Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Police - Reunited for the Grammy's and maybe more...

Then - In the 80's.
Recently - 2003 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Wow! Announced today, the Police will reunite to open the 49th Grammy Awards Telecast on February 11, 2007. At last we have a reason to watch the Grammy’s again (the past few years have been really dreadful) and thankfully they will be opening the show. So we can switch channels after the performance.

What’s the big deal? What the Beatles was for the sixties generation, the Police was for the late-seventies and early eighties generation. Their music was different, refreshing and they wrote some excellent songs. Enough said. No justification required.

I also heard the rumor that they may tour the UK and US after their Grammy performance. Make sense. They will probably play to pack stadiums. The only worry: Will Sting and Stewart Copeland be able to bury their difference for long enough to be on one stage together long enough for a few songs. Have they grown up?

This will only be the 3rd time they reunite since Police broke up in 1986. They once had an unplanned jamming at Sting’s wedding and then again in 2003 for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Then, it was rumored, there were a lot of behind-the-scenes negotiations to enable all the big heads and egos to fit in on one stage.

Monday, January 22, 2007

In The Shadow Of The Baobab

In the shadow of the baobab
when the afternoon sun is a golden glow
and the heat of the day is being dissolved
by a soft breeze that started to blow
the herd is returning, the night is approaching
and soon, a sickle moon will be hanging low

When the ancient dust of Africa
has settled at the end of day
and the wisdom of the elders has quietly been spoken
from beneath the baobab and conveyed
fires were started and within,
darkness and fears were allayed

Rise up my boys to face the night
rise up to shed your fears
sleep with one eye open and one ear to the ground
and keep near you your beloved spears
for tonight after the eunoto
you'll be no more il morran, but men 'till your grey years.
Andre Hanekom 2007

Sunday, January 21, 2007

My Rediscovery of Afrikaans Music

That I had to leave the country of my birth to rediscover the music of my mother tongue is not strange, but that it actually happened is refreshing. The fact that I was not totally consumed by the “culture if the 20th century” since my arrival in the States is a thankful blessing. The rediscovery is a direct result of the Internet and the availability of mp3’s. And maybe, because you can take me out of Africa, doesn’t mean you can’t take Africa out of me. And Afrikaans is African, was born and kneaded and molded in Africa, and still is.

When I left in ’97, Afrikaans music was in my opinion stagnant. The Voelvry movement of 1989 with Johannes Kerkorrel en die Gereformeered Blues Band, Koos Kombuis and others, managed by “Dagga” Dirk Uys held so much promised as a final breakaway from Bles Bridges and soppy, only-love-songs-is-good-enough-for-sales in Afrikaans. Although their impact was small, at the time, it certainly was significant as a point of reference for others to follow. (Read more about the Voelvry movement and their impact.) In the 90’s we had be content with syrupy André Schwartz, teen idol Steve Hofmeyr and funny man Leon Schuster. The only light carriers of Afrikaans folk and rock during that period was Valiant Swart, Koos Kombuis and Piet Botha. Sadly, it would be a wait of 10 or more years before we experienced the next explosion of Afrikaans rock.

The only major Afrikaans musicians in 1997 were Anton Goosen, in the folk, pop and Afrikaans rock genres, the man they called the Bob Dylan of South Africa, which is an honor to be mentioned in the same breath as Dylan, but it is also an insult to Goosen’s gigantic contribution to Afrikaans music. For me Anton Goosen is Anton Goosen. Period. His sound is unique and he is a pioneer in introducing new sounds, especially African sounds into standard Afrikaans music. His collaboration with the Kommissie Van Ondersoek on the Winde van Verandering album is still the best for me. Maybe we should also call him the Paul Simon of South Africa. The second big name is Amanda Strydom, the Voice. Although she had her fair share of downs, she always came back to reach yet never before highs and her staying power must be admired. Comfortable in cabaret, contemporary and rock, she seems to always give all of her over to the music, exposing her inner self and leaving herself vulnerable. Thirdly there was Piet Botha / Jack Hammer, South Africa’s own blues and classic rock, Afrikaans/English rocker, who learned his music in hard school of Los Angeles’ rock bands. And lastly, Coenie De Villiers, who has that unique ability to combine the use of the most beautiful Afrikaans lyrics with sensitive piano music and present it in a sophisticated, professional manner that, was comparable with anything available in the rest of the world. In 1986 De Villiers’s music was banned by state radio because it was seen as too political and he left South Africa and stayed in Cyprus for 2 years. Feel free to disagree, but those are my choices.

