Heritage Month tribute to the Shifty Records music label, combining exhibition, documentary screenings, panel discussions and, of course, a music festival to celebrate the Shifty story of musical activism in the struggle for democracy in South Africa. 

Shifty September will be taking place in Johannesburg throughout September 2014 to mark the Shifty’s 30th birthday and the 20 years of democracy in South Africa.


The Shifty September programme aims to: 

• Celebrate Shifty’s legacy by drawing attention to its rich history and back catalogue at events, and with new album releases throughout the month, culminating in the SHIFTY HERITAGE      MUSIC FESTIVAL: Viva la Différence! at the Bassline on 24 September 

• Use the Shifty Story as a lens to consider the role of protest music in the making of democracy in South Africa through exhibitions, discussions and screenings; 

• Provide wider public access to this history of musical activism through SAHA’s archives (to be available for public consultation at Constitution Hill and online from September 2014); 

•       Raise funds for further exciting Shifty projects beyond Shifty September. 




Monday 01 September – Alliance Française 6.30 for 7 pm 


Exhibition opening and album launch 

Physical and virtual exhibitions will draw on historical artefacts from the archives to explore the various ways in which Shifty Records created a musical outlet for South Africans to express their resistance to the apartheid regime, to challenge conscription, and to raise awareness of the plights of detainees, communities under threat of forced removals, and other key struggles for justice within the broader anti-apartheid struggle. 


Friday 05 September – Alliance Française 6.30 for 7 pm 

JAMES PHILLIPS: Famous for not being famous 

Film screening and panel discussion 

Famous for not being Famous (directed by Robbie Thorpe & Lloyd Ross), a 52 minute documentary about musician James Phillips will fuel personal reflections on his life by a panel of James’ close comrades, reflecting on the political and social forces at play that formed his unique consciousness. 

>> This session is chaired by eminent filmmaker Robbie Thorpe, whose long and close relationship with James was not based on music. 


Wednesday 10 September – Alliance Française 6.30 for 7 pm 


Documentary screening and panel discussion 

2014 marks the 25th anniversary of what was arguably the single most important event in the history of Afrikaans music culture. Organised by Shifty Records and irreverent Afrikaans weekly paper, Vrye Weekblad, if nothing else, the Voëlvry tour changed the face of Afrikaans youth culture forever. We celebrate the occasion by screening the documentary Voëlvry, die Toer, followed by a discussion on the factors that caused these artists to come up with the right idea at the right time. More importantly, the panel will then explore the Voëlvry legacy. 

>> This session will be moderated by Oppikoppi supremo, Carel Hoffmann. 


Friday 12 September – Alliance Française – 


Singers & Swenkas screening at 6 pm & The Silver Fez screening at 7.30 pm 

Two documentaries screening with Q&A 

From distant corners of the South Africa, from radically different origins and communities, Lloyd Ross’ documentaries Singers & Swenkas (52 minutes) and The Silver Fez (84 minutes) illustrate the diversity and depth of South African choir club culture. From the Nederlands Lied originating in the days of slavery that is kept alive by the Malay descendants of the Cape, to the Isicathamiya culture of Zulu migrant labour, these films celebrate the passion that drives men to spend practically all their free time singing their hearts out.


Wednesday 17 September – Alliance Française 6.30 for 7 pm 

WE’RE NOT IN IT FOR THE MONEY: The economics of being different 

Film screening, panel discussion and live performances 

Explores the realities of creating original, non-mainstream music in a small pond like South Africa. This is the terrain where the need to express oneself outweighs commercial considerations. A shortened version of the documentary On the road with Urban Creep sets the tone for the evening. During the discussion, the panellists, all singer/songwriters, will be encouraged to perform one or two of their works. 

>> The session is chaired by Matthew van der Want, who didn’t give up his day job. 


Friday 19 September – Alliance Française 6.30 for 7 pm 

RADIO CONTROL Musical Protest & Politics 

Panel discussion 

What forces drive artists to produce work protesting the status quo? What forces align to stop them from doing so? Censorship of the State, the recording industry, broadcasters and self, that’s who…with a curve ball thrown in by the forces of liberation. As well as looking at the past, this panel considers why there is so little political or social comment in music today. 

>> Warrick Sony, Kalahari Surfer of many years and probably South Africa’s most consistent and relentless political songwriter, chairs this session. 


Tuesday 23 September – Alliance Française 6.30 for 7 pm 

A SHIFTY STORY: A chronological journey through the Shifty era 

Multimedia installation and group nostalgia 

Lloyd Ross highlights the Shifty era’s eclectic musical milestones and their back-stories. This is not only a history according to the Shifter-in-chief, but it is also narrated by many of the characters that defined key moments in the Shifty journey. Liberal use will be made of the music that built Shifty’s diverse repertoire, aided by multi-media tricks to draw attention to lyrics and the concerns of the times in which the music was brewed.


