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'YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND TOMORROW' - POPS MOHAMED [Sheer)
2 September 2002 Pops Mohamed is a well-travelled multi-instrumentalist, who has taken it upon himself to keep traditional sounds alive - from mbqanga to kwela and marabi. He specialises in indigenous instruments like the Kora (a harp from West Africa), the Mbira (a thumb piano from Zimbabwe), the Didgeridoo (native to the Aboriginal people of Australia), and the Birimbau and the African Mouth Bow - developed by the South American Indians and the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert respectively.
Pops was born in South Africa, raised in Benoni, and initiated into the worlds of both traditional music and jazz music, by his visits to Dorkay House. There, from a young age he was exposed to legends like Kippie Moeketsi and Abdullah Ibrahim. At the age of 14 he formed his first group 'The Valiants', playing Kwela, Soul, Pop and Latin music. His next band, `Children's Society`, gained Pops his first Townships hit with 'I'm a Married Man'. He then teamed up with Abdullah Ibrahim's saxophonist, Bazil 'Mannenberg' Coetzee and Sakhile's bassist, Sipho Gumede, landing a record contract which resulted in four distinct albums: 'Black Disco', 'Movement in the City', 'BM Movement' and 'Inner City Funk'.
His 'Kalamazoo' and 'Sophiatown' albums, released in 1991 and 1992 were both nominated for 'Best Jazz Album' in South Africa's OKTV Awards. Pops is also a record producer, who has travelled widely recording ancient music and producing what is now being labelled as 'World Music'. Pops produced the late Moses Molelekwa's double award winning album 'Finding Ones Self', which won both the 'Best Contemporary Jazz Album' and 'Best Traditional Jazz Album' in the 1996 FNB music awards. Recently Pops toured Switzerland with Andreas Vollenweider's band featuring Max Lasser and Busi Mhlongo.
As a result of his travels, he is constantly developing new approaches to music and strives to preserve ancient musical instruments as well as ancient performance techniques. Pops, along with Kalamazoo partner, Sipho Gumede, was nominated for 'Best South African Traditional Jazz Album' at this year's SAMA Awards for their album 'Kalamazoo 3'.
On Pops' latest release, 'Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow', he takes a fresh look at some of his songs from his past and present, re-recording them all to create a kind of 'Best Of' collection, but with all the songs in new versions. There's 'Gauteng Vibes' off his classic 'Ancestral Healing' album as well as 'Cup o' Jo'burg' off that album, here retitled, 'I'm Going Back'. There's also 'Kalamazoo', 'Spirit', and the two-part 'The Journey'. The music on 'Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow' combines the rich cultural traditions of the continent, with the technological breakthroughs of the 21st century, as only Pops can.
Buy Pops CDs at:
'GLORY GLORY' - THE DOLLY ROCKERS (Indie, released March 2002)
12 August 2002 The mad one out of Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett sang a song called 'Dolly Rocker'. The song was about a dress of the same name which was fashionable around that time. I'm not sure whether South Africa's Dolly Rockers are named after Syd or the dress, but one thing's for sure, they don't do things Barrett Fashion.
'Glory Glory' is the sound of thousands of teenage boys sitting in their bedrooms, trying to come to terms with the transition from lighty-hood into manhood and all the angst and pain that brings. However this is done through adult eyes and therefore has the advantage of being more measured and slick.
This is not a happy album. Titles like 'Consume Me', 'Pain' and 'Kissing the Coroner' tell you that before the laser touches the disc. It opens with an ominous Jaws Theme type sound warning you to tread with caution. This gives way to a hollow guitar and imploring vocal which is maintained throughout the album with the instrumentation being sparse, with mournful, sometimes broody guitars, while Greg Donnelly's vocals range from aching and edgy to grizzly and gravelly.
Despite this, there are also some uplifting moments. 'Change the World' and 'Oh My God' have more of a lilt to them while the title track is triumphant without the celebration. 'Sleepytown' borders on being full on rock with some heavier guitar and faster pace.
