Robin has been involved with music all his life, from school to bands and on. He is a double Grammy winning producer, composer and arranger. He has traveled Africa, pursuing diverse music projects, and has been involved in projects all around the world – from India to the UK, from Ireland to the USA. He has recorded over 60 albums of world music, and been involved in many colourful projects outlined in these pages. And he has composed, arranged and produced music for numerous TV and film projects. He is also the producer of the first Soweto Gospel Choir albums, the second and third of which, (‘Blessed’ and ‘African Spirit’) won Grammys in 2007 and 2008 for ‘Best Traditional World Music Album’. In 2008 he became a voting member of the Grammy Academy. He is also involved in many social upliftment programmes outlined here.
This is his personal story.
Maybe there is and maybe there isn’t a musical gene. Stories abound either way: the boy with the musical lineage versus the girl who becomes a singing star while the parents don’t have a musical note between them. Either way, Robin did come from a musical family. One of his earliest musical memories is seeing his parents playing together a magnificent double keyboard Grand Piano for their own pleasure at Cossington Hall in the UK. His father also played the trumpet and guitar, and Robin and his younger brother Simon would regularly harmonise and play along with their parents, as they grew up.
An exciting world music project has been Tribal Beatz, a collaboration with drummer Barry van Zyl. This project includes a track from Johnny Clegg, and utilizes the talents of many of Johnny Clegg’s musicians, stars in their own right, in a fusion of rhythms, voices and instruments from all over Africa.
In 2007, Robin produced the album We Are Together (Thina Simunye), released with an already very successful feature documentary of the same name. This EMI release features the Children of Agape Choir, including performances with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Soweto Gospel Choir, and a live concert piece, with Alicia Keys and Paul Simon.
As a child Robin learned piano, and learned harmony, singing all the parts in a choir as his voice deepened. Before his voice broke he was a soloist, singing such gems as “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” at a Cathedral wedding in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe.
So it was that someone showed him how a ukelele was played, and he learned ukelele then taught himself on a brightly painted African style guitar, and started playing with friends in a school band. And from there he started to write songs. The schoolboy band “The Maximillian King Trio” appeared on TV, and performed live.
He took these ideas to South Africa on leaving school, reformed the Maximillian King Trio with his brother Simon and a schoolfriend Barry Gibson, and soon recorded their first single, which he wrote, called “Lullaby in Rain”. Subsequent recordings followed, and one song he wrote, “Jeanine”, broke into the then LM (Lourenco Marques in Mozambique, a cult radio station) hit parade.
He had a number of successful singles including:
- Lullaby in Rain/Sarah Jane – with the Maximillian King Trio (Parlophone label)
- Indigo/I’m in the Blue – with the Maximillian King Trio – (Parlophone label)
- Don’t Cry Janie Blue/You Could be Right – band Humphrey – (Parlophone label)
- Don’t Cry Janie Blue/You Could be Right – band Humphrey – (Parlophone label)
- Listen My Love/City Lights – also with Humphrey – (Zodiac)
- Jeanine – with the band Albatross – Explosion label
- Lady Day/Don’t Worry – also Albatross – Rap label
In 1971 Robin was introduced to Robbie Kallenbach, then working for a film company, by Chris Dresser, a scriptwriter and film producer who thought it would be a good idea. And there was synergy! They both specialized in acoustic guitar, and put together the band Humphrey with Robins then wife Lisa Hogarth, which had a number of successful releases, including the album ‘Humphrey’ in 1971. Robin and Robbie went on to write the music for a 1971 Lourenco Marques (Maputo) documentary, and two films: “Africa”, and “Touch the Sky”.
Robin went on to write or co write the music for a number of artists including Judy Page in 1973, Lisa Robin (Lisa Hogarths Afrikaans stage name), and Don Stanton.
In 1987 Robin wanted to move from his night job (playing in bands) to film and TV. After knocking on many doors, his father in law suggested his golfing partner, one John Rogers. John had a film company “Bateleur Films”, and after some persuasion, decided to employ Robin to do the music for a series he was producing, called ‘What Are You Doing To Me?’ 13 part sitcom for the SABC. After some hiccups (the editor hated his music, but John loved it), Robin went on to do many TV series for Bateleur including:
1988 (Running Free) 13 part drama SABC An amazing epic series in the apartheid South Africa, about the relationship between a white Afrikaans prison warden, and a champion black marathon runner who was a prisoner.
