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South African Group Fuses African, Western Music


South Africa's music scene is still split across racial lines with pop and rock classified as white music. Black music is more along the lines of R&B, jazz and kwaito, a unique township dance genre with a slow tempo, a deep bass and lyrics usually sung in Xhosa or Zulu. A group calling themselves Gang of Instrumentals is trying to cross color lines with a sound that appeals to all South Africans.

In 2002, musician Mandla N dreamed of collaborating with other artists and creating a unique musical sound. He did so, and the group he formed became better known by fans as G.I. Mandla N then teamed up with a college friend, Lady Naturelle, and they started performing at local clubs.

Five years ago they released their debut album, titled "Kassi Flava," which means township flavor, or style. The CD received a lot of airplay on radio stations, topping local charts, and was soon followed by the second album, "Salute" in 2006. The third and last addition to the group was Bongo Riot which added reggae to the already intricate sound.

"Our sound is more urban pop," says Mandla, "It's a fusion of a lot of sounds together, you know, like hip hop, reggae, soul, rock – so it's like a fruit cocktail."

Their latest album is titled Round 3 and features songs such as "Oh Yeah" and "Woza December." The CD was nominated for the 15th Annual South African Music Awards.

The South African Music Awards (SAMAS) is one of South Africa's most prestigious musical honors. Fans and members of the public nominate and vote for their favorite artists in many genres. At the awards ceremony, Gang of Instrumentals took this year's Best Urban Pop Album Award.

Mandla was grateful to his supporters: "First of all," he said, " thank you very much to the recording company. Bongo Riot, Fire man ... This wouldn't be possible without you. And obviously our family. Thank you very much! "

Some of their past awards include two Golden Horns for best soundtrack in a TV comedy in 2006 and 2007, two Channel-O nominations for Best Group and Best Video 2005. Last year they were nominated for the Kora Awards which were presented in Nigeria. The band is also starting to receive bookings outside the country and recently performed in New York.

Their latest album is already available in Japan and Lady Naturelle says the band is planning to distribute it worldwide and online.

"We're going international," says the musical lady. "Hopefully, we will become international stars. We're planning on exporting African energy and music."

With so much excitement on stage and enthusiasm to conquer the world of music, critics say it's just a matter of time before the Gang of Instrumentals achieves the goal of becoming international superstars.

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