1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

Just another music list

Beautiful In Beaufort Wes – Gert Vlok Nel

Beautiful In Beaufort Wes – Gert Vlok Nel

Beautiful In Beaufort Wes - Gert Vlok Nel

Beautiful In Beaufort Wes – Gert Vlok Nel

Gert Vlok Nel was from Beaufort Wes and studied at Stellenbosch. Perhaps that is why he manages to make the blues sound like boere musiek. Or to be a bit more accurate about ‘Beautiful In Beaufort Wes’, it is country & boere blues. It has the country & western theme to the lyrics, a blues harmonica and rhythm and yet, even without the aid of an accordion, there is something boer-ish about it. Perhaps it’s just because Beaufort Wes is farming territory that this has rubbed off on the music.

But Gert Vlok Nel is a poet more than a musician. While the music has a pleasant lilt to it and (like Dylan) his voice is not the greatest singing one, his (Beautiful) words are what drag you into the song and tie your heartstrings in a knot. This is a bittersweet song about a carefree love of youth that is lost. But it’s not just the loss of the love that is mourned, but also the loss of youth and the freedom it brings. Perhaps the most telling line is, after describing how the girl would ‘vry’ in trains and graveyards and in the back seats of Ford Fairlanes, she grows up to be a computer analyst and “Last winter you tried to cut both of your wrists”. You almost feel the knife going into yourself as the line comes up.

The song has an aching beauty about it. There is a delicious mournfulness that is as comforting as it is disturbing. ‘Beaufort Wes Se Beautiful Woorde’, the album that it comes from made it to number 59 in the Dutch album charts, a testimony to the strength of his words.

Where to find it:
Beaufort Wes Se Beautiful Woorde – Gert Vlok Nel (2006) Munich Records, MRCD281

Video:

Lyrics:
En jy was beautiful op Beaufort-Wes
en ek was so verskrik en verskriklik lief vir jou
en jy het op grafte en op treine
en op Ford Fairlane se agterseats gevry
en nou is jy en jou man both computer analysts
en laas winter you tried to cut both of your wrists
en nou skryf jy vir my jy kan nie meer slaap nie,
nie meer lag nie,
nie meer iets vir jouself doen nie,
nooit ooit weer vir my soen nie

En mooi mooi mooi was jou woorde ook
terwyl jy menthol sigarette rook
en daai sweet sweet dinge vir my se
terwyl jy sweet sweet in my arms le
en die presiese woorde het ek presies vergeet
ek onthou net die rook en die sweet in Beaufort-Wes
en jou kaal liggaam onder ‘n cool summer cotton dress
nie meer slaap nie, nie meer lag nie
nie meer iets vir mekaar doen nie
nooit ooit weer vir jou soen nie

En dis miskien soos ‘n storie uit die Huisgenoot,
maar jy’t een aand skielik vir my weggestoot
en in die rear view mirror jou gesig gekyk
en gese ‘miskien moet ek gelukkiger lyk’
daardie aand kon ek nie aan die slaap raak nie
en het gevoel hoe my hart losruk uit my lyf
en soos ‘n roeiboot in die rivier afdryf
ek kon nie meer slaap nie, nie meer lag nie,
nie meer iets ooit reg doen nie,
nooit ooit weer vir jou soen nie

En die laaste herinnering waaroor ek sing
is die nag toe ek en jy die melktrein aan en aan in die nag in ry
tot anderkant die ding dong gong
van die breakfast waiter in die gang verby
en dit was my wake-up call my lief
jy het gese wees asseblief lief vir my
maar ek het gedroom ons het in Beaufort-Wes gaan woon
en ek kon nie meer slaap nie, nie meer lag nie,
nie meer so iets doen nie,
nooit ooit weer vir jou soen nie

Up – Zen Arcade

Up – Zen Arcade

Snowflake - Zen Arcade

Snowflake – Zen Arcade

‘Up’ by Zen Arcade is a grunge song to chill out to. It has a cascading guitar riff that you can sort of glide around on like going on a lazy Sunday stroll down one of those twirling water slides. You keep expecting the song to burst out of its chill straitjacket but it never does and this creates a bit of nervous tension as the Zensters keep tight control of themselves, never letting ‘Up’ spill over into the noisy splash of the wave pool.

