1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

Just another music list

No Easy Walk To Freedom – Tighthead Fourie & The Loose Forwards/Roger Lucey

No Easy Walk To Freedom – Tighthead Fourie & The Loose Forwards/Roger Lucey

No Easy Walk To Freedom

No Easy Walk To Freedom

Roger Lucey must have caused huge consternation at the censor’s offices when he decided to call his band Tighthead Fourie & The Loose Forwards. How could those keepers of our morals possible ban anything rugby related? It must have been with shaky hand and sweaty palm that they (surely) signed off the banning order for this record.

I have not seen confirmation that it was banned, but as it was written in 1986 by Roger Lucey and echoed the words of Nelson Mandela before he was incarcerated and the mere fact that it was Roger Lucey and it refers to Mandela, it must have been banned.

There are two recorded versions of the song that I know of, Tighthead Fourie’s on the Shifty Records compilation ‘Shotdown’ and Roger’s solo version on his ‘21 Years Down The Road’ and both are worth listening to. The former has a country feel to it, both in the dom-dom 1-2 time of the bass as well as in the western twang to the vocals. The latter has a more laid-back acoustic rock sound to it with a Lekgodilo flute giving it a rootsy African flavour.

Despite the anger of the lyics, neither version sounds particularly angry. In fact if you are able to turn off the lyrics in your mind, you might find the songs pleasant listening, but, and this is a big but, if you do manage to ignore the lyrics, you’ve missed the whole point.

Where to find it: Tighthead Fourie version: Shot Down (Resistance Music from Apartheid South Africa) – Various Artists (2006),Shifty Records Roger Lucey Version: 21 Years Down The Road – Roger Lucey (2000), 3rd Ear Music

Video:

Timothy – Carike Keuzenkamp

Timothy – Carike Keuzenkamp

Timothy - Carike Keuzenkamp

Timothy – Carike Keuzenkamp

Carike was one of the darlings of the Afrikaans music scene. She was born in Den Haag in The Netherlands, but moved to South Africa where she made a name for herself as a singer. Her full name is Elizabeth Maria Magdalena van Zyl, so if you thought spelling out the long surname Keuzenkamp was a pain, just be glad she chose a different stage name to her full real one.

In 1967 she starred in the film ‘Die Professor En Die Prikkelpop’ in which she sang a version of Four Jacks & A Jill’s hit ‘Timothy’. The film extract on Youtube that shows her singing the song would have been regarded as quite raunchy back then as it shows Carike and some scantily clad girls sitting around in a room while Carike performs an acoustic version of the song. And they moan about the outfits the girls wear in pop videos these days!

The film version of the song is a simple guitar and voice recording whereas the version that appears on The Best Of SA Pop series is fleshed out with piano and a little bass, but it is still a simple arrangement which relies heavily on Carike’s pure vocals. This compared to the Four Jacks And A Jill version which has drums and some brassy bits and presents a much fuller sound.

There probably were and probably will be lots of arguments about which version is better. The public back in 1967 thought both were groovy (because groovy was a word in use back then) and sent both Carike and Four Jacks & A Jill to the top of the charts with their respective versions. Whichever one you decide on, it is worth listening to this one for its more innocent and sparser approach.

Where to find it:
Various Artists – The Best of SA Pop Volume 1 (1994) GMP, CDGMPD 40485 (CD)

Video:

On The Border – David Kramer

On The Border – David Kramer

David Kramer

David Kramer

 

David Kramer’s hits tend to be carefree, often funny songs like ‘Meisie Sonner Sokkies’ or ‘Stoksielalleen’. Sometimes there is an element of pathos thrown in to mix, like the bankrupt farm owner in ‘Die Royal Hotel’ or the slight sadness that pervades ‘Hak Hom Blokkies’ where all the guy has left is his memories.

But when you look at some of Kramer’s songs that weren’t hits (mostly because they would never get played on the radio), you get some very serious and deep stuff like ‘Out Of The Blue’ and ‘Prisoner Of War’. ‘On The Border’ is one that would hit a nerve with nearly every white South African male who did their time in the army. The only version I am aware of is the live one that appears on ‘Jis Jis Jis’ which was a recording of a concert he did at the Baxter Theatre in1983.

The song is just Kramer telling (rather than singing) his story over a gently plucked guitar and it’s a bit like he is just sitting chatting to a friend. He starts out getting a quiet chuckle from the audience as he describes his mate that he met in the butchery while buying “boerewors and chops”. He gets another laugh when he tells about Johnny Lategan, his army buddy who stole an army Bedford truck and went joyriding, wrapping it round a tikkie box. But then things get serious as he goes on to relate how the time Johnny spent in DB affected him and ultimately led to his suicide, taking those on patrol with him. The song gets even more of an edge to it when Kramer appears to get a real lump in his throat while performing. Perhaps Kramer was relating a story that really happened with one of his own friends, or he was just being a brilliant performer. Either way, one cannot but be moved by his telling of it.

