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A Cool Spot For South African Heat
Label Feature

A Cool Spot For South African Heat

Cool Spot was founded in 1988 in downtown Johannesburg, fully dedicated to South African music. The label is home to the kwaito music of Doc Shebeleza, as sampled by Charlie Heat last year, and to an accordeonist who performed on Paul Simon's iconic 'Graceland' album. Tracklib got in touch with Ken Haycock, one of the original co-founders of Cool Spot.

By Tracklib
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4:01

What were the early days like when you started Cool Spot together with Mally Watson? Any fond memories of the early phase of setting up your own label?

I was the music director of CCP Records, and a director of EMI. I met Mally whilst working for CCP. He was a hugely successful in-house producer and artist. After 5 years of success for EMI, I felt it was time to branch out on my own and asked producer Mally Watson to join me. I signed a P&D deal with EMI – who graciously guaranteed an overdraft facility for the new label.

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4:32

At first, I ran the business from my car and used EMI’s offices to make dealer phone calls, liaise with production, stock control, the factory, and sales. Knowing everyone so well was a real boon. Our first four albums were ‘Orlando Hangover’, ‘Prodigal Son’, and a seSotho and an isiZulu album by gospel group Hosanna Hosanna—both of which attained double-gold status.

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3:21

Having such success with our four debut releases meant never needing to make use of the overdraft EMI had guaranteed. This was obviously a particularly exciting time and it provided a platform for us to rent our own premises—a double-story, detached house surrounded by high-rise buildings on all sides in Joubert Park, downtown Johannesburg—where we set up two recording studios and grew our independent label.

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4:26
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2:49
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3:59

Doc Shebeleza and Monwa released a white-label record called ‘Cool Spot’, with an unknown release year and no label. Does that relate to the early days of your label?

When vinyl was being phased out, to save on costs, we often coupled similar genre material on a sampler for radio. Doc Shebeleza and Monwa were compatible for this exercise, so I hazard the guess the white-label you refer to featured tracks from their 1993 releases.

So that’s roughly five years after the start of Cool Spot. The first artist signed under my management was Brenda & The Big Dudes. On my last day at CCP, Brenda came to see me and told me to name my new company Cool Spot after the title of her debut releases. And so it was.

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5:47
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5:55

Doc Shebeleza was also one of the artists on Cool Spot making kwaito music, next to acts such as M-M Deluxe. What was it like to be involved with the birthing of a new genre? How did you see/hear the music evolve?

The members of the duo MM Deluxe - Mandla Mofokeng and Mdu Masilela – went on to pioneer and have massive kwaito success. Sadly, we were ahead of our time with MM Deluxe. Doc Shebeleza was a member of the popular gospel and wedding groups Platform One. It was exciting to be involved with Doc’s solo career and we had our first taste of kwaito success with him.

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5:12

Our strength at the time that kwaito first appeared, was in house music. Our Mixmaster and Big Jamm series produced platinum sales. But as kwaito (township rap set to house music) started to take over in the mid-90s, we eventually found it more productive to license in kwaito product and had massive success with the likes of Mzambiya and Masawawa.

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6:42

[Cool Spot co-founder] Mally probably rightly felt he could not compete in this genre/culture which was developing in the townships. Also, the label owners of kwaito acts had strong networks at TV and radio.

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4:42
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3:35
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3:28

Correct me if I’m wrong, but ‘Oa Ntaela Moya’ by Sammy Malete also feels quite kwaito-centric?

Kind of, but Sammy Malete was mainly a popular gospel artist we nurtured. Cool Spot had its biggest success with gospel artists and choirs.

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4:11
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4:34

"Tracklib democratizes the way we can sample music. We are living in a world where we are exchanging ideas, working together with the ambition to create a better world and, in this case, better music."

—Yoel Kenan of Africori (current owners of the Cool Spot catalog)
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4:19
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5:21
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4:09

If you could now sample any track from Cool Spot as a producer, what would it be, and for what type of track?

I’ve always believed that seSotho, isiZulu, and xiTsonga traditional music had the potential to cross over to the rock market. Paul Simon and Johnny Clegg proved this by having huge crossover success in the pop market.

But I wanted to take a seSotho traditional bass riff and use it as a rock riff. The closest we came to contemporizing ‘Sotho trad’ was on a track called ‘Bafana Bafana’ which we recorded with Forere Motloheloa. He’s the leader and accordionist of Tau Ea Matsekha from Lesotho who performed on and co-wrote Boy in a Bubble’ for Paul Simon’s Graceland album.

The track was featured on a Gallo compilation dedicated to the SA soccer side fondly known as Bafana Bafana during the time SA hosed the 2010 World Cup Soccer tournament in South Africa.

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3:15
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3:46
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3:12

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