14th March 2021:
I’m staying local to finish off the week with a band that emerged in 1995. Broadly speaking, Egyptian Nursey could be regarded as South Africa’s original Trip-Hop outfit, and although they only released one album, went on to influence a number of acts to follow. Considering the nationalities of the members, there is often debate as to if they can be considered South African? Whichever side of the fence you sit on this topic, listeners and critics adopted them as ‘ours’ on the first hearing.
Comprising of Craigie Dodds, a musical whizz-kid and producer from Newcastle on Tyne in England, and Ariane Bechard, a Rubenesque red-headed Mauritian beauty with a silky voice, who met one night in Johannesburg and started talking music. By the time the sun had come up, they had already written and recorded one song. This carried on for 20 nights in succession and it seemed that this oddly matched couple was under the influence of a musical muse. The magic grew when they included Congolese hip-hop Rapper, Mojama Kalume in the mix.
Kalume had travelled to South Africa in search of the right studio and a producer who understood his brand of French / Lingala Rap. Meeting Craigie started a serendipitous chain of events starting with quickly writing and recording three tracks for Mojama’s solo album. The chemistry between the three artists was obvious, and the duo became a trio when Mojamo accepted their invitation to join them; thus the Egyptian Nursery sound was born.
Let’s start the music with one of the hits from New Anthem, here’s ‘God’s Window’
Unlike most bands, Egyptian Nursery was essentially a studio band in that they had not ‘paid their dues’ on the circuit for years before getting noticed. New Anthem, their debut album that rocketed up the charts, was mainly recorded in Craig’s bedroom on a small recording rig he had set up. The result is equivalent to any high-end production house and is a testament to Craigie Dodds’ skill.
That skill garnered the album 5 nominations in the 1999 SAMA Awards, and Craigie Dodds’ won the coveted Best Producer award. They were also nominated in two categories for the French Kora Award, with their song Oyebisi ‘Nga being compared to Nina Cherry and Youssou Ndour’s ‘Seven Seconds’.
New Anthem was released by Fresh Music in 1998 and for international release under the name ‘God’s Window’ for Blue Flame Records in 2000. Four singles charted in South Africa and there was international interest. And that’s where the trail runs cold! Trying to find any information regarding Egyptian Nursery proved to be a dead-end, but there is a little more info…
The second choice for today is ‘Desert Stream’, I love this track.
Post God’s Window there is no record of the band on the internet that I can find in my normal research sites. I even went 5-pages deep into Google Search in case something cropped up. I did a search on the three band members, and apart from Craigie Dodds, there is nothing to be found. There is an IT expert named Mojama Kalume, and I found out on Facebook that Ariane had sadly passed away around 2010. If any of the music lovers out there have any further info, please let us know.
I think it would have been interesting to hear how Egyptian’s Nursery’s sound would have developed with the evolving sound production technology of the last 20 years. Their style of music opened the door for many artists on the African Dope label likeMoodphase 5ive and Felix LeBand.
It seems that Craigie Dodds did some work with local art/alternative band Qzoo (Qkumba Zoo), and singer Jenny Delenta before heading back to the UK. While searching around I found that he has written and produced for artists such as Amy Winehouse, Sugababes, Leona Lewis. Gorillaz, and a long list of heavy-hitters. In the TV world, his work has been featured on Friends, Grey’s Anatomy and The OC. Well done Craigie!
To close I’ve chosen yet another big hit from this sadly missed outfit, this is ‘Still’.
I hope you’ve enjoyed another trip into local musical history. Catch you soon.
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.
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Words © Andrew Knapp 2021