1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

Just another music list

Super Girl – Springbok Nude Girls

Surpass The Powers - Springbok Nude Girls

Surpass The Powers -Springbok Nude Girls

By the time 2000’s ‘Surpass The Powers’ came out, South Africa was well acquainted with the Springbok Nude Girls and their particular brand of rock. ‘Super Girl’ which was taken from that album was another example of just how good they were as a band.

Listening to the opening edgy guitar and ominous drumming, I can’t help thinking that Arno Carstens and the boys had been sitting listening to their Asylum Kids & Tribe After Tribe albums as, before the vocals kick in, one could easily believe that you were listening ot a track from the aftermentioned bands.

However, Arno’s roaring, soaring vocals quickly dispel those thoughts as his disctinct voice grabs hold of the song at times throttling it at other times seducing the ‘Super Girl’ of which he sings with his angelic falsetto.

This is a pounding piece of music that is tight, highly strung, yet has a vulnerable side to it that makes it compelling listening. But then again, would we have expected anything less from the Super (Springbok Nude) Girl(s)?

Where to find it:
Surpass The Powers – Springbok Nude Girls (2000), Epic, CDEPC8105

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I’m Tempted To Stay – Karma

One Day Soon - Karma

One Day Soon – Karma

Inbetween Henry Ate’s first 2 albums, 1996’s ‘Slap In The Face’ and 2000’s ‘Torn And Tattered’, they sort of released another one. Going under the name of Karma, Karma-Ann Swanepoel and Julian Sun released ‘One Day Soon’ in 1998. ‘I’m Tempted To Stay’ was one of the songs that appeared on that album.

If you didn’t know that Karma was really Henry Ate, you would soon know once this song starts as Karma-Ann’s distinct voice climbs over the horizon of an edgily strummed guitar and starts walking towards you, building and being briefly joined by Julian Sun’s gentle voice before it launches into the wilder, almost angry voice that sometimes finds it way onto songs featuring Karma-Ann.

It is not a comfortable song to listen to. There is angst and an eeriness to the song, but it is a rewarding experience to see it through to the end. You feel like you have been on a journey with Karma, visiting some pretty dark parts of your mind, where you may be tempted to stay, but you end up coming out the other side wiser and feeling able to handle whatever the world throws at you.

Where to find it:
One Day Soon – Karma (1998) Primedia Record Company, CDPRC0014

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A Long Way Home – No Friends Of Harry

One Came Running - No Friends Of Harry

One Came Running – No Friends Of Harry

If, like me, you spent your teenage years listening to Barney Simon’s Powerhaus on a Saturday afternoon/evening, you were probably doing a double take when Barney introduced us to a local band called No Friends Of Harry and the song ‘Long way back Home’. It was not that were not used to Gothic music as Barney had already educated us in that, playing the likes of Sisters Of Mercy, Fields Of The Nephelim and such like.

But this? This was a local band. British Goth bands were acceptable, but wasn’t there too much sunlight in South Africa for Goths to exists here? Well exist they did and they were doing a darn good job of being Goths. No Friends of Harry were the stand out band for the genre in SA. There were some others that had potential like The Gathering, but NFOH were the ones with the staying power.

‘A Long Way Home’ has a menacing bassline that starts the song off and doesn’t relent until the last black drop of the songs has been squeezed through your speakers. It is kept company along the way by some rusty edged guitars. And no Goth song would be complete without some dark and brooding vocals which Rob McLennan supplies with aplomb.

No Friends Of Harry paved the way for the likes of Ashton Nyte and his band The Awakening, but they were the originals, the Gothfathers of the genre in South Africa and ‘A Long Way Back Home’ will always be amongst the songs one reaches for if you are looking to go over to the dark side in sunny South Africa.

Where to find it:
The Present Has Passed: The Best Of No Friends Of Harry (2003), Fresh Music FRESHCD129

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In Solitary Confinement – Vusi Mahlasela

When You Come Back – Vusi Mahlasela

When You Come Back – Vusi Mahlasela

For all it being called ‘In Solitary Confinement’, this is a surprisingly upbeat song which starts with some spritely guitar playing and uplifting penny whistle before Vusi’s beautiful vocals kick in. This juxtaposition of the serious nature of the lyrics and a happy tune is not uncommon in music with The Smiths’ ‘Girlfriend In A Coma’ being one that I always cite (and did so in the review of Henry Ate’s ‘Hey Mister’).

In ‘In Solitary Confinement’ Vusi was singing from personal experience having been incarcerated and put in solitary himself. If my memory serves me correctly from when I was lucky enough to see Vusi perfom live, this song was written on toilet paper while he was in prison. It is a joyous romp of a song with the pennywhistle flitting around Vusi’s tight guitar work while his voice does its magic with the lyrics, caressing the pain of the words with its beauty until the desired effect of those wanting to inflict the pain is beaten into submission.