My rediscovery started at the end of 1999 when a visited South Africa and picked up Vuurklip from Richard van der Westhuizen and Lochner De Kock in a Look & Listen in Durbanville. They were also known as Klip. Once I sat down with earphones on and really listened to this 1998 release, it knocked me of my feet so to speak (since I was already seated.) It was new, funny, explorative and refreshingly different from the other Afrikaans music I have heard before. Here were two guys that were on a new Afrikaans planet.

The groups and individuals that would follow is a revelation so far and I don’t think we have yet heard the best. It’s as if the new century has awakened a renaissance. The music is more diverse. Yes, there are still a lot of folksy guitar work, but rock, punk, industrial and even heavy metal is coming through strong. I also believe the new bunch has just as much to write about than the Voelvry movement. Life is just as complicated now as before the end of apartheid. In many ways there is a similarity in the situation. The Afrikaner and Afrikaans is seeking an identity, joblessness is heavy on their minds, crime and violence are impacting everyone, the 2nd Great Trek cause nearly 1 million people, mostly whites, to leave the country, a mass brain drain, and the euphoria of a new South Africa since 1994 has not materialized. On the contrary, although there is hope for a better South Africa and a better deal for Afrikaans, there is also despair in the lyrics and music of the new Afrikaner rockers. Just listen to Koos Kombuis’s Fokkel.

Jan Blohm, Abel Kraamsaal, Alta Joubert, Gian Groen, Akkedis, Battery 9, Thys Nywerheid, Trompie is Dood, Fokofpolisiekar, Brixton Moord en Roof Orkes, Beeskraal, Diff-Olie, and several others in the first few years of the 21st century has renewed my faith in Afrikaans rock and Afrikaans music in general. Who will survive and how many will reach the status of legends and greats are still to be seen. It is still early days of the new revolution. And all the while, Anton Goosen, Piet Botha, Amanda Strydom and Coenie De Villiers are still going strong. Koos Kombuis and Valiant Swart are still around and relative. Strydom’s “Hoor Hoe Brom Die Wind” is one of my favorite Afrikaans rock songs of all times. It has all the elements of a classic rock song. Her album Verspreide Donderbuie/Scattered Thunder won many prestigious South African music awards during 2003 and 2004. In the end it is staying power and/or deep sudden impact that will determine who we talk about 10 years from now when we talk about Afrikaans music.

PS: Noteworthy Website: DNA Strings

My Herontdekking van Afrikaanse musiek

Dat ek my geboorteland moes verlaat het om die musiek van my moedertaal te herontdek is seker nie vreemd nie, maar dat dit plaasgevind het, is verfrissend. Die feit dat ek nie heeltemal verteer en verswelg is deur die “kultuur van die 20ste eeu” sedert my koms na Amerika is ‘n dankbaar seën. Die herontdekking is 'n direkte resultaat van die Internet en die beskikbaarheid van mp3s. En dalk, net dalk, omdat jy my uit Afrika kan neem, beteken nie jy kan Afrika uit my neem nie. En die Afrikaanse taal is van Afrika, was gebore en geknie en gegiet in Afrika, en is steeds aan die verander.

Toe ek die land verlaat het in ’97 was Afrikaanse musiek stagneerend na my mening. Die Voelvry beweging van 1989 met Johannes Kerkorrel en die Gereformeered Blues Band, Koos Kombuis en ander, bestuur deur “Dagga” Dirk Uys, het so veel belofte ingehou as 'n finale wegbreek van Bles Bridges en stroperige, net-liefdesliedjies-is-goed-genoeg-vir-verkope in Afrikaans. Alhoewel hul impak op daardie tyd klein was, dien dit vandag as ‘n beduidende baken vir ander om te volg. (Lees meer omtrent die Voelvry beweging en hul impak.) In die 90’s moes ons tevrede wees met stroperige André Schwartz, tiener afgod Steve Hofmeyr en komediant Leon Schuster. Die enigste lig draers van Afrikaanse Folk and Rock musiek gedurende daardie periode was Anton Goosen, Valiant Swart, Koos Kombuis en Piet Botha. Ons sou 10 of meer jare moes wag voor ons die volgende ontploffing van Afrikaans Rock kon ervaar.

