Mini-Feature – Local Hitmakers

23rd February 2021

South Africa has such a diversity of musical styles and I sometimes tend to concentrate on bringing you music you may never have heard before at the expense of the new hit-makers. I tend to leave the hit-parade material alone but there are three artists in Johannesburg’s Mix FM local chart at the moment that I really feel deserve their place on the Loving the Music pages. I also have my non-SA friends and followers in mind while writing this, who may seldom get to hear what’s trending on our local pop charts.

16-year old Hitmaker, Vaughn Prangley

I’m starting with someone who has not one, but two songs within the top 10. Jason Zeeman was the frontman for the rock outfit, Reason, whose debut album won Best Rock Album at the 17th South African Music Awards (SAMA) . Reason achieved reasonable success over their 7-year career. After they disbanded Zeeman further honed his craft as a writer/producer and session guitarist for some international names.

He re-connected with Josh Kleynhans (Gangs of Ballet) and started the journey that has resulted in the creation and release of the EP Sweet Escape. In 2011 Josh and Jason had played together in TREE63, so had an understanding of each other’s strengths, Zeeman told “Josh is a melodic genius and he pushed me beyond my comfort zone on so many fronts. I absolutely loved our process of coming up with and finishing these songs.”

The EP was recorded in Johannesburg, Durban, and Sri Lanka where Josh lives. This roundabout trip saw the final mixing happen in Pretoria’s Maven Studio. Talking about the distinctive sound that they have achieved, Jason said “There was a lot of throwing away and reinventing.” adding, “I saw a quote in the middle of a screenwriting book that read, ‘Write the book you want to read’. That pretty much sums up this first EP. I made the music that I wanted to listen to and that is enough for me. I’m excited to share it in the hope that it’s the kind of music you want to listen to as well”. I’m excited as well Jason – thanks!

Take a listen to Jason Zeeman and Float.

The second local band I’m sharing with a top 5 place on the local charts is a name that many locals will recognize, Amersham. They predominated in the 1990s with albums like Pickled, Wearing Thin and Upside Downside. The band dissolved in 1999 and travelled their various musical paths and I thought that was the last that I would hear of Amersham

When I heard the song ‘Dilemma’ on the radio recently my ears pricked up and was surprised to learn that Amersham had reunited and had a brilliant song lurking around the top spot. The band that formed in high school signed to BMG in 1993. Their success with the #1 hit ‘Matchbox’, and memorable live stage act saw them headlining at local festivals and touring extensively.

I’m happy that the band are back in the charts, but they aren’t the only name from the past to have a song in the local top 10. Wendy Oldfield, one of our most respected names in music, is doing very well with her latest song, Home. Maybe this heralds a return of the old guard.

Here’s Amersham with Dilemma.

The final local hitmaker for today is holding the top spot on the MixFM local charts at the moment and is definitely the youngest. It’s not often that a 16-year-old captures the ears of the nation, but Vaughn Prangley has done exactly that. When I first heard his song ‘Oasis’ I never thought it came from a teenager.

Howie Combrink, the singer/songwriter and ex-drummer from the brilliant band Watershed (amongst others) now owns The Hit Lab studio and took Vaughn under his wing to produce his debut single. I heard an interview with Vaughn recently and was struck by a maturity that belies his years. This is a seriously focused young man who has his eyes set on a successful musical career.

He describes his songwriting process as something that comes naturally, “I tend to write from my subconscious, from experiences of my own and observing what is going on around me. Songwriting is a way of expressing myself. I am also heavily inspired by what is happening around me, everyday situations are just another little melodic story waiting to happen.” With a little finessing, and a few more years of experience, and I think that Vaughn Prangley could well be one of our future local superstars.

For those who tend to shy clear of what’s happening on the charts, I hope I’ve shown you that there is some very worthwhile talent right under your nose that you may not be hearing. Let’s close with Vaughn Prangley and Oasis.

The Loving the Music mini-features are written and compiled by me to support Loving the Music’s Facebook page and group. Join the community for regular themed three-part posts that does more than just share a song.

The Author owns no copyright on the images or videos in this article. All images and links sourced from YouTube and Google and within the public domain.

Words © Andrew Knapp 2021

Published by Loving the Music

I am a music-lover who has been fortunate enough to live through six-decades of ever-changing musical styles and genres. Loving the Music is my eclectic collection of regular music-related mini-features and whatever else tickles my musical fancy. You can also find me on the Loving the Music Facebook group and page. Happy listening - Andrew Knapp

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