1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Karen Zoid”

The Crossing – Johnny Clegg

The Crossing – Johnny Clegg

The Crossing – Johnny Clegg

Written for Dudu Ndlovu, one of Clegg’s dancers who was killed during the violence of the early 90’s, ‘The Crossing’ is a moving song and one of the standout tracks on ‘Heat, Dust & Dreams’ his album from 1993. On the face of it the song could be about crossing over from the land of the living to be with the ancestors, but, given the time this song was released, it was also a metaphor for the crossing the country was making from apartheid to democracy.

This is argueably one of Clegg’s most polished songs and possibly one of his best vocal tracks. That’s not to diss the rough folkiness of his other stuff, that’s what gave it it’s charm. But the sombre subject of this song demanded this be a polished affair. The more subdued verses talk of loss and violence but they are offset with the rousing chorus of ‘O Siyeza, o siyeza, sizofika webaba noma’ (We are coming, we are coming, we will arrive soon). The heartfelt delivery is the kind of stuff that can bring a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye.

Roll on 15 years after Johnny recorded the song and in 2018, about a year before his death, a group of leading South African musicians recorded a moving version of the song in honour of Johnny. This conglomeration included among others Johnny’s son Jesse, Karen Zoid, Vusi Mahlasela, David Kramer, Kahn Morbee from the Parlotones, Patricia Lewis, Zolani Mahola from Freshlyground, Arno Carstens and a special guest appearance of Peter Gabriel. It is not only the power of the song that reflects Clegg’s genius, but the mix of people from all colours of the South African rainbow working together that makes this a fitting tribute to him. It honours his music and his values.

But perhaps it is the line ‘Oh, it’s funny how those once so close and now gone can still so affect our lives’ that really gets one when listening to this. Johnny has now made his crossing, but his music and legacy lives on in his music. We will be listening to ‘Scatterlings’, ‘Impi’, ‘Asimbonanga’ and many others for a long time to come. I think that ‘The Crossing’ will also be one that people turn to when remembering Johnny and as one comment on the page for the Friends of Johnny Clegg version says ‘If you watched this and didn’t get tearful are you even South African?’

Where to find it:
Heat, Dust & Dreams – Johnny Clegg (1993), EMI,  CDEMCJ(WF)5499

Video:
Johnny Clegg:

Friends of Johnny Clegg version:

We Could Be Divine – Kahn & Karen Zoid

We Could Be Divine – Kahn & Karen Zoid

We Could Be Divine – Kahn & Karen Zoid (Video screen grab)

I must admit to not particularly liking the trend in modern pop music where every other song is Artist 1 Featuring Artist 2 and sometimes Artist 3, Artist 4, Artist 5 etc. However, in recent-ish history there have been some cracking collaborations on the local music music scene and 2 of these have already featured on the list, namely Francis van Coke and Karen Zoid’s sublime ‘Toe Vind Ek Jou’ and Koos Kombuis and David Kramer’s magnificent ‘Ek Wil Net Huis Toe Gaan’. To this list of great local collaborations of the current millennium I now add Kahn and Karen Zoid’s ‘We Could Be Divine’.
Kahn is of course Kahn Morbee who came to fame as the lead singer of the Parlotones and Karen Zoid needs no introduction as she continues to embed herself into the SA Music Treasure Chest.
Starting off sounding like an early 80’s new romantic hit with a synthesizer introduction, ‘We Could Be Divine’ quickly introduces Kahn and Karen’s distinctive vocals which playfully intertwine as the song builds with a stomping rhythm coming in and the voices soar. It’s a sort of 80’s pop rock with shades of 90’s grunge draped like a lace curtain over it while a 20-teens pop bigness inflates the tune to heights that engross the listener.
Given the number of views the Youtube video has had, (only 127,000 at the time of writing), this seems to have eluded a lot of people, which is odd given the strength of this track. The video shows Zoid as an Alice in Wonderland character with a rather odd-looking Kahn playing the Mad Hatter. It’s a great video and an even better song. So my advice is lose yourself in the wonderland of this song, you won’t be disappointed.

Where to find it:
A Noise In The Void – Kahn, Sheer Sound

Video:

Ek Wil Net Huis Toe Gaan – Koos Kombuis & David Kramer

Langpad Na Lekkersing - Koos Kombuis

Langpad Na Lekkersing – Koos Kombuis

Is there some rule written somewhere that if you record a phenomenally good Afrikaans song then the video has to involve a lot of lights all over the place as the 2 best Afrikaans songs I have ever heard – Francois van Coke & Karen Zoid’s ‘Toe Vind Ek Jou’ and Koos Kombuis & David Kramer’s ‘Ek Wil Net Huis Toe Gaan’ – both had a light motif going on in the videos.