Die enigste groot Afrikaanse musikante in 1997 was Anton Goosen, in die Folk, Pop en Rock genres, die man wat hulle Suid-Afrika se Bob Dylan noem. Alhoewel dit 'n eer is om in dieselfde asem as Dylan genoem te word, is dit ook 'n belediging aan Goosen vir sy reuse bydrae to Afrikaanse musiek. Vir my is Anton Goosen, Anton Goosen. Punt. Sy klank is uniek en hy is 'n baanbreker om nuwe klanke, veral Afrika klanke, in te sluit in standaard Afrikaanse musiek. Sy samewerking met die Kommissie van Ondersoek op die Winde Van Verandering vrystelling is steeds vir my van sy beste werk. Miskien moet ons hom ook die Paul Simon van Suid-Afrika noem. Die tweede groot naam was Amanda Strydom, die Stem. Alhoewel sy sekere tye van laagte punte ervaar het, het sy altyd teruggekom en hoogtes bereik wat sy nooit voorheen bereik het nie. Haar “staying power” moet geadmireer word. Sy is gemaklik in Kabaret, Kontemporer en Rock, en sy gee altyd haarself tenvolle oor aan haar musiek, kewsbaar en toetaal ontblote. Derdens was daar Piet Botha / Jack Hammer, Suid Afrika se eie Blues en klassieke Rock, Afrikaans/Engelse rocker, wat sy musiek geleer het in die hoogs kompenterende skool van Los Angeles Rock groepe. Ten slotte, Coenie de Villiers, wat die unieke vermoë het om die mooiste Afrikaanse lirieke met sensitiewe klavier musiek te kombineer en dit op 'n gesofistikeerde, professioneel manier aan te bied, wat vergelykbaar is met die bestes in die wêreld. In 1986 is baie van Coenie se musiek verban deur staats radio omdat sy lirieke te polities beskou was en hy het vir 2 jaar in Cyprus gewoon and musiek gemaak. Jy is geregtig op jou eie opinie, maar hierdie is my keuses.

My herontdekking het begin aan die einde van 1999 toe ek 'n besoek aan Suid-Afrika gebring het en die vrystelling Vuurklip van Richard van der Westhuizen en Lochner de Kock by Look & Listen in Durbanville opgetel het. Hulle staan ook bekend as Klip. Nadat ek gaan sit het met oorfone op en regtig geluister het na hierdie 1998 vrystelling, het dit spreekwoordelik my voete onder my uitgeslaan, (sienende dat ek alreeds gesit het.) Dit was nuut, snaaks, ontdekkend en refrissend verskillend van die ander Afrikaanse musiek wat ek voorheen gehoor het. Hier was twee ouens op 'n nuwe Afrikaanse planeet.

Die groepe en individue wat sou volg is 'n openbaring tot dusver en ek dink nie ons het al die beste gehoor nie. Dit is asof die nuwe eeu ‘n renaissance ontwaak het. Die musiek is meer divers en verskillend. Ja, daar is steeds ‘n klomp folksy kitaar werk, maar Rock, Punk, Industrieël en selfs swaar Metale musiek kom sterk navore. Ek glo ook die nuwe klomp het net so veel om oor te skryf soos gedurende die Voelvry beweging. Die lewe is nou net so gekompliseerd soos voor die einde van apartheid. In baie opsigte is daar is 'n eendersheid in die situasie. Die Afrikaner en Afrikaans soek 'n identiteit, werkloosheid is swaar op hul gemoedere, misdaad en geweld affekteer almal, die 2de Groot Trek wat veroorsaak het dat amper 1 miljoen mense, meestal blankes, die land verlaat het, 'n massa brein dreineering, en die “euphoria” van 'n nuwe Suid-Afrika sedert 1994 het nooit materiaaliseer nie. Inteendeel, alhoewel daar hoop is vir 'n beter Suid-Afrika en 'n beter bedeling vir Afrikaans, is daar is ook wanhoop in die woorde en musiek van die nuwe Afrikaanse rockers. Luister na Koos Kombuis se Fokkel.