Iain McKenzie’s vocals weave a brittle spell over the song, vying with the guitar riff for centre stage. Neither wins the battle as the listener is absorbed into the intensity of the voice and the beauty of the instrument. The song was taken from the band’s debut album ‘Snowflake’ and has all the suble touch of a snowflake gently brushing your life before it melts off to the fade.

‘Up’ gave Zen Arcade their second number one on the SA Rockdigest charts in 2001. They would go on to score 3 more number 1’s, but never with such a deft touch of a song.

Where to find it:
Snowflake – Zen Arcade (2001), Zen Arcade, ZACD001

Almal Moet Gerook Raak – Johannes Kerkorrel

Almal Moet Gerook Raak – Johannes Kerkorrel

Voelvry - Die Toer

Voelvry – Die Toer

As every good tweetaalige South African knows, ‘Almal Moet Gerook Raak’ translates as ‘Everybody Must Get Stoned’. And as every good Dylan fan knows the song containing that lyric is actually called ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’. (The lyric is not the title of the song!).

Kerkorrel’s song is not an Afrikaans cover of the Dylan classic. It is his own compositon which implores everyone to get high and clean up the mess (“Die germors hier skoon maak”). The song was recorded live and features on the Voelvry- Die Toer album. Given the political leaning of Kerkorrel during the Voelvry period, one can safely assume that ‘die gemors’ he refers to was Apartheid. However, I am not sure how getting stoned would help as stoned people seem to sit around in a bit of a haze doing bogger all. I guess he was imploring to the hippy sense of the 60’s where everything was peace, love and smoking boom.

That said, the song itself is not particularly laid back or stoned. It’s a lively piece of honky-tonky-rocky-rolly-bounce-a-roundy-howling-guitary-get-up-and-dancey music that is at the opposite end of the serious scale to its underlying subject matter.

Sadly, as we know, Kerkorrel took his life in 2002 which lent an irony to the line in Dylan’s song just before ‘Everybody must get stoned’ which goes ‘But I would not feel so all alone’. However, let’s not dwell on the sadness. Put on ‘Almal Moet Gerook Raak’ and let’s rock this joint.

Where to find it:
Tien Jaar Later – Johannes Kerkorrel (1998), Gallo, GWVCD 4
Voelvry – Die Toer – Various Artist (2002), Sheer, SHIF002 (Live version)

Video:

Time – The Dealians

Time – The Dealians

Time - The Dealians

Time – The Dealians

The Dealians were formed by Mike Fuller (who went on to manage Clout, Hotline and Little Sister) and took their name from the Deal’s Hotel in East London where they used to performed. They became a highly successful band, having 5 top 20 hits on Springbok Radio and spending a total of 50 weeks on the charts.

The last of the 5 hits was the 1973 song ‘Time’ which accounted for 15 of the 50 weeks and reached number 4. The song starts out with ‘Big Ben’ type chimes just so that you know what the song is about. It then bounces into the opening line of “Time! Time! Why Why!” which is accompanied by a warm, brassy trumpet. Despite being about lost love and time (which should heal the wounds) that is passing so slowly, the music is a joyous romp of pure well-crafted pop that you can dance to, or just tap your toe to.

Clocking in at just over two and a half minutes, ‘Time’ feels too short. You are just getting into it when it ends. Time flies when you’re having fun and fun is what you’ll have listening to this.

Where to find it:
Various Artists – The Best of SA Pop Volume 3 (1994) GSP, CDREDD 610

Video:

Beethoven Is Dying – Koos Kombuis

Beethoven Is Dying – Koos Kombuis

Wingerd Rock 1

Wingerd Rock 1

This is not one of Koos’ better know songs. It appeared on the first of the two Wingerd Rock compilations and is dedicated to the late James Phillips whom Koos toured extensively with during the Voelvry period. Now perhaps one can argue that James Phillips was nothing like Beethoven, but that would be missing the point. Koos is not saying that James was a classical composer, or that his music would be played 400 years after his death, but rather he is recognising and paying homage to the fact that James, in Koos’ (and those of a lot of South African music fan’s) eyes was a genius.

