24 May 2016

New 90% local music rule: Featuring The Shifty Records Collection

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) enforced their decision to provide 90% local music across 18 South African radio stations earlier this month. This was aimed at promoting more local music that represents the diverse cultures of South Africa. Therefore by providing South Africans with local music, citizens will now be able to listen to local rising artists and home grown music legends. This is a huge step towards fostering growth in the local music scene.

Shifty Records love logo

The goal to showcase local music echoes a story from 30 years ago of an independent maverick label intent on recording original South African music, Shifty Records. This small label, which started its life in a van, filled the gap for music which did not suit apartheids desire to keep everything separate. Shifty recorded songs showcasing multiple languages and lyrics which spoke to what was happening in the country.  No other label dared to record such diversity in the face of apartheid censorship, so Shifty virtually did it all.

Shifty Records originators Lloyd Ross and Ivan Kadey created a mobile recording studio in a Gypsey caravan, hitched to a Ford V6 truck. This space gave South African musicians a mobile studio which allowed them the freedom to share their music with others who loved local and eclectic music. Unlike the SABC today promoting local artists, the songs and music produced by Shifty was not played on the Airwaves. They were either too eclectic, had too many languages or were too political for the broadcaster during the 80s.

New Africa Rock Album

Preserving the records

In 2011, SAHA, in collaboration with Lloyd Ross created the The Shifty Records Project Collection (AL3296), an archive project to preserve, organise, research and make accessible the endangered archive of Shifty Records. This necessitated digitisation of Shiftys’ rapidly deteriorating audio recordings.  

Given the rise of support in local music in contemporary South Africa it should be noted that the Shifty Records Project Collection provides a good example of the success that radio stations obtain once they promote local music. By providing local music South Africans are able to engage more with local artists as they share similar views concerning South Africa.  

To read more about the history behind Shifty Records and some of its artists, such as Koos Kombuis and Vusi Mahlasela check out SAHA’a virtual exhibition.

Perhaps with the 90% local rule some of the shifty recordings will even find their way onto the airwaves… 


   Winston's Jive Mixup performing at a gig

Lloyd Ross at work in the Shifty caravan

Winston's Jive Mixup performing Lloyd Ross at work in the Shifty caravan

Visit the Shifty Records Virtual Exhibition page

Visit the Shifty Records Project Collection page

Find out more about the SABC's move to 90% local music