It also seems that teaming up with someone else helps create brilliant songs as in 2015 the relative new comers to the music scene, van Coke & Zoid, showed the way and then the 2 legends, Kombuis and Kramer, said, well if the lighties can do it, so can we.

‘Ek Wil Net Huis Toe Gaan’ is an extremely beautiful song that talks of a longing to return home, although as both the artists on the track are getting on in years, it could also just be talking about retiring (please don’t guys, but if you do we’ll understand). ‘Ek is so moeg van die stress/ek is nou oud en bles/Nou will ek ophou werk en my das uittrek/ek wil net huis toe gaan’ tells of Kombuis’ tiredness and the gently plucked guitar set against a muted organ sound seems to echo the state of mind of the singers. Their rock ‘n’ roll days are over and the only rocking they want to do is on the chair on the front veranda.

Neither Kombuis not Kramer could be said to have the greatest singing voices, but the almost whispered vocals from Kombuis and the somewhat gravelly baritone of Kramer weave themselves within the magic of this track perfectly. If these 2 legends bow out of the music business with this, it would be an extremely high note on which to do so. They have been leading lights in the Afrikaans music scene for a number of decades now. Perhaps only Kombuis’ ‘Lisa Klavier’ and Kramer’s ‘Prisoners Of War’ could challenge for the title of the most beautiful tracks by these artists, but, in my opinion, this one take the honours.

Where to find it:
Langpad na Lekkersing – Koos Kombuis (2016), Select Music Distribution, KKCD10

Video:

Set Of Wheels (Karoo Anthem) – Karen Zoid

Karen Zoid

Karen Zoid

In 2001 there was a rumbling in South African music, a rumbling like a juggernaut storming through the Karoo, a large plume of dust trying to catch up with it as the engine roared like a mighty lion. And slowly the truck smashes its way throught the heat haze, taking shape and form till it eventually hurtled out of the desert and…

…well it wasn’t a large mean mothertrucker after all. It was a small silver disc entitled ‘Poles Apart’ and it landed in our midst. The scientists amongt us reached for their technical equipment which they called a ‘CD Player’ and, with trembling hands, delicately placed the silver disc into the belly of the machine and punched a button…

…and the disc began to roar. All jumped back in amazement and awe at the sound. And then came a voice, a sort of sweet sound, but it was not all sweet. There was an edge to it as it told a tale of a road that traversed large distances and the wheels that pound that road…

…and that, dear friends, is how the legend of Karen Zoid began.

Where to find it:
Poles Apart – Karen Zoid (June 2001), EMI, CDEMCD5938

Toe Vind Ek Jou – Francois van Coke & Karen Zoid

Francois van Coke & Karen Zoid

Francois van Coke & Karen Zoid

This is what it has all been about. Anton Goosen’s ‘Bloemetjie Gedenk Aan Jou’, Bernoldus Niemand, Koos Kombuis, Johannes Kerkorrel and the whole Voelvry movement, the blues guys like Valiant Swart, Piet Botha and Die Blues Broers, Arno Carstens and the Springbok Nude Girls, Afrikaans punk from Fokofpolsiekar. All of these guys were building up to this one perfect Afrikaans song.

‘Toe Vind Ek Jou’ is undoubtedly the best Afrikaans song I have heard. It has everything, atmosphere, emotion, a great tune, brilliant vocals and harmonising. It is no wonder that at the time of writing this, the Youtube video had already had over 4.6 million views and spawned numerous cover versions (the Varsity Sing version is one of the better ones). In comparison Bok van Blerk’s ‘De La Rey’ which was also hugely popular and which has been around a lot longer only has 1.6 million views. I had sort of got to thinking that there were no surprises left in the Afrikaans music world but ‘Toe Vind Ek Jou’ proved me wrong I’m pleased to say.

This song with its almost understated soft drumming highlights the talents of 2 leading lights of South African music. Francois van Coke found his way to this song via the noise of Fokofpolisiekar and the heavy rock of van Coke Kartel while Karen Zoid has been ploughing her own furrow as our foremost ‘rock chick’ for a good while now. And while ‘Toe Vind Ek Jou’ is essentially a ballad, there is a feeling of a tension underlying the vocals and the lyrics hint that this relationship was not always a bed of roses. The first line ‘Ek lê my wapens neer’ (‘I lay down my arms’) introduces the surrender of the couple to their love which has survived a stormy relationship and as they have matured the anger of youth has dwindled and they are left clinging to each other. Possibly the best moment in the song is when Francois and Karen sing the lines ‘Ek het genoeg gegee, Ek het genoeg geskree, Ek het lankal terug geleer’ the second time around when Karen’s higher pitched voice goes head to head with Francois’ gravelly one and the result is something quite beautiful.