This sounds like the record a lot of the 80's indie bands were trying to make, but none seemed to succeed with. It's sort of a gothic Smiths album, measured jangling guitars, somewhat ethereal with a bit of Bauhaus darkness thrown in for good measure. It has what those 80's albums lacked - slick production and a polished sheen. Despite this 80's comparison, it does not sound dated, and feels like it can bear the label 'timeless', although only time can tell on that front.
Listen to Dolly Rockers MP3s at: http://www.samp3.com
Buy this SA Rock Digest chart-topping CD at:
More about the Dolly Rockers at:
John Samson, London, UK
'96 - 02 THE SINGLES' - HENRY ATE
28 July 2002 A timely career retrospective from Karma-Ann Swanepoel, who has relocated to London to open a studio with Neal Snyman. 'The Singles' features a selection of the best tracks from her (various bands') three 'angst-pop' albums. There is also an extra bonus of four new tracks, including her catchy new single 'Finally' (which is also the final track on this collection...mmm!). Henry Ate's 1996 debut album, 'Slap In The Face', was a slow but sure grower, helped by a strong and devoted following. That album's four strongest tracks - 'Jesus Made Me', 'Henry', 'Just', and 'Hey Mister' - open this album on a sparkling note. 'Dr Pepper', 'Tuesday Afternoon', and 'One Day Soon' here represent Karma's under-rated second album 'One Day Soon', which suffered commercially from the band's ill-advised name-change to Karma.
They were back as Henry Ate for the surprisingly uplifting 'Torn And Tattered' album from 2000. 'Mad Hatter' was a popular radio hit off the album, and 'She's Alright', 'Prayer', and 'Saints And Sinners' indicated that Karma-Ann's delicate musical psyche was settled, balanced, and working fine. The final four tracks here - 'Outside', 'Life', 'Hey Boy' (not a Via Afrika cover), and 'Finally' - were recorded specially for this collection, and were produced with Neal Snyman. 'Finally' is followed by an extra-bonus, hidden slower piano version of, um, 'Finally'. Point made!
Karma always surrounded herself with top musicians, like long-time ally guitarist Julian Sun, bassist Brendan Ou Tim, drummers Barry van Zyl and Peter Cohen, and experienced names like Willem Moller, Peter Pearlson and Neal Snyman to produce and engineer most of her recorded work to date. The result is a collection that illustrates a creative and mature musical progression over six years, achieved without moving too far away from the bright, sweet-voiced pop that attracted us all in the first place. And despite her mostly serious public persona, when you lift this CD out of the box, underneath there's a lovely photo of Karma with a huge smile on her face. All things considered, it's been a good six years! What's next? (SS)
'DIE HITS' - PIET BOTHA
22 July 2002 Piet Botha is well known for his political connections - he shares a birthday with Nelson Mandela (18 July) and his surname is an anagram of Thabo. But not only are there these connections, but lyrically he is probably South Africa's most musical political historian. Many of his songs refer to the Boer War, but these can be read as comments on modern society. Lines like 'In die naam van haar majesteit/Is hier moord gepleeg/Moet dit nooit vergeet' from 'Slagtersnek' can be interpreted literally or applied to any oppressive regime.
A number of these historio-political songs can be found on 'Die Hits', a collection of Piet's solo work. The already mentioned 'Slagtersnek', 'Van Tonder' and 'Staan Saam Burgers' (the latter not being a call for fast food unity) to name a few. But the album is not just one big history lesson set to music, there are songs about love, lost love, being on the road and all injected with a healthy dose of South African imagery. There are jakkels, mambas, pofadders and the occasional bobbejaan in this game park of sound, while 'Laat die Wiele Rol' is a lesson in geography of the Cape.
While the lyrics take you on these fascinating journeys, the music gently soothes the soul. It's mostly laid back blues, with Piet's great guitar sound being supplemented by some howling harmonica and spine-chilling cello, the latter coming from Jonathan Martin. Piet also uses the Hammond organ on a few tracks to good effect, these coming courtesy of Ron 'Bones' Brettell on some tracks and Simon 'Agent' Orange on others.
This album can be listened to as a somewhat melancholic blues album that can gently relax you, particularly after a bruising day at the office, or you can listen carefully to the lyrics and be moved by it's poetical beauty and acute socio-political messages. Whichever way you choose to enjoy this album, enjoy it you will. If you don't own a copy, I won't say for Piet's sake buy one, do it for your own sake.
