A series of pivotal music projects during the early 1980s led to an explosion of authentic South African sounds sweeping the Western world. Among those projects were collaborative albums such as Malcolm McLaren’s “Duck Rock” (1983), Lizzy Mercier Descloux’s “Zulu Rock” (1984) and Paul Simon’s “Graceland” (1986); and reissues and compilations of essential African recordings on the UK-based Earthworks Records label, headed up by white South African expatriates Jumbo Vanrenan and Trevor Herman. The common denominator linking these releases was the genre that Earthworks famously referred to as “The Indestructible Beat of Soweto” – mbaqanga music. It was therefore inevitable that the foremost exponents of that genre, Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens, would achieve international stardom before the decade ended. Their international ‘discovery’ was actually the latest chapter in a collective career that had already spanned some 30 years. In June 1988, Mahlathini and the Queens made their first visit to the United Kingdom. Hoping to ride the crest of a wave, concert promoters conceived a package show named after the seminal 1985 Earthworks compilation, “The Indestructible Beat of Soweto”. This would give British audiences a revealing insight into African music as never before – in addition to the headline performers were Philip Tabane and Malombo, Nothembi Mkhwebane and her backing chorus The Siblings, Sipho Mchunu, accordion player Mzwandile David and acrobatic dancer Lucas ‘Rubber Boy’ Kau. The rapturous reception led to an invitation back to the UK in November for further Indestructible Beat concerts. It was off the back of these shows that Mahlathini and the Queens – the undoubtable standouts of Indestructible Beat – undertook their first standalone tour of the UK in early 1989. Their stage act rarely dipped below excellent. Dressed in their original attire as young Zulu girls – but with red izicholo on their heads to signify they were now grown women – Nobesuthu Shawe, Hilda Tloubatla and Mildred Mangxola would fly onto the stage to the strains of “Awuthule Kancane” (Be a bit quieter), heralding the start of a very special evening of music and dance. The formidable Mahlathini, billed as “The Lion of Soweto”, emerged from the stage wings with both arms raised in the air for the start of the next number, “Re Ya Dumedisa” (We greet you all). The humble and soft-spoken performer always lived up to the expectations set by his billing – his roaring introduction to “Lilizela Mlilizeli” (Ululate/applaud) audible proof of the more extroverted alter ego he metamorphosed into on stage. Numbers like “Uyavutha Umlilo” (Music inferno), “Jive Makgona”, “Thokozile” (a girl’s name) and “Melodi Ya Lla” (There‘s a sound ringing out) were used primarily as vehicles for the Queens’ trademark mgqashiyo choreography, punctuated with whistles, hand claps and chants of “yebo!” (“yes!”) and “thatha!” (“take it!”). Mahlathini prowled around the stage imitating the ladies or simply stood aside, clapping and allowing them to take the spotlight. “Duduzile” (a girl’s name), however, was where the great groaner came alive, contorting, convulsing and leaping through an exaggerated Zulu dance routine. Then in “Nina Majuba” (Fly away, you doves) and “Sengikhala Ngiyabaleka” (I‘m crying and running away), the foursome competed in a magnificent display of showstopping, uninhibited jive, bringing the show to a close and the audience clamouring for an encore. The Indestructible Beat of Soweto shows have long since passed into gig legend. None of those landmark concerts were ever made commercially available. Now, some 30 years later, Umsakazo Records proudly presents Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens’ entire Indestructible Beat set of 16 songs, handpicked from a number of different UK venues and all remastered from newly discovered cassette recordings. These were made at the mixing desk by David Barton, a photographer and music fanatic who travelled with the performers as they descended on unsuspecting audiences across the UK. “Music Inferno: The Indestructible Beat Tour 1988-89” shines the spotlight once more on a truly joyous and frenetic concert experience, one that without question established Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens as forever one of South Africa’s greatest musical exports.