1988 (Jesus Loves Me) TV film-New York Film Festival winner, SABC/Bateleur
1989 Kgweetsa (Full Circle) 13 part drama Bateleur Films This orchestral theme was much requested by local viewers.
1989 Di Sa Kopeneng (Reunion) 13 part drama 7th St Productions
1990 (Letlaka) Nominated for an Artes award 13 part drama Bateleur Films
1990 Mohlolohadi (The Widow) 13 part drama 7th St Productions
1990 The Gift TV film SABC. Canada 1996 Bateleur Films
1991 (Stock Exchange) 13 part drama 7th St Productions
1991 Mmalonya II 13 part drama Bateleur Films
1992 Crime Reporter. Nominated for an Artes Award 18 part action Bateleur Films
1994 Widow 2 13 part drama 7th St Productions
1994 Africa PI 13 part action/drama Bateleur Films
1995 As Long As It’s Legal 13 part action series Bateleur Films
1996 Dark Angels 2 part TV film Bateleur Films
And not a John Rogers production, 1997 Old Grand Hotel 13 part sitcom series (Bhuba Productions)
By 1988 after a South African dinner with a UK music library man, Robins career started to achieve international recognition with the release of 1998 KPM album Colours of South Africa double CD. After that success he was commissioned to produce more music for
1998 Black Jack – High Stakes wildlife documentary Survival Anglia
1998 Condor, Coyote and Canyon wildlife documentary Survival Anglia
1989 Technology 2000 (Mood Music) R. Hogarth Library/Bruton
In 1990 Robin was commissioned by EMI to work with a band that had had a number of UK hits. People Like Us (UK and Japan) The “People Like Us” album (Skratch) was the result.
And the commissions for music for international film and TV use continued:
1999 Music House: Southern Africa R. Hogarth Music HouseUK.
2000 Sony World Map: Africa Section Levin/Hogarth Sony US
2001 ‘Bushdance’ – World Moods Hogarth/Stathoussis Virgin
In his UK travels, Robin met members of a London based band with Native American roots, Praying For The Rain. A result of this was a different world music album for film and TV, 2003 Native America Hogarth/DeCicco: Music House UK.
An urban African album was commissioned, and resulted in the 2005 release Kwaito Moods (Hogarth/Stathoussis Zebra/EMI)
Other music for film and TV was commissioned:
2006 Spirit of Africa 1 and 2 (R. Hogarth Zebra/KPM/EMI) and 2007 World Beatz 1 and 2 (R. Hogarth/B. van Zyl Zebra/KPM/EMI).
One day around 1983 in the UK Robin was overheard talking about African music by Horst Tubbesing, then MD of ARC Music. This led to an extensive series of authentic world music albums featuring popular and often vanishing cultures. Thus came about:
- Exotic Voices and Rhythms of Black Africa – ARC Music
- The Best of Todays Black African Folk Music – ARC Music
- Amadaduzo: Exotic Voices and Rhythms of Black Africa – ARC Music
- Exotic Voices and Rhythms of Africa 2 – ARC Music
- The Best of Today’s African Folk Music Vol 2 – ARC Music
- The Spirit of African Gospel – ARC Music
- The Soul of African Gospel – ARC Music
- The Soul of Modern African Gospel – ARC Music
- The Spirit of Traditional African Gospel – ARC Music
- Voices of Africa – ARC Music
- Exotic Voices and Rhythms of Africa – ARC Music
- African Folk Music – Tapestries Int
- Sheshwe – The Sound of the Mines – Rounder Records
- Mzikayifani Buthelezi/ Fashion Maswedi – Rounder Records
- TJ Today – Rounder Records
- Homeland 2 – Reamusic
- Exotic Voices and Rhythms of Africa – ARC Music
- Spirit of African Gospel (2) – ARC Music
- Africa Today (Zulu Folk) – ARC Music
- Africa Today (Sotho Folk) – ARC Music
- Exotic Voices from Africa – ARC Music
- Sounds of South Africa – ARC Music
- Global Beatz – ARC Music
- Stars of Afropop – ARC Music
- The Sound of African Mbube – ARC Music
One day Robin received a call to produce what became the Soweto Gospel Choir albums: Voices from Heaven, Blessed, African Spirit, Grace (ICA/CH/Shenachie). See the full Grammy winning story in these pages!!