There is a similar feel to this song as there is to Koos’ ‘Who Killed Kurt Cobain’ in that there is an anger that people of such talent were taken from us too soon. Anton L’Amour’s guitar vasilates between harsh angry grunge and atmospheric blues while Doris Delay’s bass hammers away, underpinning the song. There is a sense that the song is all going to fall apart and crumble in a heap, but while the band take it to the edge Koos keeps it together with his Oom-next-door vocals and poignant words.

It is a wonderful song to climb into, get rattled around by it, have your senses pummelled and to come out the other side, a bit battered and bruised, but with that wonderful feeling that you have survived something. You are still alive. You look back and recall those that fell in the song – “Beethoven is dying/Beethoven is dead” – with sadness. You pack their memory into a safe place in your mind and then head out to find the next song. James would have approved of this.

Where to find it:
Wingerd Rock 1: Songs Uit Die Bos (1996), Trippy Grape, TRIP001

Hey Boy – Via Afrika

Hey Boy – Via Afrika

Hey

Hey Boy – Via Afrika

In the sleeve notes to the CD release of Via Afrika’s eponymous debut album, Rene Veldsman is quoted as saying, ‘Via Afrika was a living force that encapsulated sex, politics, magic and imagination – a freedom of expression that was us. We didn’t make Via Afrika happen. It happened to us.’

One could perhaps change the quote to say ‘Hey Boy was a living force that encapsulated sex, politics, magic and imagination – a freedom of expression’. And we, the South African public, could reply that we didn’t make ‘Hey Boy’ happen, it happened to us for it did seem to come out of nowhere and was something that you not only listened to, but it was something you experienced. The punky vibe and township influence in the music, cried out that this was something not in tune with the system that tried to keep things apart, and therefor was political. Combined this with Rene’s earthy and alluring vocals and you have something sexy, dangerously sexy. It was magical and highly innovative.

Via Afrika always struck me as a sibling of éVoid. They both wore those crazy ethno-hippy outfits (Fadgets as éVoid called them), and they both made a sort of punky off the wall music that drew heavily from the music of the townships. It was live, vibrant music that you were obliged to dance to. ‘Hey Boy’ was one of the classics from that era. With its persistent keyboard tinklings, bouncing bass, clipped drumming and of course Rene’s vocal performances, it wound itself round the hearts and minds of young South Africans. The song reached number 6 on the Radio 5 charts and 11 on Capital 604 charts and garnered some international interest. Listen to it and blow your wee-sill.

Where to find it:
Via Afrika – Via Afrika (2000), Retro Fresh, freshcd 107
Various Artists – The Best of SA Pop Volume 2 (1994) GMP, CDGMPD 40486 (CD)

Video:

Stoksielalleen – David Kramer

Stoksielalleen – David Kramer

Stoksielalleen - David Kramer

Stoksielalleen – David Kramer

After the runaway success on the Springbok Radio charts of ‘Hak Hom Blokkies’ and ‘Die Royal Hotel’ in 1981, David Kramer struggled to score another top 20 hit despite some strong contenders from his 1982 album ‘Delicious Monster’ (‘Budgie & The Jets’ for example and something like ‘Tommy Dippenaar’ from his 1983 offering ‘Hannepoortpad’). However, in 1984, he was back in the charts with ‘Stoksielallen’ which spent 3 weeks on the Springbok Top 20 and peaked at number 17.

The song relies on a boereorkes sound with accordion and that doem-doem langarm beat which probably accounted for its popularity. Lyrically, Kramer is back to having fun. The song is a long list of all the people he tried to ask out for a jol on a ‘Saterdag aand’ but they all had excuses in great rhyming couplets (“Ek vra vir Tillie, maar Tillie sê sy willie/Miskien wil haar sussie, maar haar sussie issie lussie” and “Eek nooi toe vir rheta, maar rheta sê vergeet maar/En wat nou van tant hessie maar dis buite die kwessie”)

This is the side of Kramer to sit back, tap your feet, chuckle at the rejections he gets and simply enjoy. If you ever find yourself stoksielallen op ‘n Saterdag aand, put this on and take comfort from the fact that you are not alone.

Where to find it:
Alles Vannie Beste – David Kramer (1997), Blik Musiek, BLIK04

Video:

69 Tea – Saron Gas/Seether

69 Tea – Saron Gas/Seether

Fragile - Saron Gas

Fragile – Saron Gas

Until they realised that Saron Gas was the poison used in the 1995 subway attack in Tokyo which killed thirteen people, Sean Morgan (was Welgemoed) and co went under that name. A move to the US brought about a name change to Seether and success followed.

