This compilation was put together in the mid-’80s in conjunction with and to help raise awareness for the End Conscription Campaign. The ECC played an important role in dismantling apartheid by providing crucial emotional and strategic support to those men who rejected conscription on religious or political grounds, as well as acting as a conscientising force for the youth and parents.
How good was the ECC at its task? Ask the experts. General Magnus Malan described the ECC as “just as much an enemy of the Defence Force as the African National Congress” Minister of Law and Order Adriaan Vlok accused it of being “the vanguard of those forces that are intent on wrecking the present dispensation and its renewal”.
All of the bands featured on this album played at ECC concerts. Though some of them, like The Softies, The Facts and Nude Red weren’t overtly political by nature, the situation in the country couldn’t help but work its way into their songwriting. For other artists like Stan James, Kalahari Surfers, Jennifer Ferguson, and James Phillips, reflecting the state of the nation was the dominant feature of their art.
For those of you who don’t know/remember “Forces Favourites” was a radio programme for “tannie en sussie to stuur groete to boetie who was doing hisbit op die grens. (Or in English for the benefit of our international readers a dedication programme for families to send greetings to the boys fighting on the borders of South Africa).
The ironically titled “Forces Favourites” compilation was an album put out in the 80’s with the support of the End Conscription Campaign and features some of the strongest political songs of the time.
The album opens with the upbeat jive punk “Pambere” by Mapantsula which issuing in Sotho (I think). The tune is great and the word Uhuru keeps cropping up every now and then.
The Aeroplanes “National (sic) Madness” follows and while the tune keeps the upbeat feel, the lyrics are biting (‘National madness, a curse on the land, Jesus is murdered by his own hand’). These 2 opening songs both feature some great brass sounds.
The feeling then changes as we move into the darker and at times sinister”Potential Mutiny” by Stan James and “Numbered Again” by the Facts. There is a bluesy sound underlying these sombre tracks.
The Cherry-Faced Lurchers then dish up a slice of Van Morrison with “Shot Down in the Streets”. A great song that has dramatic musical pauses and then fairly flows to the point where the vocalist is rushing to get the words out before the next pause. Van would have been proud of this song.
The Kalahari Surfers deliver a harsh synth sound to almost a march beat and feature probably South Africa’s first white rapping. Samples of the kommandant shouting orders during the musical bridges are used to great effect.
The raw and punky “Whitey” by the Softies and “Don’t Believe” by In Simple English are both reminiscent of Ella Mental, especially the latter which features a great vocal performance which if it isn’t Heather Mac, it sounds a lot like her.
“Too much resistance” by Nude Red opens with a superb sax sound. The song is vibrant, and tuneful yet has a punky/ska edge to it. This to me is the best song on the album and had it not been for its political message could have been a hit.
The album ends with Roger Lucey’s “Spaces tell Stories” and the bohemian Jennifer Fergusson’s “Suburban Hum”. Both are tinged with anger, the latter alternating between smokey jazz and experimental jazz. More great sax work on this one.
Overall this is a great collection of powerful tunes. The message is no longer relevant (or is it?) but it’s worth listening to for the music alone and sometimes it’s good to remember the bad times.
John Samson, SA Rockdigest Issue #81
This early release on the Shifty Record label was made in association with the End Conscription Campaign, an organisation that was aimed at trying to stop young South African males from being forced to join the army. The cassette copy of this album that I used to compile this webpage has scant information. It gives the catalogue number and a track listing, but no release year. The album was however released sometime in the early to mid-eighties. “A Naartjie In Our Sosatie”, released in 1985 featured a similar lineup of artists.
All info supplied by John Samson, March 2003.