1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Piet Botha”

Sarajevo – Jack Hammer

Death of A Gypsy - Jack Hammer

Death of A Gypsy – Jack Hammer

The name Sarajevo always conjures up the words war and genocide after the Bosnian war of 1992 to 1996. There were some horrific stories that came out of Bosnia and it’s capital Sarajevo. Jack Hammer, led by Piet Botha, seemed to capture some of that horror and violence in this hard-hitting song from their 1996 album, ‘Death Of A Gypsy’.

From the very first second of the song we are assailed by screaming guitars and pounding drums, which one could easily equate to the pounding of bombs and screams of those on whom the bombs and missiles were falling. But inbetween these barrages of sound, there is an ominous lull where the guitars become the background noise while Piet’s gruff voice half sings, half shouts the lyrics that tell some of the history. The delivery is somewhat akin to a prophet calling judgement upon the people, a voice in the wilderness. The chorus (sung by another member of the band, possibly Stean van der Walt) is the voice of a parent urging the children to ‘Go now go now child/Go with the night and go to the mountain’ to run away from the war.

The memories and news of Sarajevo and the atrocities that happened there were very fresh when Jack Hammer recorded this blistering political song. While this song is particularly about Sarajevo and the Bosnian war, it could easily apply to any situation in the world where such atrocities have happened (and we know that there are many of them). Perhaps what one can take from this, apart from a pounding of your aural senses, is the last line of the second verse, ‘Mother you must take your children/Away from the frontline’.

Where to find it:
Death Of A Gypsy – Jack Hammer (1996), Wildebeest, WILD001

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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:

Reënvoëls – Mel Botes

Oomblik Van Waansin - Mel Botes

Oomblik Van Waansin – Mel Botes

Mel Botes’ first impact on the local music scene was in the early 90s with a rock opera called ‘David’s Confessions’. A good few years later (in 2001 in fact) he released the critically acclaimed ‘Oomblik Van Waansin’ which contained the beautiful ‘Reënvoëls’.

Comparisons to Pink Floyd, Dire Straits and Piet Botha seen in some reviews are rightly justified as there is that Mark Knopfler-y guitar floating around a big and slightly esoteric Floyd sound while Botes gruff delivery of the Afrikaans lyrics are not that far from Botha’s (although I would add that there are shades of Akkedis’ Dennis Brothers in the vocals).

‘Reënvoëls’ (no relation to Tom Waits ‘Rainbirds’ which appeared on his ‘Swordfishtrombones’ album) soars and flies across vast landscapes of sound and I can’t help feeling that, despite the rain that these voëls are meant to herald, this a a dry desert land. Perhaps it is the growl in Botes voice that suggest a dry throat, or desolation sound that the guitars bring to the track.

The song came a little while after the Voëlvry movement, but undoubtly owes something to that movement. Voëlvry set the voëls free to fly and soar and Mel Botes latched onto that freedom perfectly to create this great piece of Afrikaans rock. The song was voted the 40th best of 2001 by The South African Rockdigest.

Where to find it:
Oomblik van Waarsin – Mel Botes, July 2001, Janus, SELBCD 387

Hear here:

Die Son Kom Weer – Piet Botha

Piet Botha - Live & Rare

Piet Botha – Live & Rare

If you weary and feeling small, don’t worry, be happy because ‘Die Son Kom Weer’. Well that’s according to Piet Botha anyway in a song that was recorded for possible inclusion on ‘Die Hits’ album, but, for reasons known only to the Botha powers that be, was not released then. It has since surfaced on a compilation called ‘The Demos 2001-2002’ which, from what I can tell is only available as a download.

For a song with an upbeat title, it is surprisingly melancholic and downbeat, which makes one investigate it a little deeper. And it’s not really saying that there are better days before us (and a burning bridge over troubled water behind us) where everything will be absolutely lovely, but rather it is just a gentle encouragement to continue battling on as if Piet is gently pushing you forward, through the difficult times.

Although, the song was recorded as a demo and it is a little raw round the edges, it is still a quality recording with Piet’s deep and laid back tones rubbing shoulders with some gentle blues guitar which plays an almost hypnotic riff while a steady rhythm comes from the drums with splashing cymbals that are almost like a steady, soaking rainfall on the song as we await the return of the sun.