‘69 Tea’ was recorded under both names and is a blistering piece of grunge that was one of the first major locally produced grunge tunes to hit our shores. It features roaring guitars, growling vocals and self loathing lyrics. It was no small wonder that they wound up on, erm, Wind-Up records in the US where they have had remarkable success with ‘Disclaimer’ (their first album) reaching 92 on the Billboard album charts and more recemntly their 2012 offering ‘Holding On To Strings Better Left To Fray’ fell just short of the top spot, peaking at number 2.

There is little to choose between the Saron Gas and the Seether versions of this song, the former sticking closer to the ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ grunge sound with a less in-your-face guitar, but both build to roaring rock. The Saron Gas one did reach number 15 on the SA Rockdigest Charts back in 2000.

Where to find it:
Fragile -Saron Gas (2000),Musketeer, CDMUS (LF) 300
Disclaimer – Seether (2002), Musketeer, CDMUS (CF) 303

Video:
Saron Gas:

Seether:

30 Million Lonely People – Ella Mental

30 Million Lonely People – Ella Mental

30 Million Lonely People - Ella Mental

30 Million Lonely People – Ella Mental

According to one website I found, in 1985 when this song by Ella Mental was released, the population of South Africa was 31,307,880. This meant that if Ella Mental were referring to South Africa, then only 1,307,880 people weren’t lonely. This is a very low percentage of the population. However, listening to the song, I don’t think we should be looking for statistical accuracy. Furthermore, the song has a more positive message than the title suggest as Heather Mac sings “There is an answer”.

Strangely this song did not feature as a bonus track on the Retrofresh release of ‘Uncomplicated Dreams’ the bands only South African release (they did make a second album in the States which seemed to get very little coverage back home). Beginning with some moody guitars, the song soon swings into gear and, as Heather’s distinctive vocals kick in, it is recognisable as classic Ella Mental. The strong chorus plays off against the slightly quieter verses and there is a great instrumental break to allow Tim Parr free reign to show off his guitar skills.

The song made it to number 11 on 702 Radio’s charts, but failed to get on to the Springbok Radio, Capital 604 and Radio 5 charts. Perhaps it was the slightly political undertones – the line “Why are people hungry” possibly a reference to the downtrodden in the country. But at a time when Bright Blue were incorporating ‘N’kosi Sik’ilele’ into a Radio 5 number 1 hit (‘Weeping’ if you really didn’t know) there was no excuse why this song didn’t climb at least onto that chart.

Where to find it:
Singles bins if you’re lucky

Roxy Lady – Neill Solomon & The Uptown Rhyhtm Dogs

Roxy Lady – Neill Solomon & The Uptown Rhyhtm Dogs

The Occupant - Neill Solomon & The Uptown Rhyhtm Dogs

The Occupant – Neill Solomon & The Uptown Rhyhtm Dogs

I tried to see what the definition of ‘roxy’ is and found a few that didn’t really make sense in the context of Neill Solomon’s song ‘Roxy Lady’. One suggested that it was a shortening of Roxicodone which, according to one website is an opoid analgesic. Not sure what that means but I can’t imagine any sane man referring to the woman of his dreams as an Opoid Analgestic Lady.

Another definition was that Roxy was a shortening of Roxanne, which could be a possibility here, but listening to the lyrics, this also doesn’t make sense. I then thought that perhaps Neill was talking about Bryan Ferry’s girlfriend (possibly Jerry Hall?) or someone he met at Roxy’s Rhythm Bar. And then I found it. The Urban Dictionary            defines ‘roxy’ as sexy and swanky at the same time. Now I can understand a male rocker singing about this subject matter.

Neill Solomon sings about his roxy lady over dramatic pianos, gently plucked and at times searing guitars. There is something a little creepy and menacing about the song. The music seems portentious; Solomon’s vocals border on seedy and the line “still I know she’s mine” suggests an almost stalker-like obsession with this ‘Roxy Lady’. However, you still get a sense of a genuine care for his subjet matter. Haunting, ominous and yet beautiful at the same time.

Where to find it:
The Occupant – Neill Solomon (1997) NSCD001

Video:

Urban Dictionary link:
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=roxy

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