1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Koos Kombuis”

382. Verslaaf – Koos Kombuis

Blameer Dit Op Apartheid - Koos Kombuis

Blameer Dit Op Apartheid – Koos Kombuis

Way back in the early eighties the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra came out with a popular medley of classical tunes that they put to a dance beat and they called it ‘Hooked On Classics’. Well, almost 2 decades later, Koos Kombuis said sod the classics, he’s hooked on Rock ‘n’ Roll and just about everything else. In fact this may well be the only song ever recorded that mentioned Worcester Sauce because it’s included in Koos’ list on things that he’s ‘verslaaf aan’.

The song vacillates betweens a quieter almost reggae beat in which Koos lists a wide variety of things that he’s hooked on and the rowdy, guitar and drum-fest chorus when he declares that the best of the lot is the rock  ‘n’ roll. It is quite interesting as Koos is not really known as a big time rocker. Yes, he did make noisier songs like this and ‘Who Killed Kurt Cobain’, but he is better known for a much quieter, almost folky style songs like ‘Liza se Klavier’ and ‘Atlantis In Jou Lyf’. But having said that, when he does let loose with the noiser guitars on his songs, he does it well.

While there is humour in the song and Koos sounds like he’s taking the piss a little bit as he runs through his list of vices, one can’t help feeling that there is something deeper lurking in this little ditty. It is almost a cry for help, seeming to make light of some more serious addictions (‘ek is verslaaf op drank, ek is verslaaf op zol’), saying that they aren’t that much of a problem because of sex and drugs and rock n roll, it’s the last of the three where his real addiction lies, so no need to worry. But I’m not so sure.

While Kombuis certainly went through some rough times with real addictions, he seems to have cleaned up his act as he grew older and when this song was made, I think that he was looking back at a time when he was verslaaf op a lot of the things he mentions in the song but was in denial. Or it’s just a song about really really really liking rock n roll.

Where to find it:
Blameer Dit Op Apartheid – Koos Kombuis (1997), Wilderbeest Records, WILDE 001


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)


Varsity sing version:

Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie – Frank Opperman

Kombuis Musiek

Kombuis Musiek

Kovers of Koos Kombuis’ song abound. Some are great and some not. A lot are covers of ‘Lisa Se Klavier’, this one is not. This one opens the Kombuis tribute album ‘Kombuis Musiek’ and, in my humble opinion, is the best track on that album.

Opperman was probably better known as an actor than a singer, coming to South Africa’s attention as Neels, the car mechanic in the sitcom ‘Orkney Snork Nie’ and having a role in the film ‘Boetie Gaan Border Toe’. However, in 1999 he turned his hand (or should that be voice) to singing and produced a great album called ‘Serial Boyfriend’ with a band called Prime Time Addiction. It was probably on the strength of that album that he was asked to submit a cover version for the ‘Kombuis Musiek’ compilation.

‘Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie’ starts off with a contemplative piano (is that Lisa playing?) before a relaxed beat starts and then Frank’s gruff vocals come like rough sandpaper over the smooth music. And it is the juxtaposition of the relaxed, melancholic instrumentation against the dirty and almost disturbing vocals that make this cover work. It gives one a feeling of being safe while travelling through a land littered with outcasts and junkies, needles strewn around the place, people lying around looking dead, a sort of voyeuristic feeling.

Opperman seems to get to the core of the song, a sense of caring about ‘Johnny’, yet acknowledging that the world that he lives in is seedy and fraught. A classic cover of a classic song.

Where to find it:
Kombuis Musiek – Various Artist, Fresh music (2002),FESHCD125


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


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

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):


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


(Woorde en Musiek: Koos Kombuis)

© Koos Kombuis Published by Shifty Music / Trapsuutjies Uitgewers



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