The audience are almost hesitant before their applause at the end of the song almost as if they are in a state of shock from what has just happened to Johnny. When the clapping does start, it is reverential, as if paying respects to all the Johnny Lategans of the border war. It is still hard to believe that Kramer could have performed this song and got away with it back in 1983. But he did, and we are left with a something that even today, is still as powerful as it would have been way back then.

Where to find it:
Jis Jis Jis – David Kramer (1983), Blik Musiek (BLIK14)

Lyrics:
I just bumped into Peter this morning
You know, Uncle Louis son
And he greeted me cowboy style
Ja, with his hand cocked like a gun
You know he was in the butchery
We were buying boerewors and chops
And he was wearing a T-shirt
And a pair of short pants
And those blue rubber flip-flops
And his brother was with him
In his blue jeans
And a gaudy tropical print
I think he was trying to his out in civvie street
Ja, after doing his army stint
He told me that he’d just spent
Six months on the border
But to him it felt more like six years
And that they passed the time with jokes and with poker
And counted the days but not the beers
Well I had a friend called Johnny
And his surname was Lategan
And Johnny and I were in the Army together
Ja in the good old days man
Back in 1971
But you know Johnny
He was a funny kinda guy
He was either very quiet
Or shooting off his mouth
And then one week end
He AWOLed with a Bedford
Ja and he hit the N1 heading south
But old Johnny
He wrapped that truck around a tikkie box
And he ended up in DB for about ten weeks
And I tell they cooled him down to zero there
Because when Johnny came out
He wouldn’t speak
So you know maybe that’s where it happened
Perhaps he just was that way
Well they could have pushed him a little too far
But I mean who am I to say
But it was on the border that it happened
And nobody knows quite where
But I heard about old Johnny Lategan
Ja from a buddy of mine who was there
And you know it was hard
It was hard to believe his story
And it certainly wasn’t the official line
And anyway that kind of thing is just difficult to swallow man
Because Johnny was such a good friend of mine
But he told me that Johnny took his own life
And he left a little note that said ‘Cheers’
And the five other troepies on patrol with him
Well he put a bullet between their ears
So when I bumped into Peter this morning
Ja you know he reminded me of Johnny Lategan
Cause Johnny always used to greet you
Ja with his hand cocked like a gun

(written by David Kramer)

White Lines – Wonderboom

White Lines – Wonderboom

Wonderboom

Wonderboom

Despite Wonderboom’s penchant for cover versions (they have produced 2 albums of just covers), this is not a re-hash of the Grandmaster Flash classic. Besides which, the ‘Booms tended to keep their coverings to local songs in the main. The second thing to know about ‘White Lines’ is that, unlike the Grandmaster Flash song, this one is not about drugs. Rather, it is the funkiest rock song the planet has ever heard about being pulled over by the fuzz. (Some may argue that ‘Fokofpolsiekar’ should get that title, but the latter is just not funky).

Just listen to the start of the song and you’ll see what I mean about it being funky. Before Cito begins to enlightens us about how he was stopped at a roadblock and how the police were “chatting up my girlie”, Martin Schofield is already strutting out a riff so funk laden that it would have even the most hardened speedcop nodding his head in time to. The song then explodes into the chorus about walking the white line. This is Wonderboom at their best. Tuneful, witty and rocking (althought there is some questionable rhyming in the one (white) line “in the slammer/hammer/sorry ek is jammer”).

This is one white line that is not to be sniffed at.

Where to find it:
Tell Someone Who Cares – Wonderboom (2003), Gresham Records, CDDGR1561

Monkey Shine – John E Sharpe & The Squires

Monkey Shine – John E Sharpe & The Squires

John E Sharpe & The Squires

John E Sharpe & The Squires

John E Squire was a busy man in the 60s. He played in The Hustlers, The Deans, John E Sharpe & The Squires, Impulse, Board Of Directors, Crystal Drive and Music Corporation as well as working with Mel And Mel, Gene Rockwell, Quentin E Klopjaeger and The Gonks. He also ran the Downstairs Club in Johannesburg and set up MSC Studio.

