Russian And Chips – Wilderbeest
Very few people who are not South African would understand one going into a take-away joint and ordering a Russian and chips. Most people check you out skeef if you happen to mention Russian and chips in conversation. They wonder why you would wish to eat a person from a large east European country along with sliced and fried potatoes. You would confuse them even more if you asked for slap chips.
However, most South Africans will know that a Russian and chips is a chorizo like sausage with chips and that most take-away joints in the country offer this delicacy. But why would anybody sing about this. Is it some form of alternative to ‘popcorn, chewing gum etc’? Perhaps it is a pean to ‘Russian, chips and toasted bacon and banana’ (the latter being another particularly South African thing). But no. When you put it on and listen to it, you may find the lyrics somewhat familiar as the first line goes ‘The Kid He Came from Nazareth’. And yes, it is a cover of the Freedom’s Children classic, ‘The Kid He Came From Hazareth’ and maybe the reason Freedom’s chose to use ‘Hazareth’ instead of ‘Nazareth’ also prompted Wildebeest to change the song’s title as the kid from Nazareth would have been a reference to Jesus and you could not have that in a rock song back then.
Not only did the ‘Beests change the title but they also gave the song a completely different sound. Where Freedom’s Children had a dense brooding rock sound of doom to their version, Wildebeest turn it into a kind of Irish jig that had been listening to too much folk rock as there is a persistent drum throughout that sounds akin to the Irish bodhran. This is accompanied by a violin (courtesy of Dave Tarr) which sound like it has been through an electric shredder and Karlien van Niekerk’s pure vocals which have that Irish lass quality.
Despite all this Irish-ness I have spoken about, one can hear the kind of Cossack-y sound coming through that perhaps gave the song its new title. This was a great cover of a great original. It is the old classic with a new recipe.
Where to find it:
Bushrock 1 – Wildebeest (1981 – reissued in 2010), Fresh Music, freshcd171