1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the category “Koos Kombuis”

Swart September -Koos Kombuis

Niemandsland - Koos Kombuis

Niemandsland – Koos Kombuis

In South Africa September is usually a pretty good month weatherwise. Things are beginning to cheer up again after the winter. It may still be a little too cold to jump in the pool on the 1st of the month, but certainly by the time October comes you welcome the cool water. So why does Koos sing of a black Sepember?

Well its about a particular Sepember, September 1984, a time a huge upheaval in the country with bombs going off and riots in the Vaal Triangle during which some people believed to be police spies are burnt alive. It is also the month when the position of Prime Minister was abolished and P.W. Botha was inaugurated as the first State President. So, yes, it was a black time in the nation’s history.

And when Koos was singing about it on his 1989 album, Niemandsland’, things hadn’t got much better. It was this sot of awareness of what was happening in the country and the way that he could translate it into biting lyrics and dramatic songs that really put Koos on the map. ‘Swart September is a dramatic piano driven piece that underpins the lyrics that talk of the troubles in the townships, pass laws, necklacing, and police actions. It gets to the heart of what was happening then – ‘Groot masjiene oor die land, September ’84 wat oorkook in ‘n noodtoestand ‘n lente bleek en dor’.

Yes we’ve moved on since then and ‘Swart September’ is still difficult listening, but it is part of our history, it is part of what made South Africa and still stands as great document of what we went through.

Where to find it:
Niemandsland – Koos Kombuis (1990), Shifty Records
Shot Down (Resistance Music from Apartheid South Africa) – Various Artists (2006),Shifty Records

Video:

Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie – Koos Kombuis

Elke Boemelaar Se Droom - Koos Kombuis

Elke Boemelaar Se Droom – Koos Kombuis

I know I’ve already featured this song on this list, but that first entry was the superb cover by Frank Opperman. This time round we’re looking at the Koos Kombuis original. Except which version of the original to listen to. There’s the original original on the 1994 ‘Elke Boemelaar Se Drooom’, there’s a live version on the 2000 live album ‘Blou Kombuis’ and there is a re-working of it on 2008’s ‘Bloedrivier.

Well, I guess, the starting point has to be the original original. This is actually a pretty ordinary version which is sort of soft rock with some pleasant guitar licks. The live version is a bit grittier, mainly because of the rawness of Koos’ vocals. The ‘Bloedrivier’ version is somewhat different as there is a subdued intro which hinted at Koos retiring from the music scene with its lines ‘Jy’t gesê jy wil ‘n break vat’ (‘You said you wanted to take a break’) and ‘dit is tyd vir sabbatical’ (‘it’s time for a sabbatical’). But in the end he didn’t. However, this almost whispered first section of the song, doesn’t last too long before a harder edged rock version assails your speaker. The song is still the same old Johnny, but on this outing he rocks a lot more.

But like artists such as Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, its not so much the delivery that’s important, it’s the words that are where we should be focusing. This story of Johnny, presumably a drug addict of sorts, struck a chord with a lot of people as most know someone with a drug problem. Like the Johnny who called the Chemist a decade before him, this Johnny will also remain an important figure in the history of South African rock music.

Where to find it:
Elke Boemelaar se Droom – Koos Kombuis (1994) GMP, CDGMP40452
Blou Kombuis (Live) – Koos Kombuis (2000), Trapsuutjies Uitgewers, KK01
Bloedrivier – Koos Kombuis (2008)

Video:

Atlantis In Jou Lyf – Koos Kombuis

Mona Lisa: Die Mooiste Love Songs - Koos Kombuis

Mona Lisa: Die Mooiste Love Songs – Koos Kombuis

Hand ups who remembers the TV show ‘Dallas’. Quite a lot of you I imagine. Now hands up who remembers that other TV show shown in South Africa sometime in the 80s that starred Patrick Duffy who played Bobby in ‘Dallas’. Not so many I guess. Well that show was the short lived series called ‘The Man From Atlantis’ (or possible ‘Die Man Van Atlantis’ – although I cmn’t remember if it was dubbed into Afrikaans).

Perhaps it was this show, which had Duffy swimming underwater for vast periods of time, that inspired The Bard of Gordon’s Bay to pick up his guitar and write the song ‘Atlantis In Jou Lyf’. Then again, given the strange, dolphin-like way Duffy would swim in the show, I have my doubts, especially as Koos’ song is a gentle affair with Koos singing in quiet, almost whispered tones over a simple guitar with a soothing sax interlude brought to you by the wonderfully named Koos Slaptjip.

This is a love song that, like The Man From Atlantis, floats around gently in a deep blue sea through beautiful underwater scenes, almost as if Koos himself is swimming along behind the woman he is singing about, a woman who has ‘die Sahara in jou oë/en Atlantis in jou lyf.’ This must be one impressive woman.

