1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “South African Music”

Heart – Gene Rockwell

Heart – Gene Rockwell

Heart – Gene Rockwell

Anyone who was pointed to ‘The Best Of SA Pop Volume 1’ as an introduction to South African popular music, would have become aquainted with Gene Rockwell and his ‘Heart’ by the time they hit the second track. With its heartbeat bass line underpinning the whole track, you can identify with the song from the very start. A heartbeat is what keeps us alive, so that sound is always a comfort to hear.

But Gene is not feeling comfortable as his yearning vocals soon elaboarate that the song is about unrequited love. Released in 1965, the emotion in Gene’s voice tugs at the heartstrings, dragging you into his world of despair. And that is perhaps what made the song so popular as most people have experienced the pain and anguish of unrequited love. Gene captures that feeling and bottles it into this 3 minutes of 60’s pop perfection. You are taken with him on his journey of despair and wrapped up in the emotions. Yet the whole time the heartbeat is there, subtly bringing comfort and as the song begins to fade, Gene tells his heart that ‘we will find somebody new’.

Gene would be one of the most successful local acts on the Springbok Charts, seeing 10 hits make the top 20, however, ‘Heart’ was not one of them. The only thing I can put this down to is that the song must have been released early in 1965 and the charts only started in the June of that year, otherwise I am sure it would have done well on the top 20.  

Where to find it:
The Best of SA Pop Volume 1, Various Artists, (1994), GMP, CDGMPD 40485 (CD)

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Africa’s Not For Sissies – Syd Kitchen

Africa’s Not For Sissies – Syd Kitchen (If you can’t stand the heat…)

Africa's Not For Sissies - Syd Kitchen

Africa’s Not For Sissies – Syd Kitchen

The 1999 EP ‘Amakoologik’, hinted to the direction Syd Kitchen’s music was taking. We had had the folky ‘Waiting for the Heave’ and the jazzy ‘City Child’, but Syd was beginning to embrace his African heritage. He had started referring to himself as Afro-Saxon and this was showing. However, it was on the sublime ‘Africa’s Not For Sissies’ that he really developed this side of his music to perfection.

The title track was one of the stand out songs on the album. Addressing the problems of violence in the country and how this was chasing white South Africans away from the country, the Zulu sounding guitar and penny whistle interludes may well have been designed to encourage homesick people into returning, despite the lyrics reminding one of the reasons you left in the first place. However, the refrain, ‘Africa is Not For Sissies’ is a little bit of a taunt to those who left, saying, ‘Are you not man enough to remain in this country’ and this would not sit easily with the macho South African male enjoying a barbie in his new Perth home.

Whatever Syd wanted to achieve with the song from a political view, he set about getting it across in a fine Afro Folk tune that is gently, rootsy and polished. Fans may well argue amongst themselves as to whether ‘Africa Is Not For Sissies’ or ‘Waiting For The Heave’ was his best album and whether the title track of the former was his best song, but whichever one you like best, few will deny that this track was one of the highlights of a low-key career.

Where to find it:
Africa’s Not For SissiesSyd Kitchen (2001), No Budget Records, NOBUD001

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