1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Valiant Swart”

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

Duisand Myl Blues – Valiant Swart

Deur Die Donker Vallei - Valiant Swart

Deur Die Donker Vallei – Valiant Swart

A thousand miles is a long way. To put this in perspective, Johannesburg is about 785 miles from Cape Town. To go a thousand miles you’re talking about a trip from Polokwane to Cape Town. By Air that is about a 2 and a half hour flight (if you can get a direct one). By car it would be (depending on how you drive) about 16 hours travel (without stops). However, if you have this song as company for you on the road, then the journey would not be that bad.

This is a song of longing for a loved one who is far away and was probably written by Valiant when he was touring and missing his baby. It is possible that he was performing in Polokwane and wishing he was “by my baby in my Khaya in die Kaap”. The melancholy that he feels being alone on the road transmutes into this song of aching blues.

But it is not all despair as he find solace in singing “songs van die sterre en die maan” and he admits “dan vergeet ek so bietjie van jou”. Now a woman waiting for her man back home may not like to hear that she is forgotten, so Valiant goes on to tell her what happens  after singing the songs which have made him feel a bit better – “Maar dan gaan ek af/en gaan uit in die strate/en ek mis jou”. It would take a hard woman not to be moved by this.

‘Duisand Myl Blues’ find Valiant in a melancholic mood, singing to a muted, strummed guitar. His voice conveys his longing for his baby and lyrically, these are words straight from the heart. They will strike a chord with anyone who has every missed their loved one.

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

Video:

Gange Van Babylon – Valiant Swart

Deur Die Donker Vallei - Valiant Swart

Deur Die Donker Vallei – Valiant Swart

In 2002, after having given us 3 albums (‘Dorpstraat Revisited’, ‘Die Mystic Boer’ and ‘Kopskoot’) a live album (‘Voetstoets’) and an EP (‘Roekeloos’) all of high quality music, one could have been forgiven for thinking that perhaps Valiant Swart was due a dud one. But instead he gave us arguably his best album…ever in ‘Deur Die Donker Vallei’. It is an album chock full of great tunes and they don’t come much better than ‘Gange Van Bablylon’.  But what are the gange van Bablyon?

Perhaps a quick Biblical lesson is necessary here. In Old Testament times, the Jewish nation was forced into exile in Babylon, one of the major powers of the day. So the song is about being transported back in time to be exiled in an ancient city, right? Well no, not really. Babylon is said to be derived from the Hebrew word for ‘confusion’, so it may be about being a bit deurmekaar. Maybe. A closer look at the lyrics suggests that it could be about the upheaval and violence in the country post the collapse of apartheid.

Whatever the subject matter, it’s safe to say that the song is a smooth blues ride. There’s a steady rhythm courtesy of Vernon Swart on drums and Schalk Joubert on bass, which is supplemented by one of the finest blues guitarists south of the Limpopo – Albert Frost. Valiant himself, apart from singing, plays guitars and adds a harmonica to the bridges between verses. The whole package is firmed out by Simon ‘Agent’ Orange’s Hammond organ. This song is a bit like the ring in Lord of The Rings. It is like a strange, beautiful thing to keep you company through those confused times, something polished, beautiful and powerful to accompany one on your journey. And something that strangely gives you a reason to keep going. This song is precious.

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

Hear here:

https://myspace.com/valiantswartmusic/music/song/gange-van-babylon-40272628

Lyrics:
Dis die winter van die jakkels
Die somer van die slang
Wat ‘n sluwe seisoen
Onder ‘n hartseer son
Die sout van die aarde
Dwarrel en draai
In die gange van Babylon
Brabbel almal in brabbel taal
En niemad wil luister nie
En niemand verstaan
Pandemonium in die gange van Babylon

Dit rammel in die vlei
Dit huil by die bobbejaankrans
Dit dreun met die laning langs
Oor die plein kom dit aangedans
En niemand skenk aandag daaraan
Want daar’s niemand wat verstaan
Wat gaan aan vanaand in die gange van Baylon

In die bosse van Babel
Rank die kinders van Kaan
Tussen die dorings
In die hangende tuin
En die water van verwarring
Syfer deur die mure
In die gange van Babylon
Slaan die laaste ure
En daar’s niemand wat verstaan
Hoekom alles vergaan
Langsamerhand
In die gange van Babylon

(Written by Valiant Swart)

Sonvanger – Valiant Swart

Sonvanger – Valiant Swart (Catching some rays)

Maanhare by Valiant Swart

Maanhare by Valiant Swart

Valiant Swart is known for his rock and blues music, but every now and then he slips into a gentle mood and creates beautiful ballads. Sonvanger is one of his most popular of these. A haunting cello (courtesy of Jaco Viljoen) underpins Valiant’s delicate, almost whispered vocals that caress the heartbreaking lyrics. You are drawn into the song that speaks of loss and sadness.

Valiant is backed by Tonia Selley, Anika and Liela Groenewald who bring a poignant feminine feel to things that makes it even more gentle.

If you ever get a chance to see him perform this song live, it is well worth it. Just be prepared to have the hairs on the back of your neck bristle and a wave of goosebumps to pass over you. Listening to it live or the recorded version, you will also find yourself insisting on that second of silence after the music has faded away to readjust yourself to the real world and to try and comprehend the beauty of what you have just heard. It is almost like one has to have some time to mourn the passing of the song. But cheer up, you can always press play and soak in the emotions all over again and again.

Where to find it:
Maanhare – Valiant Swart (2002), SWART 006

Lyrics:

Kyk of jy vir my die son kan vang
daar’s ‘n kamer in die huis
waar ons die son kan hang
dis donker by die venster
in die middel van die dag
onthou jy hoe helder
die kamer kon lag

kyk of jy vir my die son kan bring
daar’s ‘n leidjie in die gange
wat die son kan sing
want dis stil in die hoeke
hierdie koue seisoen
kan jy sien wat die wind en die reen
aan my doen
sonvanger
ek vra jou mooi
laat hom weer vir my kom skyn

sonvanger
laat my verstaan
hoe ‘n somer sommerso
in die niet kan verdwyn
en laat hom skyn

kyk of jy vir my die son kan kry
daar’s ‘n huisie in my hart
waar die son kan bly
kyk of jy vir my die son kan steel
daar’s ‘n plekkie in die tuin
waar die son kan speel

bring ‘n bietjie lig
vir die draaie op my pad
en ‘n handjie vol strale
vir die donker in my hart

sonvanger
ek vra jou mooi
laat hom weer vir my kom skyn

sonvanger
laat my verstaan
hoe ‘n somer sommerso
in die niet kan verdwyn
en laat hom skyn

(Written by Valiant Swart)

Corlea Botha cover version:

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