1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Voelvry”

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)


Varsity sing version:

A Man Like Me – James Stewart

A Man Like Me - James Stewart

A Man Like Me – James Stewart

One time member of The Usual, James Stewart makes beautifully crafted pop songs. And ‘A Man Like You’ is no exception. On this sentimental song, his emotional-without-being-X-Factor-warblingly-irritating voice floats over the gentle instrumentation. The song seems to glide along on a shiny surface of polished production and plush sounds.

The words tell the familiar tale of a man feeling lucky with the woman who has fallen in love with them. Men are often criticised for not showing their true feelings, but when James sings here about ‘feeling like a stranger in this world’ and how he does not really feel deserving of love, then he will ‘thank my lucky stars each night Because they’re the only reason I can see Why a beautiful woman like you could ever love a man like me’.

‘A Man Like Me’ topped the SA Rockdigest charts back in 2002 and spent 2 weeks there and it was no surpise. The album that produced this chart topper along with 2 other songs that topped those charts (‘Shine’ and ‘Gravity’) has a list of personnel involved that is packed with names from the who’s who of SA music. Bright Blue’s ‘Dan Heymann and Tom Fox help out in the instrumentation department along with Paul Tizzard, Yoyo Buys and Voelvry-er Jannie van Tonder. On the production side, it’s only McCully Workshop’s Richard Black behind the desk with James Stewart and Joe Arthur pops in to help master the final affair. With talent like Stewart’s and friends like his, it’s not surprising we got a song as good as this from a man like him.

Where to find it:
A Man Like Me – James Stewart (2004), Street Level, CDSLS(CLF)135

Hear here:


Live at the Waterfront:

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:


Goema – The Genuines

Goema - The Genuines

Goema – The Genuines

There came a time in South African music when Afrikaans musicians were breaking free of the shackles of sugar candy coated music that sang of innocent things, and began to rock and sing of things political. This was the Voelvry movement. Slightly lost in this ‘Afrikaans’ revolution was a Cape Coloured band called The Genuines. Led by Samuel ‘Mr Mac’ McKenzie on banjo, this band were doing a similar thing with the traditional music of the Cape Coloureds. And in ‘Goema’, the title track of their debut (I think) album they really broke the mould.

‘Goema’ is a thrashy, punky piece that races along at a blistering pace (completely out of sync with life in the Cape) with Gerard O’Brien’s searing guitar trying to out pace Ian Herman’s (he of Tananas fame) machine gunning drums while Mr Mac’s throaty vocals cascade over the top of this. It last a mere 3 minutes this song, but it would take some stamina on the listener’s behalf to cope should the song be longer as it leaves you quite exhausted.

Parallel’s could be drawn with The Pogues and Les Negresses Vertes who took the traditional music of their respective cultures and punked it up. The Genuines did this with their ‘Cape Carnival’ style of music with 2 of their songs appearing on the original Voelvry album (‘Blikkie Se Boem’ and ‘Ou Klein Jannie’). With ‘Goema’ they took things a step further and nearly did away completely with any traces of their roots – there is just a trace of the Cape Coloured accent in the vocals – and stepped out of their comfort zone to give us probably the best punk song ever by a band of Coloureds.

Where to find it:
Goema – The Genuines (1986), Shifty Records, SHIFT22




Almal Moet Gerook Raak – Johannes Kerkorrel

Almal Moet Gerook Raak – Johannes Kerkorrel

Voelvry - Die Toer

Voelvry – Die Toer

As every good tweetaalige South African knows, ‘Almal Moet Gerook Raak’ translates as ‘Everybody Must Get Stoned’. And as every good Dylan fan knows the song containing that lyric is actually called ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’. (The lyric is not the title of the song!).

Kerkorrel’s song is not an Afrikaans cover of the Dylan classic. It is his own compositon which implores everyone to get high and clean up the mess (“Die germors hier skoon maak”). The song was recorded live and features on the Voelvry- Die Toer album. Given the political leaning of Kerkorrel during the Voelvry period, one can safely assume that ‘die gemors’ he refers to was Apartheid. However, I am not sure how getting stoned would help as stoned people seem to sit around in a bit of a haze doing bogger all. I guess he was imploring to the hippy sense of the 60’s where everything was peace, love and smoking boom.

That said, the song itself is not particularly laid back or stoned. It’s a lively piece of honky-tonky-rocky-rolly-bounce-a-roundy-howling-guitary-get-up-and-dancey music that is at the opposite end of the serious scale to its underlying subject matter.

Sadly, as we know, Kerkorrel took his life in 2002 which lent an irony to the line in Dylan’s song just before ‘Everybody must get stoned’ which goes ‘But I would not feel so all alone’. However, let’s not dwell on the sadness. Put on ‘Almal Moet Gerook Raak’ and let’s rock this joint.

Where to find it:
Tien Jaar Later – Johannes Kerkorrel (1998), Gallo, GWVCD 4
Voelvry – Die Toer – Various Artist (2002), Sheer, SHIF002 (Live version)


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