Thursday, August 15, 2002

The Swish Guide to South African Music - Part 4
"Feel So Strong" by PJ Powers and Steve Kekana
- 1983 [download the mp3]

PJ Powers was perhaps South Africa's Bonnie Tyler - a tousled-haired growling white rock chick. Together with her band, Hotline, she had a few hits in the very early 80s.

Steve Kekana was perhaps South Africa's Stevie Wonder. Black, blind and deeply spiritual, he specialised in a peculiar falsetto synthesised African gospel.

I have no idea who thought the two together could possibly work, but in 1983, this strange song emerged. The song starts with a kind of African reggae, with Kekana's trademark whining keyboards and castrato falsetto. For the second verse, the song heads into rock territory - a choppy guitar cuts in and PJ over-emotes her lines with gravel-voiced soul.

A blind African reverend and a white lesbian, in apartheid-era South Africa. It shouldn't work. But it does. The song was a huge hit, becoming a success with black and white fans. Sadly, its success persuaded many other white South African bands to don tribal clothing and release limp, unconvincing crossover pop.

Kekana went on to have another hit on the white charts with a faintly ridiculous song called "The Bushman". PJ abandoned the rock market and concentrated on the more lucrative township pop market, where she was accepted and given the nickname "Thandeka" (the loved one). She recently performed in London supporting Bill Wyman.

Let me know what you think of this song. Buy South Africa CDs online at

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