very similar to the ones featured on the song Nkupi. Its main focus is simplicity and refinement. The percussion, drums, sound effects are crisp almost as though you can feel them through your finger tips. However I can’t help but feel that it sounds a bit too simple, hindering it from becoming a memorable experience. Visuals suffer the same case, as they barely touch on the show’s overall plot and seem to heavily focus on the rural side of things.

For better or worse I can at least appreciate that each theme attempts to deliver the same recipe in a different way. Do check out the Muvhango album, alot of its tracks serve as background music for many of the show’s scenes.

Educate us:

Malombo – A legendary jazz group is based in Mamelodi, led by the multi-instrumentalists Duze Mahlobo and the late Philip Tabane (1934 – 2018).

Riff – a short repeated phrase in popular music and jazz, typically used as an introduction or refrain in a song.

Kwaito – A form of house that emerged from Johannesburg, during the 1990s the features the usage of African sounds and samples.

Remastered – changing the quality of the sound or of the image, or both, of previously created recordings, either audiophonic, cinematic, or videographic.

Orchestra – a group of instrumentalists, especially one combining string, woodwind, brass, and percussion sections and playing music.


Conclusion

These artists made our childhoods without us even realizing. I hope that this article shed some light on their work and that you may have at least learned something new. Which were or are your favorites? We love to hear your thoughts and opinions so do leave us a comment. Click the image on the left for the full playlist. 


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