I had some brilliant news yesterday. Mango Groove are coming to London to play a concert at the Hammersmith Apollo on Saturday 7 March 2015. So who are Mango Groove, I hear you asking. Well, they are probably the best band South Africa has ever produced. I first got to know their music in the 1990s and have been a devoted fan ever since. I’ve put some Youtube videos of some of their work at the end of this post. They present a unique mix of South African pennywhistle music which someone combines brilliantly with a western pop sound. They’ve played an important part in South Africa’s development into a democracy.

From their first, multi-platinum release in 1989, the band has gone on to sell over a million copies in South Africa alone, and has garnered a host of South African and international music and recording awards. As a young non-racial music group formed in 1985, the band has gone on successfully to straddle the tumultuous decades of ‘80’s South African protest pop, the miraculous transitional years of ’90’s South Africa, and the post millennial shaping of a truly representative South African music culture.

To this day, Mango Groove continues to occupy a very special and unique place in South African music history. It performs to capacity concerts in South Africa and continues to touch the hearts and minds of all South Africans of all ages. Today the group stands proud as a powerful symbol of the great South African journey: where the country has come from, and where it is going.

The group’s many career highlights have included the following:

• Providing the sound track to the worldwide broadcast of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison after 27 years.
• Headlining the concert celebrating Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as the first ever democratic president of South Africa
• Performing at the Hong Kong Handover concert in 1997
• Playing at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, linked by satellite to London, and broadcast to over a billion people
• Performing to over 200 000 people at the SOS Racisme concert in Paris.
• Receiving several encores at the iconic Montreux Jazz Festival
• Claire Johnston’s strong association with SA Rugby through the years: performing the national anthem at several international rugby tests, and recording the official 2003 Rugby World Cup song
• Headlining the legendary Oppikoppi Music Festival in South Africa in 2013, drawing the festival’s single biggest crowd ever to one stage, and receiving one of the only encores in Oppikoppi’s 20 year history.
• Selling out the famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens with their own concert in 2013.

The longevity of Mango Groove is certainly something astonishing, and it bears strong testimony to the band’s ongoing popular appeal. Mango Groove has both retained the huge loyalty of its original fan base while continuing to reach new markets and new generations. Many factors have shaped this success through the years, of course, but a lot of this is to be found in the Mango Groove Sound: an utterly unique and bewitching blend of influences that is unmistakeably South African and yet amazingly universal.

The eclectic pop cocktail that is Mango Groove is instantly recognisable: A rich blend of contemporary pop styles combined with South African Kwela and Marabi influences from the townships of South Africa in the ‘40’s and 50’s. The bittersweet sound of the pennywhistle, the big brass arrangements, the lashings of doo-wop harmonies and the thundering swing and gumboot rhythms… Feed into this a modern pop sensibility and front it with the inimitable and soaring voice of Claire Johnston and the end result is a sound that is utterly infectious and utterly unforgettable. Quite simply, nothing sounds like Mango Groove!

If you want to know more, their website is HERE and you can follow them on their new UK Twitter Feed HERE.

You can buy tickets from the Hammersmith Apollo HERE