Wednesday 24 September, Heritage Day – Bassline, 10 Henry Nxumalo Street, Newtown, JHB 


Doors open at 11 am concert starts at 12 noon. 

An exciting line-up of multiple artists celebrating the diversity of the Shifty catalogue. A few surprises are guaranteed. Matthew van der Want, Urban Creep, Matthew van der Want/Letcher, Simba Morri, Louis Mhlanga & Music ye Afrika, Kalahari Surfers, Kalahari Surfers & Lesego Rampolokeng, Robin Auld, The Kerels, Rian Malan, Jennifer Ferguson, Vusi Mahlasela, The Genuines, Shifty Special, Tananas, Shifty All Stars Scratch Band, Tony Cox 

Tickets for the music festival are not available to buy. Pretty much the only way to get them is to purchase a reward from: Shifty September on Thundafund (although we may be making some available in other ways at other events during Shifty September). The tickets are a part of some excellent rewards packages that include treats such as: 

• exciting limited edition packages of Shifty tracks 

• advance copies of brand new digital compilations, 

• limited copies of albums on vinyl, 

• anniversary re-releases of some of the classics 

• and other Shifty surprises. 

Several packages are available: 

>> Entry level reward package – Singing for a Shifty Concert (R150) includes 1 ticket to the festival. 

>> All of the other packages (except Sending Shifty Love From Afar) include 2 tickets. 

>> Top level – Shifty Supremo package includes 2 VIP passes to the festival, plus much more.



Further funds are needed to bring as many of the Shifty musicians not based in Johannesburg to participate in Shifty September, and to contribute to the fees for the musicians playing at the SHIFTY HERITAGE MUSIC FESTIVAL: Viva la Différence! in Johannesburg on 24 September. 

We’re also trying to raise much-needed funds to release a vinyl double album of the BEST OF SHIFTY, and produce a gorgeously subversive coffee table book showcasing the Shifty Story, and to issue a re-release of James Phillips’ The Other White album in 2015 to make 20 years since his tragic death in July 1995. 

We’re asking all those music lovers out there to support us in different ways in the lead up to SHIFTY SEPTEMBER: 


SAHA is urgently looking for original Shifty Records and Voelvry paraphernalia to add to the archives – t-shirts that bear the marks of too many late nights at Shifty haunts, crumpled flyers or flyers from gigs at the Black Sun that have been serving as bookmarks for the last 20 years, or even personal photographs from misspent Shifty youth at Jameson’s or on the road with Voelvry – these are the real Shifty stories… Please contact SAHA to find out how you can add your story to the Shifty Archives. 


There will be exciting limited edition packages of Shifty tracks – advance copies of brand new digital compilations, limited copies of albums on vinyl, postcards from the Shifty vault – available for supporters of Shifty September from 31 July 2014 on South African crowd-sourcing site THUNDAFUND. 




At a limited edition online auction to be launched at the Shifty September exhibition opening. 



o find out more about how you can support SHIFTY SEPTEMBER and SCORE SHIFTY SWAG, follow us on twitter / facebook





17 Lower Park Drive, Corner Kerry Road, Parkview, Johannesburg 

The Alliance is the main venue for the Shifty September events, offering its premises for the project: gallery space for the exhibition, hall for screenings and panel discussions. 

Since 1960, the Alliance française of Johannesburg is the shortest way to France, its culture and its language. Being a South African non-profit organisation, though, means that we not only focus on French events or artists but rather promote cultural dialogue and diversity. 

Jean Bourdin, director of the Alliance Française of Johannesburg said: 

“The Alliance Française of Johannesburg is both excited and honoured to be hosting this incredibly interesting series of events which is Shifty September. At the crossroad between Music, History and Politics, Shifty September is a major contribution to the celebrations of 20 years of a democratic South Africa.” 



10 Henry Nxumalo Street, Newtown,Johannesburg 

Virtually every major South Africa music star has performed on a Bassline stage. Bassline in the downtown Newtown Cultural Precinct, has become an institution amongst music fans. 

In its 20 year history Bassline has hosted over 3000 concerts featuring many of Africa’s most famous stars and world music icons as well as most music acts that have emerged in South Africa since the 90s – South African jazz & Shifty artists such as Vusi Mahlasela, started their illustrious careers at Bassline. 

Brad Holmes of the Bassline said: 

“The Bassline celebrates 20 years this year. In all that time we have been driven by our motto ‘In Music We Trust’, and if there was ever a South African record label that epitomises that shared DNA, it’s Shifty Records. The Bassline is proud and honoured to be associated with Lloyd Ross and all things Shifty, and we look forward to welcoming the Shifty Heritage event to Newtown.” 




Established in 1988 by anti-apartheid activists, SAHA is an independent non-profit human rights archive committed to documenting, supporting and promoting greater awareness of historical and, since 1994, contemporary struggles for justice and accountability. 