Where to find it:
The Demos 2001-2002 (Not an official release, but available on iTunes, Amazon and as an MP3 at: http://www.jackhammer.co.za/mp3.html

Video:

For Annette – Jack Hammer

Anthology - Jack Hammer

Anthology – Jack Hammer

‘For Annette’ finds Piet Botha and his band in a quieter, more reflective mood. There is a sadness running through the song which seems to be about a woman who has turned to the bottle: “I know the way the she drank her wine/Red yellow all the time just to get away”. It is sung from a stand point of a friend of this ‘Annette’ watching and understanding but not liking. The reasons for the “Too many living sharpened tears” is what “Some call [it] love in a place that died”.

To match the subject of the song, there is that distinctive Jack Hammer rough edged guitar sound and a grungy emotional vocal, but it’s not as in your face as some other material in the band’s portfolio. It’s serious subject and the music matches it.

It’s not all doom and gloom thought, there is the bittersweet line “And I can see you smiling” which suggest that there is some positive left in ‘Annette’s’ life. This is a song to sit in solitude and listen to, while reflecting on life and friendship. It’s a song for watching the sun go down on a particularly emotional day. It has a certain soothing quality to it that won’t wash the blues of the day away, but will slowly dissolve them, leaving you better off for the experience.

Where to find it:
Anthology – Jack Hammer (January 2000), Wildebeest Records, WILD020

Street Of Love – Jack Hammer

Street Of Love – Jack Hammer

Ghosts On The Wind - Jack Hammer

Ghosts On The Wind – Jack Hammer

Piet Botha found his way into Jack Hammer via Raven and Wildebeest, both of whom produced some rock singles in the late 70’s and early 80’s. But with Jack Hammer, Botha seemed to have found his calling and the band has been going for over 25 years now. Not a bad feat not only in South African terms, but in world terms.

‘Street Of Love’ is the opening track to Jack Hammer’s third album, the 1994 offering ‘Ghosts On The Wind’ and from the first howl of the guitar at the outset, you know you are in for a rock treat! The rest of the song doesn’t let you down. Playing some ZZ Top-esque blues rock the band burn rubber on the street of love. Piet Botha’s voice growls like a Harley Davidson prowling the neighbourhood causing any dad’s listening to this to contemplate incarceration for their female offspring.

Piet Botha has also produced some wonderful solo material, but (and this is not a hard and fast rule) he tends to keep the harder-edged rockier stuff for his band. ‘Street Of Love’ showcases Jack Hammer at their blistering best.

Where to find it:
Anthology – Jack Hammer (January 2000), Wildebeest Records, WILD020
Ghost On The Wind – Jack Hammer (1994), Inhouse Records, INH 160 CD
Road Works (1984 – 2009) – Jack Hammer (2009), JHCD003

‘n Suitcase Vol Winter – Piet Botha

‘n Suitcase Vol Winter – Piet Botha (A Cold Case)

Piet Botha - 'n Suitcase Vol Winter

Piet Botha – ‘n Suitcase Vol Winter

One wonders if the person Piet Botha is singing of in ‘n Suitcase Vol Winter was told to Vat Jou Goed en trek Ferreira. The drifter is on a train to nowhere, on the run from a woman who wants to shoot him, and all he carries with him is a suitcase full of winter. There is a stoicism about the man in question. He is on the run to nowhere, but this suits him (dit pas my goed). It is a rather bleak image, but there is also a gritty realism about it.

Piet’s growling voice manages to capture all these feelings. He sounds almost as if he doesn’t care, yet at the same time there is a desperate edge to the vocals. This is all laid on top of some blistering blues. From the first thudding beats of the guitar and building, with the aid of harmonica and piano, into a desperate, desolate soundscape that seems to compliment the emotional and physical landscapes one can imagine this man on the run is travelling through.

Except for the fact that the lyrics are in Afrikaans and there is a full band sound, ‘n Suitcase Vol Winter sounds as if it could easily have slid out of one of the great Delta blues singer’s guitars. The subject matter and the rhythm fit perfectly. This is, without a doubt, one of the great Afrikaans blues tracks.