There are no pretensions in this song but plenty of control. Zoid and van Coke could have been tempted to make this just another Afrikaans rock song, but somehow they turned it into something special.

I have gone back to wondering if there will now be no further surprises coming from the Afrikaans music scene in South Africa, but I’m a little less certain of myself this time round.

Where to find it:
Francois van Coke – Francis van Coke (2015)

Video:

Varsity sing version:

Oh My Love – Karen Zoid

Oh My Love – Karen Zoid

Karen Zoid - Chasing The Sun

Karen Zoid – Chasing The Sun

‘Oh My Love/Give All Your Love To Me’ sung in a semi-sneer is what your ears are assaulted with as soon as you put Karen Zoid’s second album ‘Chasing The Sun’ on. It’s as if she wanted you to realise from the outset that she was not just a one hit wonder with ‘Poles Apart’. The message is very clear – I rocked, I rock and I will rock.

And what more would you expect from the First Lady of Rockchickness? Despite the real heavier grungy-growl sound of the song only hitting at about a minute in to the song, the attitude is there from the start. You can hear it in Karen’s voice and the guitars seem almost as if they are trembling with the anticipation of her breaking loose.

But it doesn’t then descend into a barrage of sound noisefest, it maintains an excellent melody. Karen seems to suck you into the belly of the song and before you know it, you have been swallowed wholeheartedly into it, only to suddenly be spat out at 3 minutes 42 seconds. You will be a bit disorientated for a second, but then will find the repeat button and you’re off on the journey again.

Where to find it:
Chasing The Sun – Karen Zoid, Just Music, (2003), CDJUST171

Video:

Beautiful – Karen Zoid

Beautiful – Karen Zoid

Karen Zoid - Chasing The Sun

Karen Zoid – Chasing The Sun

South Africa’s first Afrikaans rock chick takes it a little calmer on this track from her second album ‘Chasing The Sun.’ She had fallen in love with Don Reinecke, the guitarist in her band and she penned this beautiful ballad to him. ‘Beautiful’ was not only a love song, but it also made us aware of the abilities of Zoid in that she could do more than just churn out rock classics. She had a softer side.

The song had an effect as Karen and Don married in 2004, the year after it was released. Sadly the marriage only lasted till 2010, but the music lives on. I am sure that many a couple have adopted this as ‘their song’ and perhaps it has been played at a number of weddings. With it Zoid showed that she was a talented songwriter and not a one album wonder.

Where to find it:
Chasing The Sun – Karen Zoid, Just Music, (2003), CDJUST171

Video:

Lyrics:
You’re beautiful every time we touch
When you make me laugh, when you think too much
You’re beautiful without your clothes
Everybody knows your love for me, it shows

And it shines through, shines through
Everything we do
I need you, I need you
I want to swim across this crowded room
And whisper in your ear.

You’re beautiful, when you’re being polite
She just fell off her chair and you gave her a light
You’re beautiful in your ugly shoes
You know that I still hate them, but I can stand by you

Because you shine through, shine through
Everything I do
I need you, I need you

I want to shout it from a rooftop
Shout it out to the moon…

I write another bagatelle
’cause lately I’m beside myself
Take me to the stars, show me the room
in the corner of your heart
Take me on a trip
buy me a ticket for the plane
I want to see, I have to say…

You’re beautiful, you know it’s true
I could go black, I could go blue
You’re beautiful, there are no lies
Only the river, only the sky

I guess I do it to myself, I sometimes think that
I need help
You know one and one is two
It’s a different kind of you

My baby, I love you.
Baby, I love you.

(Written by Karen Zoid)

Ons Soek Rock En Roll – Karen Zoid

Chasing The Sun - Karen Zoid, Just Music, (2007), CDJUST171

Chasing The Sun – Karen Zoid

After the runaway success of ‘Poles Apart’, Karen Zoid’s debut album, all eyes (and ears) were on ‘Chasing The Sun’, her second album released in 2003. And it didn’t disappoint. Just the title of the track ‘Ons Soek Rock En Roll’ should have been enough to let people know that she was carrying on where she left off.

‘Ons Soek…’ has a go at the X-Factor generation and everything fake that people think cool. Karen is looking for the real deal, she wants boerewors on a braai not beans out of a tin. She wants people to recognise raw talent as opposed to glorified karaoke singers and she gives a perfect example of what she is looking for when she growls in her best Janis Joplin voice ‘ons soek rock en roll.’ She is also well backed up by her band who know how to rock. As she claims in the song, she is indeed die raas in jou generaasie.

Where to find it:
Chasing The Sun – Karen Zoid, (2003, re-issued by Just Music, 2007), CDJUST171

Video:

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