Since 2011, SAHA has been working with Lloyd Ross to preserve, organise, research and make accessible the endangered archive of Shifty Records as the formats of many of its historic audio recordings were deteriorating rapidly. With funding from the Atlantic Philanthropies, a significant collection of audio, video, photographic and documentary materials have now been digitized so as to ensure the long-term preservation and accessibility of this rich historical collection of musical activism for research and education, as well as cultural and heritage events like Shifty September.

SHIFTY RECORDS – www.shifty.co.za 

“Even though most of the recordings took place before my time, the Shifty catalogue inspired and formed the basis for how I interact with music to this day. How it grounds us; re-affirms who we are and why we are. The music on Shifty did this better than any other label on the planet. These were artists creating music in a tumultuous time sharing tales of suffering and joy (often simultaneous). The likes of Mzwakhe Mbuli, Urban Creep and perhaps most importantly for me, Tananas, connected me with the music of South Africa before anything else. It offered a glimpse into the notion and possibility of a rainbow nation long before the term was coined. Most importantly, the recordings made me feel part of this country.” 

– Guy Buttery, multi-instrumentalist and double South African Music Award winner. 

The key player in this project, Shifty Records is an independent South African record label founded by Lloyd Ross and Ivan Kadey thirty years ago in 1983. From the dark beginnings of the turbulent 1980s till the dawn of the new dispensation in South Africa, Shifty Records set out to document the songs of South African musicians that felt compelled to comment on the difficult times that they were living through. 

Operating for many years from a studio in a caravan hitched to a Ford V6 truck, the Shifty studio produced an album every two months until 1993. These recordings resulted in the most comprehensive collection of South African political/social commentary music in existence. Kaapse goema, mbaqanga jive, rock, folk, avant-garde, isicathamiya, worker songs, poetry, boere punk, jazz, maskande – this range of genres reflects the diverse cultures and influences from which these artists drew their inspiration. The reason for this eclecticism in the Shifty catalogue is easily explained – no other institution would do it within the context of state repression and censorship at the time, so Shifty virtually did it all. While Shifty struggled to gain exposure on SABC radio stations, its anti-establishment stance was appealing to young and politically marginalised South Africans, as was evidenced when poet Mzwakhe Mbuli’s unadvertised Unbroken Spirit went gold despite no radio exposure. 

In 1989, Shifty Records in partnership with Vrye Weekblad, organized the nation-wide Voelvry Toer. Described by journalist Max du Preez as ‘the Boere-Woodstock … a significant movement in every social, political, cultural and musical sense of the word”, this tour of young Afrikaner South African musicians, primarily recorded by Shifty Records, intended “to express their fury and discontent with the social, political and cultural condition of the Afrikaner nation” and “to question, and even to reformulate through the medium of music, what it meant to be an Afrikaner during the latter phases of apartheid.” 

Artists recorded by Shifty Records include: 

Andre Letoit (also recorded as Koos Kombuis); Corporal Punishment; Draadloos; Illegal Gathering; ISJA, James Phillips (also recorded as Bernoldus Niemand); Jennifer Ferguson; Jo’burg City Stars; Johannes Kerkorrel; Die Gereformeerde Blues Band; Kalahari Surfers; Khaki Monitor; Koos; Kgwanyape Band, MAMU Players; Mapuntsula; Matthew van der Want and Chris Letcher; Mzwakhe Mbuli; National Wake; Noise Khanyile; Radio Rats; Randy Rambo en die Rough Riders; Robin Auld; Roger Lucey;Sankomota; Simba Morri; Stan James; Tananas; The Aeroplanes; The Cherry Faced Lurchers; The Facts; The Genuines; The Happy Ships; The Kêrels; The Softies, Tony Cox; Urban Creep; Vusi Mahlasela; Various workers choirs including K-Team, Clover, DTMB, Mooi River Textiles, I&J, Simba Quix, Sizanani; Warrick Sony and Winston’s Jive Mix-up.











The following organisations have generously contributed towards the costs of Shifty September to date: 


Atlantic Philanthropies – SAHA has used funds from its discretionary project grant from the Atlantic Philanthropies to subsidise the costs of digitising and cataloguing the Shifty Records collection at SAHA. 


The Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) Foundation – contribution, through Alliance Francaise, towards musicians fees to play at events throughout the month 


National Arts Council (NAC) – contribution, through SAHA, towards archival and exhibition costs 


Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) – contribution, through SAHA, to printing costs associated with Shifty September. 


French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) – contribution though the Alliance Francaise to the overall budget of Shifty September


Spier – contribution to the overall budget of Shifty September 


















Alliance française




Shifty Records 

Catherine Kennedy Jean Bourdin Lloyd Ross 

Tel. +27 72 682 6240 

Email: Catherine @saha.org.za Tel: 011 646 11 69 

Email:Jean.Bourdin@alliance.org.za Tel. 

Email: lloyd@shifty.co.za 

www.saha.org.za www.alliance.org.za shifty.co.za 

Twitter: @SAHANews facebook.com/ AllianceFrancaiseJHB Twitter: @ShiftyRecords