1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “David Kramer”

Letters For Dicky – Jennifer Ferguson

Hand Around The Heart - Jennifer Ferguson

Hand Around The Heart – Jennifer Ferguson

David Kramer’s song ‘On The Border’ tells the story of a guy recalling a friend who ended up commiting suicide while doing his army stint. In that song it was time spent in DB that put the guy in question over the edge. Jennifer Ferguson’s ‘Letters For Dickey’ covers similar material except that the narrative is in the form of letters from a girl to her boyfriend on the border.

The song is sung in a strong South African accent and one can imagine it being a rather simple and frightened girl who at first cannot believe that there would be anyone else but Dickie for her, but while her man is away she is tempted and falls pregnant to another guy. Despite the ‘Dear John’ letter she ends up writing, she still loves her Dickie. The song takes a sharp turn from this dreamy lovestruck, confused and rather naïve girl when the news come through that Dickie had taken his life. Ferguson’s voice reflects the growing maturity in the girl as the song builds to its climax and perfectly captures the shock and emptiness as she sings the line ‘the bullet that you put into your head was meant for me not you’.

Like ‘On The Border’, ‘Letters To Dickey’ is a very emotional song and deals with a subject that we all knew, but never spoke about openly. It perfectly captures the strain that conscription put on the country, not only for those fighting, but also for those back home waiting for the return of loved ones. While those days are gone, this song and those like it, still speak to us of the impact war has on people. There have been many anti-war songs written, but few cut as close to the bone as this one. The song appeared on Ferguson’s album ‘Hand Around The Heart’ and everytime you hear ‘Letters To Dickie’ that hand is not a kind one, it is squeezing your heart till it hurts. Powerful stuff.

Where to find it:
Hand Around The Heart – Jennifer Ferguson (1985) Shifty Records

Hear here:
http://jenniferferguson.bandcamp.com/track/letters-to-dickie

Stoksielalleen – David Kramer

Stoksielalleen – David Kramer

Stoksielalleen - David Kramer

Stoksielalleen – David Kramer

After the runaway success on the Springbok Radio charts of ‘Hak Hom Blokkies’ and ‘Die Royal Hotel’ in 1981, David Kramer struggled to score another top 20 hit despite some strong contenders from his 1982 album ‘Delicious Monster’ (‘Budgie & The Jets’ for example and something like ‘Tommy Dippenaar’ from his 1983 offering ‘Hannepoortpad’). However, in 1984, he was back in the charts with ‘Stoksielallen’ which spent 3 weeks on the Springbok Top 20 and peaked at number 17.

The song relies on a boereorkes sound with accordion and that doem-doem langarm beat which probably accounted for its popularity. Lyrically, Kramer is back to having fun. The song is a long list of all the people he tried to ask out for a jol on a ‘Saterdag aand’ but they all had excuses in great rhyming couplets (“Ek vra vir Tillie, maar Tillie sê sy willie/Miskien wil haar sussie, maar haar sussie issie lussie” and “Eek nooi toe vir rheta, maar rheta sê vergeet maar/En wat nou van tant hessie maar dis buite die kwessie”)

This is the side of Kramer to sit back, tap your feet, chuckle at the rejections he gets and simply enjoy. If you ever find yourself stoksielallen op ‘n Saterdag aand, put this on and take comfort from the fact that you are not alone.

Where to find it:
Alles Vannie Beste – David Kramer (1997), Blik Musiek, BLIK04

Video:

On The Border – David Kramer

On The Border – David Kramer

David Kramer

David Kramer

David Kramer’s hits tend to be carefree, often funny songs like ‘Meisie Sonner Sokkies’ or ‘Stoksielalleen’. Sometimes there is an element of pathos thrown in to mix, like the bankrupt farm owner in ‘Die Royal Hotel’ or the slight sadness that pervades ‘Hak Hom Blokkies’ where all the guy has left is his memories.

