Geraamtes In Jou Kas – Brixton Moord En Roof Orkes
After 1994, the darkness of apartheid was lifted from the land and we moved into a sunny new South Africa with rainbows and rugby world cups and everything was lovely. But few who didn’t live through the dark days and the struggle through to a democratic country, will understand the shadows that followed many on that journey, shadows that continued (and still continue) to dull the brightness of the New South Africa.
One of those shadows was the memories many white South Africa men carried with them about time spent doing compulsory National Service in the townships in the eighties. This was a time of great upheaval and one can only imagine what the township residents and those tasked with trying to suppress them went through. Die Brixton Moord En Roof Orkes (named after a notorious police division based in Brixton, a suburb of Johannesburg) bring some of these memories to life with startling clarity in ‘Geraamtes In Jou Kas’ a dark and brooding song about dark times and dark memories.
Translated as ‘Skeletons In Your Closet’, the gravelly voice of Andries (Roof) Bezuidenhout talks about how these skeletons start squabbling when memories of the townships return to haunt those who had to do National Service there. “Jy onthou die vure/ en die wiele van ‘n Casspir/ en die reuk van brandende rubber/ deur die neus van jou gasmasker” (You remember the fires/and the wheels of a Casspir/and the smell of burning rubber/through the nose of your gas mask). Burning rubber here is not about tyres on a road, it was tyres filled with petrol, placed around a person’s neck and set alight (known as necklacing). How can this sort of thing not scar a person and how can the skeletons rest in peace after witnessing such things.
There is an ominous sound to this song. It is one that is born of disturbing memories and frightening things that one would like to leave in the past, but which keep coming back to haunt one. There is an acknowledgement at the end of the song that these memories will never go away and they offer skant answers about how to cope with them, but there is a sliver of hope in the line, ‘Swaai aan jou droome sodat you skoene nooit nat word word van die mode op die grond’ (swing on your dreams so that your shoes don’t get wet from the mud on the ground). Perhaps this is saying that you need to focus on other things sometimes to get away from these memories. Aspire to something better. But it is cold comfort against the setting of the rest of the song.
While not a happy or uplifting song, nor one you can dance to and, for some, a song that will bring back unwanted thoughts, this song is an important documenting of the scars that apartheid brought, scars that may never heal. There are many other songs on this list that are uplifting and life affirming but one has to acknowledge that we all have things in our life we would want to forget. So, listen to this occasionally, acknowledging that it is part of our history, but then go and listen to something uplifting and carefree so that you can swaai aan jou drome and let those geraamtes and nagmerries krivel on their own.
Where to find it:
Spergebied – Brixton Moord En Roof Orkes (2002), Rhyhthm Records, RR21