1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Gange Van Babylon – Valiant Swart

Deur Die Donker Vallei - Valiant Swart

Deur Die Donker Vallei – Valiant Swart

In 2002, after having given us 3 albums (‘Dorpstraat Revisited’, ‘Die Mystic Boer’ and ‘Kopskoot’) a live album (‘Voetstoets’) and an EP (‘Roekeloos’) all of high quality music, one could have been forgiven for thinking that perhaps Valiant Swart was due a dud one. But instead he gave us arguably his best album…ever in ‘Deur Die Donker Vallei’. It is an album chock full of great tunes and they don’t come much better than ‘Gange Van Bablylon’.  But what are the gange van Bablyon?

Perhaps a quick Biblical lesson is necessary here. In Old Testament times, the Jewish nation was forced into exile in Babylon, one of the major powers of the day. So the song is about being transported back in time to be exiled in an ancient city, right? Well no, not really. Babylon is said to be derived from the Hebrew word for ‘confusion’, so it may be about being a bit deurmekaar. Maybe. A closer look at the lyrics suggests that it could be about the upheaval and violence in the country post the collapse of apartheid.

Whatever the subject matter, it’s safe to say that the song is a smooth blues ride. There’s a steady rhythm courtesy of Vernon Swart on drums and Schalk Joubert on bass, which is supplemented by one of the finest blues guitarists south of the Limpopo – Albert Frost. Valiant himself, apart from singing, plays guitars and adds a harmonica to the bridges between verses. The whole package is firmed out by Simon ‘Agent’ Orange’s Hammond organ. This song is a bit like the ring in Lord of The Rings. It is like a strange, beautiful thing to keep you company through those confused times, something polished, beautiful and powerful to accompany one on your journey. And something that strangely gives you a reason to keep going. This song is precious.

Where to find it:
Deur Die Donker Vallei – Valiant Swart (2002), Rhythm Records, SWART004

Hear here:


Dis die winter van die jakkels
Die somer van die slang
Wat ‘n sluwe seisoen
Onder ‘n hartseer son
Die sout van die aarde
Dwarrel en draai
In die gange van Babylon
Brabbel almal in brabbel taal
En niemad wil luister nie
En niemand verstaan
Pandemonium in die gange van Babylon

Dit rammel in die vlei
Dit huil by die bobbejaankrans
Dit dreun met die laning langs
Oor die plein kom dit aangedans
En niemand skenk aandag daaraan
Want daar’s niemand wat verstaan
Wat gaan aan vanaand in die gange van Baylon

In die bosse van Babel
Rank die kinders van Kaan
Tussen die dorings
In die hangende tuin
En die water van verwarring
Syfer deur die mure
In die gange van Babylon
Slaan die laaste ure
En daar’s niemand wat verstaan
Hoekom alles vergaan
In die gange van Babylon

(Written by Valiant Swart)


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