Happy Botha-day Piet.
Piet Botha and Jack Hammer
'THE UNKNOWN' - STARKRAVINGSANE [INDIE]
2 July 2002 From the band's name you'd expect a nu-metal punk thrash, but what you get is a refreshing and very chilled contrast. 'The Unknown' is a delicate and skilled slice of trippy local folk compositions, all performed by this rising Cape Town trio. StarkRavingSane formed in the Kalk Bay area in early-2001 and have built a faithful following from a string of gigs at The Troubadour, The Kronendal, the V&A Waterfront Amphitheatre, CD Wherehouse, the recent Barleycorn Festival, and this year's Splashy Fen Festival, where they repeated their acclaimed performance from the 2001 event.
The band is Matthew Rice on guitar and vocals with James Kaye on percussion, and Ronan Skillen on didgeridoo and other assorted percussion - like his innovative "stones in a Marmite jar" instrument! Together these three musicians have produced a laid-back brand of relaxed head music, a gentle version of the early SA trip-folk groups like Nagual and THC. Many of these songs, like 'A New Groove', 'The Sun', and 'The Road', are slow-growers rewarding listeners patience with intricate instrumental patterns and a light melodic touch. 'Pleez Man' (it's about the cops) is the closest StarkRavingSane get to a conventional arrangement.
The album was recorded by Malcolm Aberdein at M.A.R.S Studios in Woodstock on June 18 and 21 2001, which was the day of the solstice and total solar eclipse....
Available at http://www.oneworld.co.za
'EQUILIBRIUM' - KOOS KOMBUIS [Rhythm]
10 June 2002 Although 'Equilibrium' is credited as a Koos Kombuis album, reading the sleeve notes, it seems that producer Albert du Plessis and Benguela had a large input into the first album of new material from the Bard van Gordon's Bay since the seminal 1997 works 'Blameer dit op Apartheid' and 'Madiba Bay'.
Koos does what he does best and that it to provide the lyrics. These cover various topics from a sort of tribute to the "alternative" Afrikaans movement in 'Sestien Jaar met 'n Vals Kitaar' through a song to his young son 'Luierliedjie' or just sommer venting in 'Jy Vas Nog Nooit In Langstraat As Dit ReŽn Nie".
Benguela and Albert du Plessis build around the basic kitaar track that Koos laid down, adding atmospheric guitar, piano, contrabass and occasional accordion. The sound is intriguing, mostly downbeat and quite melancholic.
This melancholy feel does not make this an immediately accessible album. It took a few listens for the beauty of 'Wrapped Around The Moon' to shine through or for me to hum along to the chorus of 'Sestien Jaar'. However, the dub remix of 'Lalie' is, probably because one is already familiar with it, one that has immediate appeal. Still, it's worth the effort to persevere, as this becomes a quite rewarding album with time.
The big question is what should one read into the words on the closing track 'Bach by die Voortrekkermonument' where Koos starts by saying 'Welcome by my laaste concert ooit' and closes the track by singing 'hou op met my sukkel want ek is 'n afgetreede musikant' and follows this by saying 'Bye'. Is this the last we are to hear from the man? Who knows, but one thing I have surmised from reading about Koos is that he doesn't like people to take his lyrics as gospel, so I guess we will have to let the passing of time answer that question. (JS)
Listen to the MP3 'Sestien Jaar' at http://www.sarockdigest.com/mp3 by kind permission of Koos and Rhythm Records.
Available at http://www.oneworld.co.za
'BILENE' - TERENCE REIS [Indie]
3 June 2002 First let's get the pronunciations correct, that's Reis (rhymes with "beige") and his album is called 'Bilene' (that's "Bee-Lenn"). Terence (of Portuguese, Welsh and English descent!) came to South Africa via LM and Malawi. A Drama degree at Wits led to an acting career of note as he became the "Reis" of the SA theatre scene. He starred in a string of dramatic productions from 'Macbeth' to 'Death Of A Salesman', took the leads in the SA productions of 'Hair' and 'The Buddy Holly Story', won numerous acting nominations and awards for his stage and TV performances, and worked and appeared with the Not The Midnight Mass group.