Koos Kombuis has the ability to write seriously funny satirical songs, blistering rock songs and then he can churn out a song as beautiful, both musically and lyrically as ‘Atlantis In Jou Lyf’. Slip into the ocean with him and immerse yourself in this little pearl of a song.

Where to find it:
Mona Lisa – Die Mooiste Love Songs, (1999) Wildebeest Records, WILD014

Lisa Se Klavier – The Parlotones

Unplugged - Parlotones

Unplugged – Parlotones

Comparing The Parlotones version of ‘Lisa Se Klavier’ to Koos Kombuis’ is a bit like comparing the piano playing of Richard Clayderman to that of Jerry Lee Lewis. Now, I can already see you have one foot in the stirrup of you high horse and are getting ready to blast off a riposte that Koos Kombuis is nothing like Richard Clayderman, so let me explain. I am not saying that Koos did a boring, bland version, I am just trying to highlight the difference between Koos’ quiet, gentle and highly moving version and the ‘Tones racing, bouncing one.

There will also be those who say that The Parlotones have destroyed the song by speeding it up and making it rock and you are welcome to be like that if you want. However, if you want to live a little and break out of the mould and see things from a different angle, then follow me down this review. The rest of you go back to your bland old covers of this song and marvel at how much like the original they sound.

If you’re still with me then let’s us take a tumbling, foot-tapping Afrikaans-sung-with-an-English-accent roll through the song. Replete with ‘da-da-da-da-da-da’s’ and (heaven help us!) drums and (gulp!) rock guitars. The ‘Tones throw in a bit of klavier and some organ for good measure (although renaming it ‘Lisa se Organ’ would not be a good idea). They have taken a great tune, given it a great injection of rock, scared off the sissy’s who can’t bear to hear their sacred cow being taken for a run round the meadow, and produced an interesting cover of a classic. This is their own version of it and they did it their way. Enjoy it.

Okay, you can let those worshiping at the shrine of Koos back into the room now.

Where to find it:
Unplugged – The Parlotones (2008), Sovereign, SOVCD 036

Video:

Beethoven Is Dying – Koos Kombuis

Beethoven Is Dying – Koos Kombuis

Wingerd Rock 1

Wingerd Rock 1

This is not one of Koos’ better know songs. It appeared on the first of the two Wingerd Rock compilations and is dedicated to the late James Phillips whom Koos toured extensively with during the Voelvry period. Now perhaps one can argue that James Phillips was nothing like Beethoven, but that would be missing the point. Koos is not saying that James was a classical composer, or that his music would be played 400 years after his death, but rather he is recognising and paying homage to the fact that James, in Koos’ (and those of a lot of South African music fan’s) eyes was a genius.

There is a similar feel to this song as there is to Koos’ ‘Who Killed Kurt Cobain’ in that there is an anger that people of such talent were taken from us too soon. Anton L’Amour’s guitar vasilates between harsh angry grunge and atmospheric blues while Doris Delay’s bass hammers away, underpinning the song. There is a sense that the song is all going to fall apart and crumble in a heap, but while the band take it to the edge Koos keeps it together with his Oom-next-door vocals and poignant words.

It is a wonderful song to climb into, get rattled around by it, have your senses pummelled and to come out the other side, a bit battered and bruised, but with that wonderful feeling that you have survived something. You are still alive. You look back and recall those that fell in the song – “Beethoven is dying/Beethoven is dead” – with sadness. You pack their memory into a safe place in your mind and then head out to find the next song. James would have approved of this.

Where to find it:
Wingerd Rock 1: Songs Uit Die Bos (1996), Trippy Grape, TRIP001

Who Killed Kurt Cobain – Koos Kombuis

Who Killed Kurt Cobain – Koos Kombuis (Kom-spiracy theories)

Madiba Bay by Koos Kombuis

Madiba Bay by Koos Kombuis

The suicide of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain sent shockwaves through the music world. He had been the face associated with the burgeoning grunge movement that was gaining appeal with the slacker generation. Hard hitting, heavy music with a great big dollop of self loathing in the lyrics.

Neil Young’s ‘Sleeps  With Angels’ was dedicated to Cobain after the Nirvana man quoted a line from Young’s ‘Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)’ in his suicide note (‘It’s better to burn out than to fade away’). But it was not only Neil Young that was affected. In South Africa, our very own Bard of Gordon’s Bay was also struggling to make sense of what had happened.

Not usually associated with such heavy songs, ‘Who Killed Kurt Cobain’ is a biting, bordering on bitter affair. Koos is angry at the waste of such a talent and you’d be hard pressed to find a more vitriolic vocal performance from him. Koos’ anger though, is not directed at Cobain, but rather at what could have caused his actions. Once described as the greatest song the world never heard, ‘Who Killed Kurt Cobain’ is a hard hitting tribute that is at the same time is a loud scream of ‘WHY!!!?’