Jan Blohm, Abel Kraamsaal, Alta Joubert, Gian Groen, Akkedis, Battery 9, Thys Nywerheid, Trompie is Dood, Fokofpolisiekar, Brixton Moord en Roof Orkes, Beeskraal, Diff-olie, en verskeie ander het in die eerste paar jaar van die 21ste eeu ‘n hernuwe geloof in Afrikaanse Rock en Afrikaans musiek in die algemeen in my ontwaak. Wie sal oorleef en hoeveel van hulle sal die status van legendes en groot meesters bereik, sal ons moet sien. Dit is nog vroeë dae van die nuwe revolusie. En dit terwyl Anton Goosen, Piet Botha, Amanda Strydom en Coenie de Villiers steeds goed aangaan. Koos Kombuis en Valiant Swart is steeds teenwoordig en hul musiek is steed relatief. Strydom se “Hoor Hoe Brom Die Wind” is een van my gunsteling Afrikaans Rock treffers van alle tye. Dit het al die elemente van 'n klassieke Rock lied. Haar vrystelling “Verspreide Donderbuie/Scattered Thunder” het verskeie hoogs gewaardeerde Suid-Afrikanaanse musiek toekennings gedurende 2003 en 2004 gewen. Ten einde is dit die vermoe om lank op die toneel te bly en/of ‘n skielike diep impak te maak wat sal bepaal oor wie ons 10 jaar van nou af gesels wanneer ons oor Afrikaanse musiek praat.

PS: Merkwaardige webwerf: DNA Strings

Friday, January 19, 2007

These Homecoming Friday's

Monterrey, Nueve Leon, Mexico. Early morning.

“Woke up this morning with an ache in my head.”*

One of those splitting headaches that won’t allow your eyes to move from east to west, the way George Gregan plays his rugby for Australia. If it was from too much drinking last night I can still understand, but it was not the case. I even went to bed early at 11 PM. The most likely reason is a stuffy hotel room. A quick breakfast of "pan tostados y cafe Americano" at the The Wings in the Monterrey airport and a headache tablet might do the trick.

These homecoming Friday’s are long, tiresome days. Not from physical activity, but mindless traveling is tiresome. The hair-raising drives from hotel to airport, (whether by taxi or hotel shuttle the drivers all seems to value their lives cheap by the way they drive, fast, furious, and in perpetual rush to the next pick-up. Hell, you’ll swear they are looking forward to this kind of thing, as if they can never get enough of it. At the airport on a bus, on the plane. At the next airport - off the plane, on a bus, through customs, and then the wait, and wait, and wait. Back on a plane, off the plane, and the 45 minute ride home.

Houston, TX . 11:00 AM

“Welcome home”, said the customs lady at Houston, TX airport.

This morning those words sound soooo sweet. I slept most of the 1 hour 15 minute flight. My head feels slightly better. More clearer. The sinus ache between the eyes is not gone though. It’s still early but lunch at Chilli’s is at the order of the day. An Amstel to start off with. Maybe a beer will dull the thought of waiting for the next 3 hours before my connection flight takes off. Followed by a cheese steak, fries and glass of chardonnay. It will have to do until six tonight when I get home.

At the departure gate, terminal B, those circular halls with one seating area and multiple exit gates, a group of women pays a man traveling with them the ultimate, respectful embarrassment when they announce over the PA system: “ladies and gentlemen, we would like to wish Bill a happy birthday” and then went on to stand in front of him and sing happy birthday, followed by a thunderous applause by most present in the terminal. Oh man! You could fry an egg on the color of his ears.

Danville, KY, 8:30 PM

The flight to Lexington and the ride home were thankfully uneventful. I don’t think I had the stomach today for any delays. After dinner I just relaxed watching Gloucester beating Leinster in a Heineken Cup match that was played earlier this evening in Britain.

Time to post and time for bed.

* From “This Is Not A Song It’s An Outburst: Or The Establishment Blues” from the album Cold Fact by Rodriguez. Also see The Sugarman site

Monday, January 1, 2007

"Home Sweet Fortress"

When Scott Baldauf, a correspondent with The Christian Science Monitor, recently moved from India to South Africa he had no idea what it's like to live in the current “new” South Africa.
In the past, some people here in America, upon hearing that I come from South Africa, have made statements like: “But you’re white, I thought all South Africans are black”, or “Are there really still wild animals roaming the streets?” Well…no, but then again…maybe. After reading Scott’s article I wonder, maybe there are still wild animals roaming the streets, just not the kind on four legs and in furry skins. Here is Scott’s article: In South Africa, Home Sweet Fortress.