music

Blondie Makhene

Afro Pop
Blondie Makhene

Prolific in the 1970’s, Blondie embraced the disco genre alongside his brother Papa.  Blondie and Papa, as the outfit was known, produced synth-disco-pop music that kept dance floors alive and elevated them to celebrity status.  At the turn of the decade, the face of music had changed and Blondie embraced the new sounds of Bubblegum pop alongside the greats such as Brenda Fassie, Dan Tshanda and Patricia Majalisa.  Albums such as Communicate and Working Overtime elevated him to personal stardom as he broke multi-platinum record figures with the two EMI releases.  Blondie then joined forces with top producer John Galanakis and released the album Spreading Love in 1987, another massive hit record for him.

In the 90’s Blondie started recording struggle songs with an instrumental band known as the African Youth Group.  Taking traditional revolutionary songs and re-arranging them with musical backing, the concept drew massive acclaim and once again, he sold multi-platinum units of the albums he released in this genre.  The 4 albums they released “sold like a bomb”, he laughs.  
Blondie then decided to “accelerate the revolution” by taking the next step and adding vocals to these great pieces of music.  With his band Amaqabane, he pushed out more albums of traditional healing and revolutionary songs, now with lyrics, and watched them once again become multi-platinum sellers.

Blondie also found time to produce acts and one of his greatest successes was the Isicathimya group Pure Gold, taking gospel acapella and putting music to it and making it yet again a sensational success.  On top of his game, he also lent his producing skills to Dan Nkosi, alongside Jon Galanakis.  The two producers then decided to start a record label called Hit City Records.

Now, firmly in the democratic South Africa, Blondie left his struggle era and released two more solo records, Buti Makoti 1 and 2.  In his opinion they were not his best work but they “kept his alive in the eyes of public”, giving him time to concentrate on his latest upliftment project – African Musicians Against HIV and AIDS, a government based concept aimed at highlighting AIDS awareness through music.  Alongside legends such as Hugh Masekela, Rebecca Malope, Doc Shebeleza and Boom Shaka, Blondie began to propagate the idea of better health for the fans of music.  AMAHA, as it’s more commonly known, is one of Blondie’s proudest moments in his career and is an organisation that still exists today.

At the turn of the century, still busy as a performer, Blondie spent some time with his daughter, singer Letoya, in her Sangoma initiation experience and felt a connection to the music that moved him like never before.  He recalls his life changing at this point and he began working with traditional healing songs.
 
Planning on producing Letoya’s latest album, he found himself plagued by the spirits of the ancestors, challenging him on his decision to work with traditional music.  Blondie, an intensely spiritual man, felt he was ignoring his calling.  “Ill health and my deterioration of life made me realise the spirits couldn’t be begging me more”, he says, “and I decided that there was no healing happening when I stopped playing these songs.  The ancestors came to me and said, “What the hell are you doing with these songs!”  So I became a qualified Sangoma.”

Now, after a spiritual sabbatical that changed his life, Blondie returns with his finest work to date – a thoroughly modern Afro-pop album, with lyrical content close to his heart.  An exquisite singer, his voice is stronger than ever and rejoices in singing his truth.  “The lyrical content on this album makes it more than just an Afro-pop album he says, “when I enter this space the spirit of the elders smile.”

Finding his fresh musical path, Blondie, no stranger to the music world, feels renewed “I am more energised now than ever before!  I am so new and such a baby.  I am opening my eyes for the first time to the world.  Information, information, information, he laughs, “Its for sharing!” 

Working with his beautiful daughter Letoya was something that Blondie also revelled in and thoroughly enjoyed.  A hugely talented singer, Blondie was blown away by her presence.  “I am humbled by her talents.  It makes so much sense for me to have her singing with me on these chants.  Not because she’s my daughter but because she’s a hot singer!” 

Truly a proud father, Blondie laughs as he recalls their experience in the studio, “When I listen to us singing together, I say I am the tormented soul, and when she walks in, I say there is the balm that heals the tormented soul.”