1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Parlotones”

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:

Dragonflies And Astronauts – The Parlotones

Dragonflies And Astronauts – The Parlotones

Dragonflies And Astronauts – The Parlotones

I suppose that dragonflies and astronauts do have something in common – they both fly. Apart from that, I’m not sure. The Parlotones, I presume, know what the connection is and reading the lyrics of their song that goes by that name, it seems to be all about having dreams and in dreams there is nothing wrong with dragonflies and astronauts hanging out together.

The Parlotones dreamed big, they dreamed of things of beauty and things out of this world and they brought them together. They would have dreamed of fame and being a big band and they became that (that’s out of this world, man). And they would have also dreamed of beautiful things like this song for example. It is a slightly laid-back rock affair with Morbee Kahn’s voice soaring over a tuneful, guitar-led floatfest.

The track became the title of a theatre piece that The Parlotones put together around their songs and, in what was apparently a world first, was streamed in 3D to cinemas around the globe. The production didn’t seem to garner much critical acclaim, but the song does have a sense of theatre to it. Its colourful lyrics conjure up images of dreams and out of this world things.

Where to find it:
Radiocontrolledrobot – The Parlotones (2005), Sovereign Entertainment, SOVCD 025

Video:

Colourful – Parlotones

Radiocontrolledrobot -Parlotones

Radiocontrolledrobot -Parlotones

If you want some good solid rock tunes from South Africa, then you need look no further than The Parlotones who had been around for a good number of years before their big break came with the album Radiocontrolledrobot. ‘Colourful’ was one of the tracks on the album and helped propel the ‘Tones into stardom. And its no too surprising listening to the track.

‘Colourful’ is strong from the very first note, starting out in a relaxed mode, it builds to the big chorus with Kahn Morbee in fine voice. It is also a love song, with an opening line of ‘Honey you’re my favourite/I wonder do you feel the same’. The combination of rock and love song has been a formula for success for many a band. It’s not quite the rock-ballad that was popular in the 80’s, those could be a little too schmaltzy sometimes. This is a more mature take on that formula.

Apparently the band did not really like the track themselves, but the South African public seemed to take to it. The accompanying video should, however, come with a ‘do not try this at home’ warning as it depicts the band members jumping out of a plane without parachutes. They land in a cartoon world along with all their instruments intact. Most people who jump from aeroplanes without a parachute don’t land on their feet, but The Parlotones with this track, certainly did.

Where to find it:
Radiocontrolledrobot – The Parlotones (2005), Sovereign Entertainment, SOVCD 025

Video:

She Always Gets What She Wants – Prime Circle

All Or Nothing – Prime Circle

All Or Nothing – Prime Circle

When bands like Springbok Nude Girls and Just Jinger either moved to the US or started going through the break up/make up/break up phase of life, there was a bit of vacuum left in the rock section of SA music. And into that gap came bands like Seether (till they also left for the US), aKing, The Parlotones and Prime Circle.

And its not too difficult, listening to ‘She Always Gets What She Wants’, to see why Prime Circle was one of those filling the gap as it is a very solid rock tune. It has the rough edged vocals, a solid beat, guitars and a great melody to make for some great rock music. Bands like Nickelback and The Wallflowers come to mind when listening to this laid back but with an edge track.

Undoubtedly there is a tipping of the hat to Just Jinger as it is clear that they had an influence on Prime Circle’s early stuff. Listening to their latest album, ‘If You Don’t, You Never Will’, they seem to have mellowed further with age, and while this later offering is certainly worth a listen, I have to say that I do prefer the earlier offering of ‘She Always Gets What She Wants’. The song won the SAMA record of the year award in 2009 and its not too surprising that it did. If she wanted a great rock tune, then she would have gone for this track, because…well you know what the title says.

Where to find it:
All Or Nothing – Prime Circle, 2008, EMI, CDEMCJ (WIS) 6433

Video:

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

Video:

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