As John E Sharpe & The Squires they produced one album – ‘Maybelline’ which opened with the cracking ‘Monkey Shine’. The song was also released as a single and is two and a half minutes of rushing, banging, howling, barraging beat sounds that would have the music speed cops after them in a second if such a law enforcement establishment existed. It is psychedelic on speed and has attracted enough international interest to be included on the compilation ‘Let’s Dig ‘Em Up!!!’ series.  If you can lay your hands on it, stick it on your turntable and go ape!.

Where to find it:
As far as I can tell it’s not available on any CD, but can be found on these vinyl LPs:
Maybelline – John E Sharpe & The Squires (1966) CBS, ALD 6962
Let’s Dig ‘Em Up!!! 18 Killing Garage Lashes From The Pulverizing 60′s – Various Artists (1998) No Tyme
Savage Sounds From South Africa (2003) Springbok Beat,

Video:

Man In A Bowler Hat – John & Philipa Cooper

Man In A Bowler Hat – John & Philipa Cooper

The Cooperville Times - John & Phillipa Cooper

The Cooperville Times – John & Phillipa Cooper

Until the recent re-release by the RetroFresh label, John & Philipa Cooper’s ‘The Cooperville Times’ was a much sought after, and much not found album. Nowadays we can listen to the music, but information on the group is about as rare as the album was. Apart from their 1 album discography, the Chilvers/Jasiukowicz ‘History Of Contemporary Music Of South Africa’ has this to say of them – ‘Folk duo’. That’s it. They were a folk duo folks.What we do know from other sources is that John & Philipa were brother & sister, Julian Laxton played on the album which, as noted in the Chilvers/Jasiukowicz discography, was produced by John Edmond.

All that leaves then is the music. ‘Man In A Bowler Hat’ tips it’s, erm, hat to the artist Rene Magritte (remember him from Niki Daley’s ‘Is It An Ism’?) and his picture of a man in a bowler hat (you know the one). It’s a folky tune that weaves a grating fiddle and searing, if somewhat muted guitar, over a solid drum beat and a thick layer of tambourine. John takes most of the vocal responsibility on this track, but is joined by Philipa for the chorus. Neither have brilliant voices, but it sort of fitted in with the ideology of the hippy folk of the times where the lyrics were more important.

Lyrically, ‘Man In A Bowler Hat’ seems to try capture the emotions while wondering round an exhibit by Magritte.  The opening line ‘My mind is spinning around, is this all real?’ and
‘You show me magical things that I’ve never seen. It seems when I’m walking around I’m in a dream’, suggest someone lost in the surrealism of the artist’s work. But these lines could equally be applied to listening to this song. Somewhat surreal, certainly magical and rather dreamy, it will have your mind spinning around.

Where to find it:
The Cooperville Times – John & Philipa Cooper (2009), RetroFresh, FRESHCD 168
Astral Daze 2 – Various Artists, RetroFresh, (2009), FRESHCD162

Video:

Wikipedia on Rene Magritte

Download from Channel 24

Oh My Love – Karen Zoid

Oh My Love – Karen Zoid

Karen Zoid - Chasing The Sun

Karen Zoid – Chasing The Sun

‘Oh My Love/Give All Your Love To Me’ sung in a semi-sneer is what your ears are assaulted with as soon as you put Karen Zoid’s second album ‘Chasing The Sun’ on. It’s as if she wanted you to realise from the outset that she was not just a one hit wonder with ‘Poles Apart’. The message is very clear – I rocked, I rock and I will rock.

And what more would you expect from the First Lady of Rockchickness? Despite the real heavier grungy-growl sound of the song only hitting at about a minute in to the song, the attitude is there from the start. You can hear it in Karen’s voice and the guitars seem almost as if they are trembling with the anticipation of her breaking loose.

But it doesn’t then descend into a barrage of sound noisefest, it maintains an excellent melody. Karen seems to suck you into the belly of the song and before you know it, you have been swallowed wholeheartedly into it, only to suddenly be spat out at 3 minutes 42 seconds. You will be a bit disorientated for a second, but then will find the repeat button and you’re off on the journey again.

Where to find it:
Chasing The Sun – Karen Zoid, Just Music, (2003), CDJUST171

Cape Axe – Jorge Carlos

Cape Axe – Jorge Carlos

Cape Axe - Jorge Carlos

Cape Axe – Jorge Carlos

The “axe” part of the title of this song suggests some sort of thrash metal extravaganza, and yes, there is an element of this in ‘Cape Axe’, an instrumental piece by Argentinian-born musician Jorge Carlos. But it’s the ‘Cape’ in the title that tells you this is not going to be a full on aural assault. Once you get south of the Karoo, you seem to find a different attitude to life, a more relaxed air.

