1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Koos Kombuis”

Onder In My Whiskeyglas – Koos Kombuis

Niemandsland - Koos Kombuis

Niemandsland – Koos Kombuis

Is it just me, or is it rather strange that a song called ‘Onder In My Whiskeyglas’ (At the bottom of my whiskey glass) appears on an album called ‘Die Mooiste Love Songs’ (the most beautiful love songs)? The question one has to ask is whether it is a the love affair with the whiskey, or is it with the person the singer is seemingly trying to forget by drinking?

The answer seems to be a bit of both. Undoubtedly, the lyrics tell of a lost love and how the image of the lost love cannot be shaken. Her face appears in his whiskey as he drinks. Yet the sadness and hint of slurring in Koos’ voice point towards a soul turing to the amber liquid for comfort and love. This tale is told to the backdrop of a sombrely pucked guitar, adding to the despair the singer feels. There is a bittersweet image in the line ‘Drie skepe moes my wegvoer/ Na lande vêr van hier’ (Three ships had to take me away/to lands far from here) with the ‘Drie Skepe’ being a reference to Three Ships whiskey.

Koos Kombuis is a master at painting a picture in his songs. One can just picture the scene in songs like ‘Lisa Se Klavier’ where Koos sings about the boemelaars standing outside the window listening to Lisa play piano. Similarly, ‘Onder In My Whiskeyglas’ counjures up an image of a dishevelled and broken man sitting on a barstool in a dingy pub staring into an empty whiskeyglas, perhaps a tear running down a cheek. This is aural painting at its best.

Where to find it:
Die Mooiste Love Songs (1999) Wildebeest Records, WILD014

Video:

Die Donker Kom Jou Haal – Valiant Swart

Deur Die Donker Vallei - Valiant Swart

Deur Die Donker Vallei – Valiant Swart

Having a title that translates as ‘The darkness is coming to get you’ is probably not the best way to advertise a song. I mean who wants to be taken by darkness. But when you add Valiant Swart to the promotional package, you have to say, ‘well we should at least give it a try because Valiant is a class act.’ Furthermore, the track is off the ‘Deur Die Donker Vallei’, an album about which the great Koos Kombuis once said that it was the greatest Afrikaans album ever made.

So put aside your fears. All this talk of darkness coming to get you and going through dark valleys with a guy whose surname translates as black is not something to be afraid of. Despite all this darkness, ‘Die Donker Kom Jou Haal’ is blues and blues of the highest order. From the very first guitar note you are sucked into a desolate landscape with vast blue skies, wide open desert spaces and a dizzying sense of being very alive. Albert Frost’s laid back guitar swirls with Schalk Joubert’s bass in a dust devil created by Simon ‘Agent’ Orange’s Hammond organ. It is atmospheric music that is there to comfort while Valiant’s voice tells of nightmares and darkness. It has a sense of being lost is a hell-ish place, yet strangely being at ease with this because the music keeps you safe.

There is space in this song, there is comfort, there is darkness, there is bittersweetness. It is scary yet life-affirming. It is a song that touches the core of your soul and makes you wonder how beauty can be almost painful. You want to immerse yourself in it and never come out. It is arguably the best Afrikaans blues song every recorded (although Valiant’s ‘Die Mystic Boer’ does give it a good run for its money).

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

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:

Swart September -Koos Kombuis

Niemandsland - Koos Kombuis

Niemandsland – Koos Kombuis

In South Africa September is usually a pretty good month weatherwise. Things are beginning to cheer up again after the winter. It may still be a little too cold to jump in the pool on the 1st of the month, but certainly by the time October comes you welcome the cool water. So why does Koos sing of a black Sepember?

Well its about a particular Sepember, September 1984, a time a huge upheaval in the country with bombs going off and riots in the Vaal Triangle during which some people believed to be police spies are burnt alive. It is also the month when the position of Prime Minister was abolished and P.W. Botha was inaugurated as the first State President. So, yes, it was a black time in the nation’s history.

And when Koos was singing about it on his 1989 album, Niemandsland’, things hadn’t got much better. It was this sot of awareness of what was happening in the country and the way that he could translate it into biting lyrics and dramatic songs that really put Koos on the map. ‘Swart September is a dramatic piano driven piece that underpins the lyrics that talk of the troubles in the townships, pass laws, necklacing, and police actions. It gets to the heart of what was happening then – ‘Groot masjiene oor die land, September ’84 wat oorkook in ‘n noodtoestand ‘n lente bleek en dor’.

Yes we’ve moved on since then and ‘Swart September’ is still difficult listening, but it is part of our history, it is part of what made South Africa and still stands as great document of what we went through.

Where to find it:
Niemandsland – Koos Kombuis (1990), Shifty Records
Shot Down (Resistance Music from Apartheid South Africa) – Various Artists (2006),Shifty Records

Video:

Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie – Koos Kombuis

Elke Boemelaar Se Droom - Koos Kombuis

Elke Boemelaar Se Droom – Koos Kombuis

I know I’ve already featured this song on this list, but that first entry was the superb cover by Frank Opperman. This time round we’re looking at the Koos Kombuis original. Except which version of the original to listen to. There’s the original original on the 1994 ‘Elke Boemelaar Se Drooom’, there’s a live version on the 2000 live album ‘Blou Kombuis’ and there is a re-working of it on 2008’s ‘Bloedrivier.

Well, I guess, the starting point has to be the original original. This is actually a pretty ordinary version which is sort of soft rock with some pleasant guitar licks. The live version is a bit grittier, mainly because of the rawness of Koos’ vocals. The ‘Bloedrivier’ version is somewhat different as there is a subdued intro which hinted at Koos retiring from the music scene with its lines ‘Jy’t gesê jy wil ‘n break vat’ (‘You said you wanted to take a break’) and ‘dit is tyd vir sabbatical’ (‘it’s time for a sabbatical’). But in the end he didn’t. However, this almost whispered first section of the song, doesn’t last too long before a harder edged rock version assails your speaker. The song is still the same old Johnny, but on this outing he rocks a lot more.

But like artists such as Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, its not so much the delivery that’s important, it’s the words that are where we should be focusing. This story of Johnny, presumably a drug addict of sorts, struck a chord with a lot of people as most know someone with a drug problem. Like the Johnny who called the Chemist a decade before him, this Johnny will also remain an important figure in the history of South African rock music.

Where to find it:
Elke Boemelaar se Droom – Koos Kombuis (1994) GMP, CDGMP40452
Blou Kombuis (Live) – Koos Kombuis (2000), Trapsuutjies Uitgewers, KK01
Bloedrivier – Koos Kombuis (2008)

Video:

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:
https://bernoldusniemaand.bandcamp.com/track/reggae-vibes-is-cool

Video:

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

Video:

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:

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

Video:

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

Video:

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