Where to find it:
Madiba Bay – Koos Kombuis (1997), Wildebeest, WILD004

Video:

Lyrics:

Did you know when they told you the passion was gone
did you show them the way rock and roll should be born
did you leave us with nothing but one single tune
I don’t mind that you’re gone, but it happened so soon

Chorus:

The spirit smelt good but the purpose was pain
the walk in the woods became a walk in the rain
Were you here to be Jesus, whom did you entertain
and would you care to explain who killed Kurt Cobain

Did you see who was there when you turned out the light
was it a fan or a neighbour that shot you that night
who held the barrel and who loaded the gun
was it me, was it you, who the hell was the one

chorus

Was it drugs, was it horror, or sheer loneliness
was it money or sex, were you tired of being famous
were you scarred by the limelight, hurt by the sun
as it shone on the needle when the day’s work was done
could it be that we’ve waited for 30 odd years
for a man like John Lennon, just to lose him like this
true wisdom is rare, so few heroes around
I’m so tired of waiting with my feet on the ground

(Written by Koos Kombuis)

Lisa se Klavier – Koos Kombuis

Lisa se Klavier – Koos Kombuis (Do tramps really dream of piano playing women?)

Niemandsland & Beyond! by Koos Kombuis

Niemandsland & Beyond! by Koos Kombuis

Koos Kombuis (real name André le Roux du Toit) was one of the leading
figures of the Voëlvry tour that brought alternative Afrikaans music
to the masses in South Africa. There was a lot of anger at the
apartheid government running through the tour and the lyrics of the
songs associated with it were often vitriolic. From these beginnings
one would be excused from being surprised that Koos could pen and
record a song of such beauty, however, with hindsight, we now know
what a talent Koos is.

Affectionately known as the Bard of Gordon’s Bay, he took a simple
scene of sitting in a woman friend’s front room, listening to her play
the piano and turned it into a song that is as magical as the piano
playing he described in the lyrics. The song starts with an almost
spoken refrain over a simple acoustic guitar and piano, then builds to
the gorgeous, soaring chorus of ‘En die hele wêreld word stil, en
luister in die donker uur, na die nag geluide van Lisa se klavier.’
When listening to this rousing song, you can imagine the whole world
stopping to listen to Koos’ ‘Lisa se Klavier’ as it fills the room
with something so special that it commands your attention. Koos’ album
‘Elke Boomelaar Se Droom’ took its title from the line in Lisa se
Klavier where, the beauty of her music, turns Lisa into ‘elke
boomerlaar se droom’.

Just about every wannabe alt.afrikaans artist has at one point picked
up a guitar and sung this song and a screeds of cover versions of
varying quality exist, including  the interesting ‘Reggae Lisa’ by
Wouter van de Venter and an English version by Clint & Co.
‘Lisa se Klavier’ has become one of the most popular Afrikaans tunes of all time and
deserves a listen (if you haven’t already heard it).

Where to find it:

1989 piano version with James Phillips:
Niemandsland And Beyond! (1989)

1994 violin version:
Elke Boemelaar se Droom (1994) GMP, CDGMP40452

Koos says he can’t remember the violinist’s first name. “I know his surname, though.” says Koos. “He is a Vermaak. His older brother, who is better known to me, is Chris, who later became producer of my CD ‘Madiba Bay’. A very talented family.”

1998 acoustic version with Leila Groenewald:
5FM TDK SA Music Explosion – The Radio Sessions Vol. 1

2000 live version with Albert Frost:
Blou Kombuis (Live) (2000)

2009 version with Lize Beekman:
Koos Kombuis (2009)


Cover Versions (selected):

Lyrics:

Ek het ‘n vriendin ver by die blou see
Teen die hang van Tafelberg, as die son sak, speel sy die mooiste melodiëe
Haar vingers ken die pad opgesluit in wit en swart
Die klavier se grootste vreugde, hartseer en verlange, verstaan die
hart se diepste smart

Koortjie: (x2)
Ja, die hele wereld word stil, en luister in die donker uur
Na die naggeluide van Lisa se Klavier

En Lisa kannie ophou as sy eers begin het nie,
En sy laat my nooit huistoe loop of afskeid neem voor my laaste sigaret nie
Ek staan op haar balkon, ek drink haar appelkoostee
Kyk uit na Kaapstad in die nag, die liggies, en die swart, swart see

Koortjie (x2)

En onder op die sypaadjie, sien ek die bergie en sy maat
staan op en opkyk ver na bo, vannuit die vullis van Oranjestraat
Hul ken al lank die klanke wat uit haar woonstel stroom
Lank na twaalf, met die deure oop, al moan die bure ookal hoe,
Word Lisa elke boemelaar se droom

Koortjie

(Woorde en Musiek: Koos Kombuis)

© Koos Kombuis Published by Shifty Music / Trapsuutjies Uitgewers

Video:

Website:
www.kooskombuis.co.za

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