South Africa must be one of the few places in the world where the protest songs could sound joyful and beautiful but at the same time have biting, critical words and ‘In Solitary Confinement’ is a shining example of this. So lock youself up in your room and let Vusi’s magic set you free.

Where to find it:
When You Come Back – Vusi Mahlasela (1998) Shifty/BMG,CDSHIFT50

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Killing The Light – Squeal

Squeal

Squeal

The name Squeal for this band does not describe their music or their singing as they certainly do not sound like children expressing delight or pigs expressing distress. Formed by Dave Birch and Brett Barnes, this band make some rough edged rock that is edgy and gritty.

Opening their ‘Long Pig’ album, ‘Killing The Light’ circulates uneasily in your mind with a looping, somewhat menacing, guitar which is quickly accompanied by some straight up rock beats and grungy guitar. Then Birch’s vocals, enticing at first, move up a notch and drag you kicking and screaming into the song. The whole time this looping guitar riff moves round and round in your brain, hypnotic yet somehow also driving you insane.

In his review of the ‘Long Pig’ album SA Rockdigest writer, Kurt Shoemaker, describes it as ‘sinewy, athletic rock stripped down to fighting weight, it’s as pure as rock gets’ which applies as much to ‘Killing the Light’ as to the rest of the album. You need to go a few rounds with the song, if you can last the distance.

Where to find it:
Long Pig – Squeal, One World Entertainment (1995), WOND133

Escape – Kongos

Escape - Kongos

Escape – Kongos

It is not often that we see offspring who follow in the footsteps of a famous musician parent doing as well as the parent, but in Kongos’ case, we see four sons of Johnny making a name for themselves internationally. Johnny (who later became John) had 2 number 4 hits in the UK and 1 number 70 hit in the US. His sons, who make up the band Kongos, haven’t yet captured the UK market in the same way, but did manage to get to 31 in the US with ‘Come With me Now’.

Listening to ‘Escape’, or any of the other songs on Kongos’ brilliant album ‘Lunatic’, you find that all those pounding drums that John put into ‘Tokoloshe Man’ and ‘He’s Gonna Step On You Again’ (his UK hits), have beaten a trail through the genes and landed up with the sons. ‘Escape’ takes a little while to remember to use the drums, starting slowly with plaintive vocals over a somewhat hauting keyboard and low-key guitar, then some bass comes in and eventually the drums come a-banging on your speakers.

Despite the international success of the band, this track has a particularly local appeal as the lyrics talk about things getting to pretty much an end of the world scenario leaving the singer wanting to ‘Escape’ to ‘that Good Hope town where the weather’s fair’, and we all know where that is. Anyone who has ever been to Cape Town would be able to relate to this being a haven to head for when things turn bad. There is a certain inner calm to the place and, despite the big drums on the song, it also seems to have a relaxing effect on one.

The visuals in the official video for the track (see below) is a perfect companion to the sound, following a young couple’s desperate flight, following some worldy disaster, to get to Cape Town and just as the music begins to fade out, we find them on top of Table Mountain looking out over the view. And that’s where you feel you are when the song fades – standing on top of the world.

Where to find it:
Lunatic – Kongos, Tokoloshe Records (2012)

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Free State Rain – Radio Rats

Radio Rats

Radio Rats

Most people will kown the Radio Rats as those ous who brought us the brilliant ‘ZX Dan’ and yes, they gave us that classic, but not many would realise that the band has been particularly prolific and still seem to be churning out new material years after that 1979 classic.

One of the songs they have recorded more recently (1995) was a little ditty called ‘Free State Rain’ which appeared on their album ‘Third Street’. Although ‘ZX Dan’ dealt with aliens and was somewhat akin to Bowie’s ‘Starman’, The Rats have always had a streak of the local in their song writing. Apart from ‘Free State Rain’ other song titles such as ‘East Rand Town Called Springs’, ‘Obz Café Blues’ and ‘Valkenburg Shuffle’ are examples of this.

‘Free State Rain’ is sometimes a term used to describe a dust storm and that seems to be what Johnathan Handley and the boys seem to be getting at on this laid back gem. This song is a relaxed affair. Dave Davies slightly creepy, yet somehow enchanting vocals are something like the Addams Family, weird and macarbe yet somehow you can’t help loving them. The music is desert music, you know the type that seems to encapture wide open spaces. ‘Free State Rain’ does this in a gently lilting manner that wraps itself around you and worms its way into your soul, warming you up. It engulfs you like a dust storm, but does not irritate, rather it soothes.

Where to find it:
Third Street – Radio Rats, Radium Wreckords (1995)

She’s A Woman – Neil Herbert

She’s A Woman - Neil Herbert

She’s A Woman – Neil Herbert

It would be worrying if this song was entitled ‘He’s A Woman’, as that would have meant that Boy George would have recorded it and we would not be able to lay claim to this love song, which gently swings back and forth, a bit like lying in a hammock, enjoying a beautiful sunset and sipping on a cocktail.

The song was written by Eddie Storbeck and would spent 22 weeks in the Springbok top 20, spending 31 January 1975 at number 1. Neil Herbert had been in the band The Attraction (remember ‘Scooby Dooby Dum Dum Day’) and he brings a sort of Elvis-y croon to the verses, then soaring into a smooth Engelbert Humperdinck-ness on the choruses. Sadly, Neil is no longer with us, but there seem to be 2 versions of how he died. The Chilvers/Jaisukowicz book, ‘History Of Contemporary Music Of South Africa’ says he died in a plane crash in 1979 while someone on the Youtube video of the song says he was a family friend and took his own life because he could not cope with his arthritis.

‘She’s My Woman’ should not be confused with Alan Garrity’s ‘She’s My Woman’ which appeared on the scene in the August of 1975. It is possible that Garrity (who penned his own hit) enjoyed Herbert’s song so much that he wanted to lay claim to this woman that Herbert sang of with so much passion. Whether this is the case or not, you should take Herbert’s woman to heart and enjoy the song.

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

Video:

Jannie Cocaine – Akkedis

Voortvlugtend - Akkedis

Voortvlugtend –
Akkedis

It’s trippy, it swirls and disorientates…that is until about 20 seconds in when the drums start a-pounding and the guitar start a-blaring and whichever of the Dennis brothers it is that takes lead vocals on this, start a-growling. But then instead of deteriorating into a barrage of noise, it reaches a plateau and sort of relaxes on an uneasy rock bed. From then on, the melodic verses fight with the tumbling chorus.

Akkedis first came to our attention as The Dennis Brothers on the Wingerd Rock CD’s which highlighted the burgeoning talent in Stellenbosch. Dropping the ‘brothers’ thing, they morphed into Akkedis and brought us first ‘Husse Met Lang Ore’ and the brilliant follow up ‘Voortvlugtend’ on which ‘Jannie Cocaine’ closes proceedings and leaves you feeling slightly ill at ease. Like Neil Young’s ‘The Needle And The Damage Done’ where the focus is on the effect of drugs on a friend rather than being an out and aout anti drug song per se.

The guitars, at times abrasive, are somewhat at odds with the vocals that, apart from singing the song title, seem laidback and a bit spaced. But don’t be deceived, there is a menace underlying the voice, a disturbing edge that is in itself almost addictive. The song comes full circle where, after the rock/melody of chorus/verse, it retuns to the intro sounds where it disorientastes, it swirls and it’s trippy.

Where to find it:
Voortvlugtend – Akkedis (2001), SSS Records, SSS001

Video:

The End – Dickie Loader & Freedom’s Children

Dickie Loader - A Breath Of Fresh Air

Dickie Loader – A Breath Of Fresh Air

People sometimes use the word ‘searing’ to describe a guitar lick. The definition of searing is ‘extremely hot or intense’ which I guess is quite an apt way to try and explain the guitar sound that seems to tear through your speakers as soon as ‘The End’ starts. It is an extrememly intense moment that kick starts this collaboration between Dickie Loader and Freedom’s Children.

Loader had been around on the local scene for a while as Dickie Loader & The Blue Jeans, but one day he dropped his Blue Jeans and, avoiding any public indecency charges, forged a solo career. However, with this offering from 1970, he teamed up with those Astral rockers, Freedom’s Children, for a couple of tracks on his album ‘A Breath Of Fresh Air’. The result if the familiar dense wall of rock that the Chidren were capable of producing, over which Loader seems to manange to mix Robert Plant’s voice with that of Elvis to get a rock ‘n roll ‘n metal effect. The result is 2 and a half minutes of, well, there isn’t really any other words for it, but ‘searing rock’.

Most of Loader’s material has been confined to vinyl history, however, this is one of the few gems from him that have managed to make it into the digital era thanks to Benjy Mudie at Retrofresh records who dug this one out of the vault to include in the second in the series of Astral Daze albums, a series which captures the best of an era when guitars were fuzzy and loud and vocals were overdosing on testosterone. The inclusion of ‘The End’ on ‘Astral Daze 2’ is testament to the song being one of the standout tracks of its era.

Where to find it
Astral Daze 2 – Various Artists, RetroFresh, (2009), FRESHCD162

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