But it seems there's still a rocker itching to get out and Reis has been regularly writing for and performing with The Cuban Doctors, and has now recorded and released his debut album. To do this he called in a mixture of musicians - Garth Victor (k), Rob Watson (d), Efrain Toro (perc) - and put Graham Currie in charge of the whole operation. Currie, who also plays bass on the album (as he did with Big Sky behind Rodriguez on the first SA tour), programmed 'Bilene' with Craig Dodds, and got the legendary Peter Thwaites to master it.
All these songs are originals and in many places approximate the album that could have resulted had JJ Cale and Mark Knopfler ever pooled their talents - the kind of album that could possibly lure Chris Prior out of retirement. It's a big-hearted, crystal-sounding, adult-orientated folk rock album that starts getting very warm and familiar after a while. 'Bilene' opens strongly with 'Perfect Love', a stirring folk rock song with violins and gruff vocals. Then follows a long second song called 'Everything Okay', which has a 4-minute guitar instrumental before the lyrics even begin.
The balance of the tracks on 'Bilene' are similar bright and optimistic folk-rock ballads, and with Reis's actor's ear for catchy lyrics always apparent, it's a lasting and entertaining piece of work. (SS)
Tracklisting: 'Perfect Love', 'Everything's Okay', 'Kathy And Simone', 'Keep The Money', 'Leyahn', 'Gone', 'How It Is', 'I Love You The Whole World', 'Trouble In Paradise', 'Up On The Wheel', 'Steelworks'.
Available at http://www.oneworld.co.za/index.cfm?bec=4321
Listen to the MP3 of 'Perfect Love' at http://www.sarockdigest.com/mp3
'KELVIN DECLINED' - KELVIN DECLINED [Rhythm]
27 May 2002 This fiery foursome has been scorching a trail across the rock stages of Cape Town and will be appearing further afield in the next few months. The question with this their 10-track debut album is, does it capture the energy and passion of those live performances? The answer is yes, and more. If you liked them live, then you'll love this album, and vice versa.
Kelvin Declined are Guido Helm on guitar, Justin Tee on drums, Neil Poynton on bass and keyboards, and Mark McCree on vocals and extra guitar. McCree is the focus of the band with his wiry, ginger intensity and bravado. But the band's skilled and diverse rock attack masks McCree's vulnerable lyrics that mostly arise from that emotional grey area between the unsatisfactory ending of a relationship and the aloneness of the aftermath - eased considerably by the prestige and promise of being the frontman in a rock band. There's the rollicking crowd favourite 'Standing In A Bottle' with its "standing in a bottle, living in a can, waiting for the phone to ring" singalong chorus, and 'Drugs Me' whose alienation and groaning bass resemble the Beatles' 'I Want You (She's So Heavy)'.
But don't be deceived, this eponymous album (is it so hard to find a title??) is a strong and rocking piece of work (take a bow JŁrgen von Wechmar at Sunset Recording Studios!). Kicking off with first single '42', whose first line - "We want friends we can undress" - clearly lays out the band's non-musical ulterior motives. 'Stan 229' takes its slow, complaining verses into full-on yelling choruses in a most seductive way, and 'Funky Chicken' is a solid rock groove with its '70's "wakka wakka" guitars.
So Kelvin Declined have latched on to a winning formula - irresistable radio-friendly rock tunes with a vulnerable but cool-and-tough core, as best illustrated by the wonderful 'Girls In Black', which is surely the next hit for this red-hot band. (SS)
Available at http://www.oneworld.co.za/index.cfm?bec=4321&id=RR022
PS one last question. What is the connection between the similarity of the four human figures on this album's cover, and those on the covers of Max Normal's 'Songs From The Mall' and Dorp's 'Boy/Girl'. Is this a SA rock conspiracy? Have a look at: http://www.rock.co.za/legends/2000plus/albumcovers.html
'CAPE TOWN 2AM - JUST LOUNGING' - VARIOUS [READY ROLLED]
20 May 2002 'Cape Town 2am' isn't a late-nite radio or TV show, an all-hours club, nor is it a soundtrack. It is, as we are led to believe from the packaging and musical contents, a musical state of mind experienced exclusively by the legendary night folk of this very laid back city. This collection of tracks by a list of the coolest digital musos in Cape Town is on the new Sheer sub-label, 'Ready Rolled'. Any similarity to the "African Dope" label, and their recent, similar, and very successful 'African Dope Volume 1' collection, is, one hopes, purely coincidental although that particular bandwagon may need new shocks soon..