The juxtaposition of ‘Cape’ with ‘Axe’ is what makes this piece so interesting. Clocking in at over nine minutes, the song ebbs and flows between pounding waves of roaring guitar and Jean Michel-Jarre-y trippy synth interludes. It is an opus magnum of rock/dance/chill that, draws you in from the first noodling keyboard and acoustic guitars to the pounding drums and air-guitar inducing licks. Lose yourself in this, it may just be the most enjoyable 9 minutes you spend today.

(P.S. If you are not a Floyd purist, try playing ‘Cape Axe’ at the same time as Pink Floyd’s ‘Careful With That Axe Eugene’ for some extra trippy effects. The version from the Live in Pompeii concert is particularly good.)

Where to find it:
Trip Of Africa – Jorge Carlos (1998), NebulaBOS, NEB 0115

Child (Inside) – Qkumba Zoo

The Child (Inside) – Qkumba Zoo

The Child (Inside) - Qkumba Zoo

The Child (Inside) – Qkumba Zoo

Qkumba Zoo have been variously named Qkumba Zoo, Qcumba Zoo and QZoo, but no matter how you know the band name, they will probably be best known for their hit ‘Child (Inside)’ which, apart from local success, went on to peak at 69 on the US Hot 100 and topped Billboard’s Dance Music/Club Play chart. Levannah (described as being omnisexual) and Owl made up the band with dancer Tziki.

As the song was a success on the Dance charts this suggests it is a dance tune. And it is one that mixes African drumming, bushmen talking, hi-energy beats, pan flutes, whooping American Indian style chants and girly vocals in a large production pot to brew up a worldmusic tinged whirlwind that would have rocked most dancefloors in the second half of the 90s. The hi-energy beats do make it sound a little dated these days, but don’t let that deter you.

The bands image, with their slightly afro-hippy appearance and partially shaved heads sort makes one think they are the love child (inside) of éVoid and Sinead O’Connor and Levannah’s pure, clear vocals do somewhat echo Sinead, while they have inherited the dance sensibilities of éVoid and updated it for their generation.

International success for South African bands has not been easily obtained, so this is an important song in that it was one of the first post-apartheid songs to impact the world at large.

Where to find it:
Wake Up And Dream – Qkumba Zoo (1996), David Gresham Records, CDDGR1350

Video:

Paradise Road – Joy

Paradise Road – Joy

Paradise Road - Joy

Paradise Road – Joy

‘Paradise Road’ is without a doubt a South African classic. The song had a 9 week run at the top of the SA Top 20 in 1980. Charisma’s ‘Mammy Blue’ (which spent 12 weeks at the top) was the only local act to do better. Richard Jon Smith’s ‘Michael Row The Boat Ashore’ also managed 9 weeks, however of these 3 songs, ‘Paradise Road’ was the one that was not a cover version of an international song. It also seems to have been the one that has stuck in the local psyche, perhaps helped by its inclusion in the musical ‘Umoja’ which had international success.

Apart from the lush orchestration and powerful, goosebump inducing vocal performance of Felicia Marian, Thoko Ndlozi and Anneline Malebo, there are the subtle political undertones in the lyrics. Talk of “fire smoking”, the “sky is blazing” and “a young man nearly beaten” hint at the troubled townships of the apartheid era. But what set this apart from other songs of this ilk was the message of hope in the song. “There are better days before us and a burning bridge behind us”, points to the transition that finally came almost 14 years after the song was topping our charts and made it an almost perfect anthem for the fall of apartheid. Watch the video for the cover version by Ladysmith Black Mambazo with Timothy Moloi mentioned below and you’ll see what I mean.

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

Video:
Joy:


Ladysmith Black Mambazo with Timothy Moloi:


Umoja:

Lyrics:
Come with me down paradise road
This way please, I’ll carry your load
This you won’t believe.
Come with me to paradise skies
Look outside and open your eyes
This you must believe.

There are better days before us
And a burning bridge behind, fire smokin’ the sky is blazing,
There’s a woman waiting weeping
And a young man nearly beaten all for love.
Paradise was almost closin’ down.

Come with me to paradise days
It’ll change your life, it’ll sure change your ways
This you won’t believe.
Take my hand down paradise lane
Away from heart ache with out any pain
I know ’cause I have been.

There are better days before us
And a burning bridge behind, fire smokin’, the sky is blazing,
There’s a woman waiting weeping
And a young man nearly beaten all for love.
Paradise was almost closin’ down.

There are better days before us
And a burning bridge behind, fire smokin’, the sky is blazing,
There’s a woman waiting weeping
And a young man nearly beaten all for love

You must believe – you must believe this
You must believe – you must believe this
You must believe – you must believe this…
There are better days…

(Written by Patric van Blerk & Fransua Roos)

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