Consumer Guide Album
Irene Mawela: The Best of the SABC Years [Umsakazo, 2019]
Now 81, Mawela has long been a doyenne of South African pop: a songwriter as well as a singer married to a Gallo Records exec and always representing for her Venda-language minority. In this century she's been treated to some relatively elaborate sessions: juiced occasionally with pan-African touches, 2007's quite findable Thlokomela Sera is worth hearing. But these spare, well-chosen '80s recordings for South African state radio have considerably more come-hither charm. In her late forties by then, Mawela nonetheless projected youthful calm over backing tracks that shared her nonchalant confidence and unhurried forward motion. It sounds almost as if apartheid ain't a thing, which pretty soon it won't be.