1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

Just another music list

Archive for the tag “Wonderboom”

Jafta Rebel (X) – Wonderboom

Isit? - Wonderboom

Isit? – Wonderboom

I had to do a Google search on what a Jafta was and one option was that it was anacronym for Johannesburg Association for the Aged. Listening to this early Wonderboom track, its hard to imagine that this is what they are singing about as the song mixes a sort of ska sound with a kind of speed metal. But then again, they were singing about a Jafta Rebel, so maybe it was someone who was rebelling about getting old.

However, listening to the lyrics it appears that Jafta is the name of a guy and, if my interpretation of the words is correct, he is a dope dealer to the ladies, but I might be wrong. There are also a load of references to sex, which, along with the racing guitars, makes it a song that would not sit comfortably with a Sonja Herholdt fan for example.

Wonderboom became a very successful local band, most of their success was a result of their later work, but this track, which appeared on their 1997 EP Isit?, was a sign of what was to come from the them. This is tight yet manic rock that the ‘Booms handle with cocky confidence. It was clear way back then that this band was destined for big things.

Where to find it:
Isit? (6 track EP) – Wonderboom, (1997), Wildebeest, WILDE007

Video:
EP Version:

Santana Sessions:

Shadows – Wonderboom

Wonderboom

Wonderboom

When you take on a classic, you often take a huge risk. ‘It’s not as good as the original’ or even, ‘why don’t they just leave the old songs alone, you can’t make it better’ will often be thrown at you, invariably by the older generation who grew up with the original. And I must admit, I am like that sometimes with cover versions or remakes of films that I grew up liking.

However, with Wonderboom’s take on arguably the best South African track of the 80s, I am quite content to sit back and enjoy one of my favourites being given a update, and I did my growing up in the 80s. Wonderboom are one of a handful of South African acts who could have pulled this off in this style, injecting the the old ‘bundu bush’ ethno-punk original with a hard edged rock swagger and the result is an in-yer-face, wall-of-sound song that retains the feel and tune of the original, but has dragged it through the bush backwards into the naughties.

It is a much more straight forward cover than their take on Rabbitt’s ‘Charlie’ where they took that one and turned it into a heavy kwaito track and I would have to say it is not as good as the original (because I am old), but it certainly shows respect to the éVoid version and as one who grew up with the original, you can’t ask for more than that. Like nearly every cover of a classic, this will live in the, erm, shadow of the original, but it is not so pale that you can hardly make out the details shadow. It is a clear, well-defined one created by a sharp African sun, it is one that demands to be noticed.

Where to find it:
Rewind – Wonderboom (2001), David Gresham Records, CDDGR 1533

Video:
Audio:

Santana Sessions:

Maid In Africa – Electric Petals

Polynation - Electric Petals

Polynation – Electric Petals

This is the second song from the solitary Electric Petals album, ‘Polynation’, to appear on this list. The punny title is a trademark of Danny de Wet, who was in early eVoid and went on to be one of the driving forces behind Wonderboom, and he also supplies the bittersweet lyrics.

The song is essentially a conversation between a white western tourist and a black South African ‘maid’. The tourist arrives in the country and buys up all the souvenirs on offer, even wanting to have the beautiful sky. But the ‘maid’ answers that, even if you were born and bred here, the sky is not ours to give. The the plight of the black people is raised and the tourist asks what can she do? But again the answer is that she can’t know that, even if she had been born and bred in Africa. The song then goes on to say that despite being down trodden, they still ‘shine through the ugliness’.

This bittersweet contrast between the ugliness of apartheid and the way that people can still ‘shine through’ brings a poingnancy to this song which subtly weaves a thin thread of township guitar into the predominantly western sounding song. This effect is further enhanced when the song moves into the ‘shines through’ section and a then, not very well known, Vusi Mahlasela delivers what the sleeve notes to the CD describe as a ‘one in a million vocal’ which underscores the ability to shine.

The album and the song were largely ignored by the general public at the time and that probably had more to do with the uncomfortable politics in the lyrics than the music itself as it is packed with great tunes with ‘Maid In africa’ being one of the standout ones.

Where to find it:
Polynation – The Electric Petals (1995), Teal Records, MMTCD-1906

Charlie (Ain’t Slavin’ 2 Da Habit) – Wonderboom

Charlie (Ain’t Slavin’ 2 Da Habit) – Wonderboom

Wonderboom

Wonderboom

When Rabbitt recorded ‘Charlie’ it was a ‘sleek Labrador with a shiny coat’ of a song. Wonderboom turned it into a snarling, growling pitbull. In the quarter of a century that passed between Rabbitt’s original and Wonderboom’ cover (yes it was that long), rock had been taken out the hands of the pretty boys and unceremoniously dumped into the laps of grungy, tat covered hardcore guys.

Another development in South African terms was the rise of kwaito in the townships and Wonderboom flavoured their hard edged rock sound with the kwaito beats to give us this pounding, snarling version of the old classic. Lead singer Cito and guitarist Martin Schofield battle it out in the vocal department, reaching their peak on the chorus with Cito taking control of the catchy chant of “Charlie! Charlie! Charlie!” while Martin’s blunter voice takes the rap-like “I ain’t slavin’ 2 da habit”.

Dad’s back in the 70’s would probably have worried about their daughters going out with those wild boys in Rabbitt, but after hearing this version, they would be crying out for a nice clean cut Rabbitt boy to take his daughter out, rather than letting these Wonderboom lads near her. However, musically, the ‘Booms took the classic song by the scruff of its neck and dragged it into the new millennium where it can now be heard kicking and screaming and having one helluva party. Apparently Patric van Blerk (who wrote the song) likes this version. And why not? It’s a great cover of a great song.

Where to find it:
Rewind – Wonderboom (2001), David Gresham Records, CDDGR 1533

 

White Lines – Wonderboom

White Lines – Wonderboom

Wonderboom

Wonderboom

Despite Wonderboom’s penchant for cover versions (they have produced 2 albums of just covers), this is not a re-hash of the Grandmaster Flash classic. Besides which, the ‘Booms tended to keep their coverings to local songs in the main. The second thing to know about ‘White Lines’ is that, unlike the Grandmaster Flash song, this one is not about drugs. Rather, it is the funkiest rock song the planet has ever heard about being pulled over by the fuzz. (Some may argue that ‘Fokofpolsiekar’ should get that title, but the latter is just not funky).

Just listen to the start of the song and you’ll see what I mean about it being funky. Before Cito begins to enlightens us about how he was stopped at a roadblock and how the police were “chatting up my girlie”, Martin Schofield is already strutting out a riff so funk laden that it would have even the most hardened speedcop nodding his head in time to. The song then explodes into the chorus about walking the white line. This is Wonderboom at their best. Tuneful, witty and rocking (althought there is some questionable rhyming in the one (white) line “in the slammer/hammer/sorry ek is jammer”).

This is one white line that is not to be sniffed at.

Where to find it:
Tell Someone Who Cares – Wonderboom (2003), Gresham Records, CDDGR1561

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: