Settler – Syd Kitchen
Take a folky guitar and add a rural South African flute, a relaxed drum beat and gentle voice and you get ‘Settler’ a stunningly beautiful track on Syd’s excellent ‘Africa’s Not For Sissies’ album. The song is a contemplative one that finds the Durbanite thinking about his place in the country and his roots.
‘My forefather came from across the sea/he came in a wooden boat with sail/ he had in his heart a need to be free’ is the opening line and he goes on to sing ‘And all my life I’ve been lost in his history/ all my life I’ve felt so alone.’ His speaks of his struggle to find his identity in a land that is at odds with his heritage. Then he considers the incongruity of this feeling of being a foreigner and yet also feeling at ease with his surroundings as he goes on to sing ‘You are my brother/ this is my home’. This strange sense of belonging and yet being an intruder has created an identity crisis in many a white South African. They love and are proud of their Africaness and yet remain aliens.
Syd then alludes to apartheid but looks to move on from it with the line ‘I offer love/ I ask redemption’. On the title track of ‘Africa’s Not For Sissies’ he pointed out that he would remain in the country despite many leaving, and with ‘Settler’ he explores this further as he sings of a great love for the land and its people and his great hope, ‘There’s a future up ahead’.
This is a beautiful piece. One could almost imagine a video for the track showing a contemplative Syd, his wizen hippy face staring out over various South African landscapes – the glorious mountains of the Drakensburg, the brown veldt of Mpumalanga, the vast spaciousness of the Karoo, the distinct skyline of Johannesburg, the mielie fields of the Free State or the beaches along the coast. It is prayer-like, looking for forgiveness and full of praise for the beauty of the land and its people – all of them.
Compared to the almost cheeky macho-ness of ‘Africa’s Not For Sissies’, this song turns everything on its head and seems to say that Africa is for the gentle and the beautiful. It is a place one can call home.
Where to find it:
Africa’s Not For Sissies – Syd Kitchen (2001), No Budget Records, NOBUD001