But when you look at some of Kramer’s songs that weren’t hits (mostly because they would never get played on the radio), you get some very serious and deep stuff like ‘Out Of The Blue’ and ‘Prisoner Of War’. ‘On The Border’ is one that would hit a nerve with nearly every white South African male who did their time in the army. The only version I am aware of is the live one that appears on ‘Jis Jis Jis’ which was a recording of a concert he did at the Baxter Theatre in1983.

The song is just Kramer telling (rather than singing) his story over a gently plucked guitar and it’s a bit like he is just sitting chatting to a friend. He starts out getting a quiet chuckle from the audience as he describes his mate that he met in the butchery while buying “boerewors and chops”. He gets another laugh when he tells about Johnny Lategan, his army buddy who stole an army Bedford truck and went joyriding, wrapping it round a tikkie box. But then things get serious as he goes on to relate how the time Johnny spent in DB affected him and ultimately led to his suicide, taking those on patrol with him. The song gets even more of an edge to it when Kramer appears to get a real lump in his throat while performing. Perhaps Kramer was relating a story that really happened with one of his own friends, or he was just being a brilliant performer. Either way, one cannot but be moved by his telling of it.

The audience are almost hesitant before their applause at the end of the song almost as if they are in a state of shock from what has just happened to Johnny. When the clapping does start, it is reverential, as if paying respects to all the Johnny Lategans of the border war. It is still hard to believe that Kramer could have performed this song and got away with it back in 1983. But he did, and we are left with a something that even today, is still as powerful as it would have been way back then.

Where to find it:
Jis Jis Jis – David Kramer (1983), Blik Musiek (BLIK14)

Lyrics:
I just bumped into Peter this morning
You know, Uncle Louis son
And he greeted me cowboy style
Ja, with his hand cocked like a gun
You know he was in the butchery
We were buying boerewors and chops
And he was wearing a T-shirt
And a pair of short pants
And those blue rubber flip-flops
And his brother was with him
In his blue jeans
And a gaudy tropical print
I think he was trying to his out in civvie street
Ja, after doing his army stint
He told me that he’d just spent
Six months on the border
But to him it felt more like six years
And that they passed the time with jokes and with poker
And counted the days but not the beers
Well I had a friend called Johnny
And his surname was Lategan
And Johnny and I were in the Army together
Ja in the good old days man
Back in 1971
But you know Johnny
He was a funny kinda guy
He was either very quiet
Or shooting off his mouth
And then one week end
He AWOLed with a Bedford
Ja and he hit the N1 heading south
But old Johnny
He wrapped that truck around a tikkie box
And he ended up in DB for about ten weeks
And I tell they cooled him down to zero there
Because when Johnny came out
He wouldn’t speak
So you know maybe that’s where it happened
Perhaps he just was that way
Well they could have pushed him a little too far
But I mean who am I to say
But it was on the border that it happened
And nobody knows quite where
But I heard about old Johnny Lategan
Ja from a buddy of mine who was there
And you know it was hard
It was hard to believe his story
And it certainly wasn’t the official line
And anyway that kind of thing is just difficult to swallow man
Because Johnny was such a good friend of mine
But he told me that Johnny took his own life
And he left a little note that said ‘Cheers’
And the five other troepies on patrol with him
Well he put a bullet between their ears
So when I bumped into Peter this morning
Ja you know he reminded me of Johnny Lategan
Cause Johnny always used to greet you
Ja with his hand cocked like a gun

(written by David Kramer)

Video:

Dry Wine – David Kramer

Dry Wine – David Kramer

Baboondogs

Baboondogs

‘Dry Wine’ was finally released by Kramer on his 1986 album ‘Baboondogs’, but the song goes back to about ten years previously. According to the 3rd Ear Music website, Roger Lucey was given a demo cassette of Kramer songs sometime in 1976 or 1977 and this included the song ‘Dry Wine’. Despite agreeing that it was an excellent song, Lucey was reluctant to perform it. Not because he was concerned about getting into trouble with the law due it the nature of the lyrics (he was already doing that, so one more wouldn’t matter), but he preferred to only perform his own material. However, he began performing ‘Dry Wine’ and it was included on his live album ‘Half A Live’ which was recorded at the Market Theatre in 1979.

