Boogie Breakdown: South African Synth Disco

Cultures of Soul shines a spotlight on the long-neglected Synth Disco scene of the early 1980s.

Hands up if you knew damn near anything about this cult South African Synth Disco scene. A genre that was long the domain of jealous and suspicious diggers is brought into the light by Cultures of Soul. Boogie Breakdown features 12 delicious tracks from an era that most in the West know primarily as South Africa’s last years of Apartheid. And that’s probably a brutal introduction to what’s a rather fun and celebratory affair.

Put together by Deano Sounds and Joburg DJ Okapi, Boogie Breakdown features two tracks each from Cannibals, Harari, Don Laka, Neville Nash, Benjamin Ball and Al Etto. Funk galore is found in Cannibal’s “Hey Tonight,” which features a guitar solo that could have appeared on a Pink Floyd live album. Don Laka’s tunes will be familiar to those who like the slow jams of Debarge & later Surface. “Party” by Harari is a revelation: like a lost Disco/Funk track remixed by Philly International. The irresistible groove gives me a good idea of why these records have been held so close by the few European and American DJs that had access to them. “Party” alone makes the LP, but “I Just Keep Dancing” by Benjamin Ball and his wall of compressed synths and proto-rap vocal is a nice one too. Al Etto appears to be the most “conventional” of the acts here – unlike the obvious African swing of Cannibals, this could have been made in Detroit, Atlanta or Burbank.


Published first in 5 Magazine Issue 138, featuring Dave Pezzner, Jeff Derringer, a tribute to Earl Smith of Acid House pioneers Phuture, mixes and interviews from Boorane, Jay Hill, Tim Zawada & more. Become a member of 5 Magazine for First & Full Access to Real House Music.


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