Where to find it:
‘n Suitcase Vol WinterPiet Botha (1997), Wildebeest Records, WILD 005

(Remastered by Lanie van der Walt at Wolmer Studios in April 2009 and re-issued with catalogue number JHCD002.)

Video:

Lyrics:

Hierdie trein loop na nerens
Maar dit pas my baie goed,
hoe verder hoe beter
Dit is my wens

Klein bietjie liefde
Klein bietjie geluk
Heelwat van dit en dat, maar meestal
‘n Suitcase vol winter

Ek loop iewers deur die storm
En deur die bliksem weer
Want ‘n vrou sal jou doodmaak
As sy kwaad is, in ‘n donker kamer
Met ‘n haelgeweer

Ja die trein loop na nerens
Maar dit pas my goed
hoe verder hoe beter

Klein bietjie liefde
Klein bietjie geluk
Heelwat van dit en dat, maar meestal
‘n Suitcase vol winter

(Written by Piet Botha)

Goeienag Generaal – Piet Botha

Goeienag Generaal – Piet Botha / Jack Hammer (A Farewell to Army mates)

Piet Botha - 'n Suitcase Vol Winter

Piet Botha – ‘n Suitcase Vol Winter

The border war in South West (as it was then) and Angola had a significant psychological effect of a lot of young white South Africans conscripted to go and fight there. These effects are still felt by many today and, until recently, was hardly ever spoken of.

In 1997, Piet Botha spoke of it and did so in powerful words against an angry guitar backdrop. The track appeared on his critically acclaimed album ‘‘n Suitcase Vol Winter‘ and talks of the war being fought for all the trappings of capitalism. It was fought for ‘Vir Harry Oppenheimer en al sy maats, Vir Rembrandt van Rijn en Alfred Dunhill, En die OK Bazaars, En die hele bloody spul by die SAUK, Julle was die oorlog vir die CIA.’ And while the war was being fought for these people, Whitey, was being shot by an AK47.

Whether you agree with Piet’s view of the reasons for the war or not, this is one of the great anti-war songs that thunders along with venom, anger and a pounding rhythm. It sounds just as good on the live versions that are available as the studio ones do.

Where to find it:

‘n Suitcase Vol Winter – Piet Botha (1997) Wildebeest Records, WILD005
Bootleg – Piet Botha and Jack Hammer (February 2001) Pofadder Records / Intervention Arts, INT 011/ POF 001 (Live version)
Live At The Nile – Piet Botha & Jack Hammer (July 2004), Wolmer Records, F1000292 (Live version)

Lyrics:

Ja, dit was die oorlog vir die nuwe dag
Vir die kerkraad, swanger meisie wat wag
In die reën, al die kinders wat die dominee seën,
Al die jong laaities nou net uit die skool,
Welkom, welkom
Dit was vir die ryk man op Waterkloofstraat
Blink gebou, almal werk, maar niemand mag praat
Was vir die weduwees en die armes van gees
En almal in uniform, en die kapelaan lees

Maar Whitey, jou oë op daar dag
Was blou net soos die lug
Toe ons weer so kyk
Het ‘n AK jou fucked-up geskiet
Goeienag Generaal

Hulle was die oorlog vir die nuwe dag
Vir Harry Oppenheimer en al sy maats
Vir Rembrandt van Rijn en Alfred Dunhill
En die OK Bazaars
En die hele bloody spul by die SAUK
Julle was die oorlog vir die CIA
Generaal ry rond in sy blink swart kar
Speel skaak met die kinders van ons land
En agter hom is die wêreld nou erg aan die brand

Maar Whitey, jou oë op daar dag
Was blou net soos die lug
Toe ons weer so kyk
Het ‘n AK jou fucked-up geskiet
Goeienag Generaal

Guitar solo

Maar Whitey, jou oë op daar dag
Was blou net soos die lug
Toe ons weer so kyk
Het ‘n AK jou fucked-up geskiet
Goeienag Generaal, slaap lekker

(Written by Piet Botha)

Website:

PietBotha.com

Cover Version by Skuim:

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