But we do have Felix Laband ('Run Alive Run'), Kalahari Surfers ('Kicked By The Ball') and Markus Wormstorm ('Old Dirtye') representing the African Dope label, so it seems everyone's still choms and working together so that we all can share in this musical bounty. 'Cape Town 2AM' serves up 17 tasty late-nite "lounge" instrumentals filled with sound clips (Neville Chamberlin's 'Winds Of Change' speech on 'Old Dirtye'), and the usual menu of electronic loops, beats, blips, squiggles and one-line melodies.
There's also a scattering of bigger names - Jazzworx ('Mr Martin') and the slow 4/4play of Max Normal's 'Good Old Fashioned Loving') - among emerging class acts like Toine Scholtz ('Tigerdreams'), Anti Hero ('Feel'), and Hammerhead ('Mother Earth'). If you like your lounging-hour tunes short, clinical, repetitive and lyric-free, then try this. One man's hip is another man's Rohypnol, I guess. (LM)
'KOBUS!' - KOBUS! [ENT]
6 May 2002 The seismic effects following the disbanding of the Springbok Nude Girls in 2001 have mostly dissipated, except for all those SA music websites still boosting their stats with hits from the many "netters" really looking for "nude girls". But the band's presence has been sorely missed, and many fans watch and wait for the individual members' "solo years" careers to begin. There were a few, brief Crous and Carstens acoustic sets, and some Sex Tips For Boys material featuring ex-Nudies trumpeter Adriaan Brand is promised, but nothing more than that until now.
Kobus! is the duo formed initially in November 2000 by Theo Crous (Nudies guitarist) and Francois Blom (ex-Voice of Destruction vocalist). Their debut album, 'Kobus!' arrives in a SA rock scene where we find some new rock bands working hard to perfect their images to hopefully catch Seether's slipstream into the US nu-rock heartland, while others like Starskii, LILO, and Dolly Rockers are exploring the broader and quieter rock borders with folk and alt-country. On the Afrikaans rock front, names like Beeskraal, Brixton Moord En Roof Orkes, and Karen Zoid meld classic rock sounds to intelligent lyrics written to reflect and interpret life in SA today.
Kobus!, however, head straight for the head, evoking the softer, trippy sounds and vocals of early Pink Floyd with this huge comfy couch of an album, all gorgeous two chord Afrikaans folk symphonies with blurry distant vocals, and a psychedelic sheen that seeps into every (digital) groove of this hour-long musical pleasure cruise. Songs like 'Sondagmiddag', the hauntingly-gorgeous 'Jou OŽ' or the reflective 'Dink Jy Nou', flow over and through you, a perfect new soundtrack for those living in the land of the Lotus Eaters and elsewhere.
But it's not all smooth sailing and there are some harder moments dotted through the album. To pay respectful tribute, and to place this new act in a historical musical context, the album begins with a punchy 'sakkie-sakkie' ramble through a recitation of all the big names in Afrikaans pop-rock over the years. It ends with the repeated phrase "Wie is Kobus?" that gradually shakes off its old tune and merges with a contemporary slice of dance electronica.
Then, in the middle of the album, we meet die 'Hoenderman', a terminally strange headbanging song which features a very funny chickens clucking chorus and which is probably going to get the most radio play, creating an inaccurate perception of the whole album. 'Nege' is a happy little song that explores the mystical multiplication powers of the number nine and the closing track, 'Gee Raat!', gallops off into the sunset with the duo sounding like they recorded these squeaky vocals after ingesting some helium.
All in all, 'Kobus!' is the sound of SA music rulebooks being torn up and used as Rizlas. It's an extraordinary album and a signpost for the burgeoning Afrikaans rock scene and their emerging rock poets. A new path appears and Theo Crous is back (in front). (SS)
This and any other SA CD can be ordered online at One World, the best SA CD store on the pla-Net.
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