Professor Rhythm - Professor 3
Brand new. Sealed album.
“If you could imagine living in a time where you were barred from doing much, the only way one could unite masses without the government thinking a group of Africans was up to no good was to celebrate in dance and music via discos and music festivals… and shoo did we pull a crowd!”
Professor Rhythm’s 1991 recording Professor 3 is a vivid reflection of urban South Africa as apartheid was ending. Thami Mdluli’s production project had young and old dancing to a sound that sought to unite Blacks within Southern Africa. The late 1970’s and 80’s had been trying times for people of color. Thammi says, “During these times, we as a country were experiencing apartheid segregation, very much similar to the segregation in the States. We couldn’t express ourselves how we really felt; it was a matter of being creative with your lyrics. It really wasn’t like today where you could say what you wanted to say provided it was radio-ready. In our times, we had to really watch what we put out there, as we were in fear of being jailed or not having our music played at all if we stepped onto the government’s toes. If you were a musician in these times, one had to be a master of words as politics was force-fed unto us. Our music gave hope to the hopeless.”
Mdluli’s third instrumental album (which contains some background vocals, to be exact), portrays the moment when the dominant mbaqanga and American R&B-based bubblegum sounds being produced in Johannesburg and other urban centers were transforming into house and hip-hop-inspired kwaito. The pop of the 80’s and all that went with it—from the models of synths and drum machines to the lyrical style—gave way to a changing melodic emphasis and new, much slower tempi using a completely different rhythmic skeleton. Upbeat, chipper bubblegum, often with double-time breakdowns and upstroke syncopations, faded and the sounds began to more closely resemble those of contemporary Black America—where hip-hop was slowing down and the bass-lines and melodies were getting moodier, darker in general. At the same time house music had briefly reached mainstream acceptance in the States and that popularity continued to feed into awareness overseas. These two influences blended with the burgeoning house music scenes in Johannesburg and Pretoria as Professor Rhythm 3 was being produced in March 1991 (the same year apartheid ended). Mdluli explains, “We were Influenced by foreign bands and so people updated their sound.”
According to Mdluli, the evolving sound was bolstered by widening availability of house and rap records from abroad while, most importantly, an increasing sense that apartheid might soon be finished was met with a new positivity vibe society. “1991, ’92, ’93… Mandela was released. People were upbeat, they were happy, the music was good.”