1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Via Afrika”

House Of The Rising Sun – Hot R.S.

House Of The Rising Sun - Hot R.S.

House Of The Rising Sun – Hot R.S.

‘The House Of The Rising Sun’ had been around for a while (possibly having its early origins in the 17th century), but was flung into popular culture by The Animals who took this traditional folk tune and introduced a rock element into it, so the song has become used to trying out different genres. And in South Africa it decided to see what it sounded like as a pounding disco anthem.

Cue Kevin Kruger and Dan Hill who assembled a band calling themselves Hot R.S. (I wonder where they got the name from). They drafted in a certain Rabbitt called Trevor Rabin, a chap called Cedric Samson, another called Duncan MacKay and for a sexy feminine touch a pre-Via Afrikan Rene Veldsman was called upon. They then set out turning this old folk tune into a mammoth dance track.

With drums pounding and atmospheric keyboards swirling around in your head, you can bust more than a groove on the dancefloor to this one. But don’t start out with the John Travolta moves as you will need to preserve your energy because the song, which takes up the whole side of the LP, clocks in at nearly 15 minutes, so build up to that moment when you swing your white suit jacket round your head.

And you may just have to have a cold shower standing by for the end of the song because as you head into the last 4 minutes or so, Rene Veldsman, who has been slinking sexily around the song, moves into orgasmic overdrive in a way that makes Meg Ryan’s ‘When Harry Met Sally’ effort seem positively faked. This must have had the mother grundies turning in their graves before they even died.

During the song, Rene also pleads ‘Rise again baby’ and Kruger, Rabin, and Veldsman did so under the name Disco Rock Machine which also produced some brilliant rocking disco track as the 70s drew to a close and the 80s dawned on us.

Hot R.S.’s version of ‘The House Of The Rising’ is a classic epic that is like a gym work out. I am sure that those troubadours of the 17th century would have marvelled at how far and how many roads their song had travelled.

Where to find it:
House Of The Rising Sun – Hot R.S. (1991), RPM, CDRPM 1120

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Living For The City – Disco Rock Machine

Living For The City - Disco Rock Machine

Living For The City – Disco Rock Machine

When Stevie Wonder recorded ‘Living For The City’ it was a slick and funky song. When Disco Rock Machine got hold of it, they turned it into a rocking, floorfilling, stomp-a-thon with a killer female vocal that grabs hold of the song and shakes it by its commuters. While Wonders version is silky and somewhat laid back, rather like a drive through the suburbs, Disco Rock Machine’s version struts down a busy Wall Street, head held high.

As the band’s name suggests, they combined the burgeoning disco sound with a rock sensibility to create a hard-edged song that you can dance to. But who were the cogs in this machine. Well, the names of this studio outfit should ring a few bells as we had none other than Trevor Rabin (Rabbitt and later Yes in case you’ve been living on another planet for the last 40 years) on guitars and keyboards while Kevin Kruger (possibly better known for his production work) on drums and a certain Rene Veldsman (she of Via Afrika fame) providing those powerful vocals. It is quite difficult to picture the voice on this song going on to give us the earthy, ethnopunk of ‘Hey Boy’ which is a credit to the vocal versatility of Veldsman.

The band would also record a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’, but would not find any success on the Springbok Charts, perhaps it was lines like ‘To find a job is like a haystack needle/Cause where he lives they don’t use colored people’ from ‘Living For The City’ that put the old SABC off giving this cover version a good run in the public’s ears. However, you can get to hear it now if you can lay your hands on the ‘Disco Fever’ CD, otherwise, there is always Youtube.

Where to find it:
Disco Fever – Various Artists, (July 1999), Gallo, CDREDD 627 (Out of print, so you may struggle)

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Hey Boy – Via Afrika

Hey Boy – Via Afrika

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Hey Boy – Via Afrika

In the sleeve notes to the CD release of Via Afrika’s eponymous debut album, Rene Veldsman is quoted as saying, ‘Via Afrika was a living force that encapsulated sex, politics, magic and imagination – a freedom of expression that was us. We didn’t make Via Afrika happen. It happened to us.’

One could perhaps change the quote to say ‘Hey Boy was a living force that encapsulated sex, politics, magic and imagination – a freedom of expression’. And we, the South African public, could reply that we didn’t make ‘Hey Boy’ happen, it happened to us for it did seem to come out of nowhere and was something that you not only listened to, but it was something you experienced. The punky vibe and township influence in the music, cried out that this was something not in tune with the system that tried to keep things apart, and therefor was political. Combined this with Rene’s earthy and alluring vocals and you have something sexy, dangerously sexy. It was magical and highly innovative.

Via Afrika always struck me as a sibling of éVoid. They both wore those crazy ethno-hippy outfits (Fadgets as éVoid called them), and they both made a sort of punky off the wall music that drew heavily from the music of the townships. It was live, vibrant music that you were obliged to dance to. ‘Hey Boy’ was one of the classics from that era. With its persistent keyboard tinklings, bouncing bass, clipped drumming and of course Rene’s vocal performances, it wound itself round the hearts and minds of young South Africans. The song reached number 6 on the Radio 5 charts and 11 on Capital 604 charts and garnered some international interest. Listen to it and blow your wee-sill.

Where to find it:
Via Afrika – Via Afrika (2000), Retro Fresh, freshcd 107
Various Artists – The Best of SA Pop Volume 2 (1994) GMP, CDGMPD 40486 (CD)

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