He then co produced Thina Simunye (We Are Together) Children of Agape (EMI UK) This is the amazing story of the South African orphans who hit the world stage. See the full story in these pages!
Productions continued: the Durban Black Drifters ‘Obababethu’ (Universal Music) and Umoya Wase Afrika a DVD featuring four tracks by Marah Louw (see later) Brettian Music.
While the previous African traditional albums were compiled from existing recordings in Southern Africa, Robin felt it was time to do his own productions. This led to additional albums, the first of which was “Bushmen: Qwii, The First People” (ARC Music). Recording the Colours of Africa CD had introduced Robin to music of the Bushmen, the most ancient of Southern Africa’s peoples. Bushman and Tswana musician Tebogo Tshotetsi had trekked many miles, with his instruments in a bag over his shoulders, to record the Bushman tracks for that album. When Robin asked him to help get together a group of Bushmen for a traditional album, it took nearly a year to gather them from the Kalahari desert.
After this followed a number of traditional albums:
- Music of The Tswana People – ARC Music
- Master Drummers of Africa – ARC Music
- Songs of the Xhosa Kings – ARC Music
Helped by a royal member of a Xhosa tribe, and himself a legendary entertainer, Blues Ntaka, Robin took another voyage of discovery into Nelson Mandela’s homeland.
* Listen to album below
- Shaka Zulu – Songs of King Shaka – ARC Music
Tracks were recorded by Robin following a traditional Zulu competition, in a nearby kitchen on the outskirts of Johannesburg.
- Sacred Drums of the Venda People – ARC Music
A South African trip north to Thoyandou resulted in a field recording in a garage, the only source of electricity for miles.
- The Pulse of Africa – ARC Music
Bushmen of the Kalahari (a rerelease of the earlier Bushman album) – ARC Music
- South African Gospel – ARC Music
- Ancient Civilizations 1,2 and 3 – ARC Music
- Tribal Beatz (with Barry van Zyl) – ARC Music
Some years before, Robin and Barry van Zyl had become friends. Barry was the drummer for the legendary Johnny Clegg, and it is Johnny Cleggs band that performs on this album, while Johnny himself contributed one track.
- Goema Music from Cape Town (with Barry van Zyl) – ARC Music
- African Heartbeat (with Barry van Zyl) – ARC Music
- African Mbira (with Barry van Zyl) – ARC Music
- African Hymns (with Marah Louw) – ARC Music
- Robin had met Marah many years previously on a project. Marah had for a long time wanted to record an album of Methodist Christian hymns, and eventually Robin was able to do so with her.
- Marrabenta Mozambique (with Barry van Zyl) – ARC Music
- Master Drummers of Africa 2 (with Barry van Zyl) – ARC Music
- African Drums and Voices (with Barry van Zyl) – ARC Music
- Welcome to South Africa 2010 (most tracks)
marking the 2010 World Football cup hosted by South Africa.
– ARC Music
- Traditional Zulu Music – ARC Music
- Gondwana Dawn – ARC Music
Robin took a group of African children to India, and recorded an album combining South African gospel with the traditional music of India. You can read up on this fascinating story in more detail in these pages.
- Music of Angola – ARC Music
2018 saw the production of a highly successful KPM album for their World Music series, called South Africa Traditional (KPM WM45, 46), featuring many leading South African artists including the Soweto Gospel Choir. The album was co written and produced with Neill Solomon, renowned musician and composer in Johannesburg.
Songs of the Xhosa Kings
Available on ARC Music
Hlani Ngendawo Zenu
Over the last few years, Robin has been indulging in his first love, writing songs, taking the opportunity of widespread travelling to colour his broad palette!
Robin continues his musical journey on a daily basis, producing more world music albums, more music for film and TV, and many varied musical projects, of which more on these pages!
Children of Agape
The Road to the Grammys