Due to the political nature of Lucey’s work, he was not a well known musician, so ‘Dry Wine’ was only heard by a select few. However, once Kramer’s career took off with the success of ‘Hak Hom Blokkies’, more people got to hear this gem. It is a song about the disparities that existed in South Africa during apartheid and how those that were rich enough to afford to be liberal, would express their opinions about the situation from the safety of fine restaurants, high fences and locked doors and “from the distance of headlines”.

Lyrically it is quite a vitriolic attack, but Kramer’s performance shows more sadness than anger. If you want the angry version, check out Lucey’s one. Kramer was an astute observer of South African life and culture, both the good and bad sides of it. ‘Dry Wine’ is Kramer at his lyrical best.

Where to find it:
Vinyl – Baboondogs – David Kramer (1986), EMI, EMCJ(V)4051001

The Roger Lucey Connection:
http://www.3rdearmusic.com/lyrics/drywine.html

Roger Lucey Video:

Lyrics:

Half asleep I dream in the dark
Trusting the locks on the door
And the dog’s warning bark
Outside in the street a drunkard
Stumbles and sings
In the next door flat
A telephone rings and rings
But nothing disturbs the suburbs quiet
Not the sirens or the news of a township riot
Knowing it all from the distance of headlines
I express my opinion
With a mouthful of dry wine

A woman with red fingernails
Is playing with her diamond
Gazing through the restaurant window
At the lights on Robben Island
Her hair’s cut in the latest style
Her eyes are painted blue
She’s probably thinking
Now where in the world
Could I find a better view
Her husband asks the waiter
Are these prawns from Mozambique?
The waiter just nods his head
He smiles but doesn’t speak
Knowing it all from the distance of headlines
I express my opinion
With a mouthful of dry wine

An old lady in a Sea Point flat
Lives with her dreams and dread
She can hear the disco music
As she lies in her bed
And in the servants quarters
She can hear them laugh and sing
While in the next door flat
A telephone rings and rings
Perhaps I’m like a deaf man
Who has seen the lightning flash
Or maybe I’m just like the blind
And I’ll only hear it crash
Knowing it all from the distance of headlines
I express my opinion
With a mouthful of dry wine

(Written by David Kramer)

Meisie Sonner Sokkies – David Kramer

Meisie Sonner Sokkies – David Kramer

Eina by David Kramer

Eina by David Kramer

Apparently, ‘Meisie Sonner Sokkies’ is one of the most requested songs at any sokkie jol. Perhaps it is the rebellious nature of the meisie that attracts people to her – how can you be sonner sokkies at a sokkie jol. That said, it is more likely the pure joie de vivre of the song that only the most hard hearted people will not, as a bare minimum, tap a foot along with it.

David Kramer is a national treasure, having contributed richly to the musical heritage of the country in both political and non-political ways. He has also worked hard to preserve sounds of the Cape in his Karoo Kitaar Blues project. But every now and then the sparkle in his eye lights up and he produces gems like ‘Meisie…’

For those of you who are a bit anti Kramer’s ‘boereorkes’ sounds, it is worth checking out this song out. Just listen to the honky tonk sounding guitar which introduces the song and is prevalent throughout. It has a blues feel to it and is extremely catchy. ‘Meisie Sonner Sokkies’ can be enjoyed purely as something to get you to langarm on the dance floor, or you can just sit back (tapping you feet, naturally) and enjoy the masterful musicianship on it.

Where to find it:

Eina – David Kramer (1989), Blik Musiek
Klassic Kramer – David Kramer (1996), Blik Musiek, BLIK03
Alles Vannie Beste – David Kramer (1997), Blik Musiek, BLIK04

Cover version

Terwyl Die Donker Wolke Dans – Die Tuindwergies (2012), Jeamile Music

Videos:
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Live:

Cover version:

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