1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Reggae Vibes Is Cool – Bernoldus Niemand

Wie is Bernoldus Niemand - Bernoldus Niemand

Wie is Bernoldus Niemand – Bernoldus Niemand

If you put the word ‘reggae’ into Google’s translate machine and ask for the Afrikaans of it, it comes out as ‘reggae’. Odd that. But one man who realised that you can translate reggae into any language, even Afrikaans, was a cetain Bernoldus Niemand. And if you translate Bernoldus Niemand into English you get James Phillips.

Closing the ground breaking album ‘Wie Is Bernoldus Niemand’ (released just over 33 years ago for those of you who want to feel really old), this dub laden piece still feels weird to listen to. Virtually all recorded reggae of note features Jamaican accents and Jamaican slang but with this trippy tune, we find a dude singing in Afrikaans in a heavy East Rand Seth Afrikin accent. And it is only the accent and language that make this feel wonderfully strange as the music could quite easily have been recorded in the West Indies with Augustus Pablo or Scratch Perry at the desk.

Having done with all the other tracks on the album, Niemand decides to end his masterpiece by kicking off his tekkies, lighting up a spliff and seeing out the album in a haze of dagga smoke. ‘Al’s is lekker hier’, he kroons in his slightly slurred voice. And indeed it is. No matter what language he choses to sing in – he mixes English and Afrikaans together – these reggae vibes is almost as cool as the purple sunglass toting dude on the cover of the album. It was mostly Afrikaans rock music that Phillips inspired with his Bernoldus Niemand persona, but he did get a few of those whom he led to try their hand at reggae. Koos Kombuis did, for example, ‘Babilon’ and ‘Duco Box Rasta’, Valiant Swart brought us ‘Onna Cheek’ and Akkedis sang ‘Ai Man Rasta’. These are all worth a listen, but they don’ come as cool as this.

Where to find it:
Wie Is Bernoldus Niemand – Bernoldus Niemand (1995), Shifty Records (distributed by Tic Tic Bang), Bang CD 007

Hear here:

Snor City – Bernoldus Niemand

Snor City – Bernoldus Niemand

Wie Is Bernoldus Niemand

Wie Is Bernoldus Niemand

When ‘Wie Is Bernoluds Niemand’, his only album under this name, came out in 1984, the public were not quite sure what to make of this cool looking dude with purple shades on the cover. With years of experience under our belts, we now know that that dude was James Phillips and that he made some brilliant music.

James Phillips has recorded under a number of different guises – Corporal Punishment, Cherry Faced Luchers, James Phillips & The Lurchers, James Phillips – and, while the other names produced some interesting stuff, one keeps coming back to where it really all started to take off for James and you put on ‘Wie Is…’

‘Snor City’ is an ode (or odour perhaps) to Pretoria, where Bernoldus pokes fun at the city’s moustachioed civil servants that littered the place. Bernoldus acts as your guide around the city, searching for “net een skoon bo-lip”. The song is cheeky, some (mostly Pretorian bureaucrats of the 80’s) would say irreverent and disrespectful, but then it wouldn’t have had any impact if it wasn’t.

Starting out with a dub bass sound, ‘Snor City’ sort of slides gently into gear. It’s slinky and, despite the subject matter, sort of sexy. It has the sound of one of those songs that play over a scene in a movie where the hero (or heroine) is driving through a city at night in a limousine or taxi watching the lights go by and contemplating some major life event. It’s almost like the song is taking a drive round your streetlit brain as you contemplate the hair on your upper lip.

The version on ‘Wie Is…’ is far slicker than the live version that appeared on the ‘Voelvry Die Tour’ album. The latter does not have that limousine feel to it, it’s a bit more like taking ride a beat up Ford ‘Snortina’ through the lunchtime traffic. It doesn’t matter which method of transport you choose, either way, it’s a journey you have to take.

Where to find it:
Wie Is Bernoldus Niemand – Bernoldus Niemand (1995), Shifty Records (distributed by Tic Tic Bang), Bang CD 007
Voelvry Die Toer – Various (2002), Sheer, SHIF002



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