Don’t Dance – Kalahari Surfers
Contrary to the beliefs of the authorities of the day, the Kalahari Surfers were not people running around using a certain brand of washing powder to try and turn everyone in the Kalahari whiter than white. However, those dudes (for of course all surfers must be called dudes) were about as far away from the Kalahari Surfers I have just described as the Kalahari is from Parliament in Cape Town, in fact even further than that.
The first clue to realising this if ‘Don’t Dance’ was your first exposure to the Surfers (as it was mine), is that it was included on the End Conscription Campaign compilation album ‘Forces Favourites’. The song has a persistent synthesizer bass line that reminds me of an instrumental remix of The Human League’s ‘Hard Times’, but unlike the clinical sound the League create, there is a slight fuzz to the Surfers’ sound which gives it a certain rawness and grittiness, as if it is coated in a layer of Kalahari dust. It it is aural equivalent of a soldier coming back to base after a week or two in the bush.
And from the word go you are told not to dance. But this is not telling you not to foxtrot, pogo, tango, floss, boogie or even to do the Mashed Potato, it is quickly made clear that the song is a call to people not to dance to the tune of the government’s conscription policy. The rapped lyrics basically were saying, ‘open your eyes man, this situation is not right’ and towards the end of the song you get the sounds of an army drill just to remind you what you should not be dancing to. The persistent bass line becomes almost oppressive as the song continues, asking if you really want to dance to this monotonous message that you keep getting. It’s not easy listening, even now that conscription and apartheid are a thing of the past, but give it a listen. Just don’t dance to it. But you can Surf.
Where to find it:
Forces Favourites – Various Artists (1986), Shifty Records (SHIFT10)