Strange days have found us
Here we are in July, over halfway through 1998 and the looming shadow of that 'Independence Day'-sized millennium mothership is getting closer. There's a feeling among artists, of all mediums, that there is only another seventeen months left to make a final, definitive contribution to 20th Century creativity.
This is the post-modem era and everything's been done, recorded, written, learnt and been made available on the Internet. Netscape and Yahoo have merged their Israeli companies to form a new online conglomerate called Net-and-Yahoo. On receiving a request, this new search engine simply shrugs it's shoulders and says: "Nu! how should I know?"
This is a time when the South African Communist Party issues a directive that only Rooibos can be drunk by its members. This is to follow Karl Marx's old dictum that "Property is theft". Looking like a balder and angrier version of the Muppet Show's Bald Eagle, PW Botha dumped one lover and promptly found another who married him. She later described their marriage as the same thing "weak in and weak out!" Mr Van der Merwe successfully separated his Siamese cat and a French team without strikers beat Brazil 3-0 in the France '98 World Cup final even though Brazil had the three most expensive footballers in world football in their attack.
These are strange times indeed and we therefore turn to the musicians of our land for guidance and prophecies or maybe just for some new and interesting music. Fortunately, we have in our midst some musicians who have realised that raves, bashes, kwaito, techno and "just say no" are essential for those looking to constantly push the energy-envelope. Others prefer to settle into their warm hibernation hangouts and wrap themselves in some absorbing albums.
Out of this world
Next week sees the release and launch of the debut album 'Satellite Café' by singer-songwriter Ayala. Well-known for her cabaret work in Cape Town, Ayala produced this exciting album with her husband Jorge Carlos Arrigone in their Red Hot Rhythm recording studios in Vredehoek. The album was recorded during 1997 but Arrigone was not completely satisfied with the results and spent a while longer in 1998 remixing it into its current form.
The resulting album, which has been released on the Chord Record label, consists of 10 original and novel tracks (The tenth track is a remix of the single 'Satellite Café'). Assisted on songwriting chores by Michael Tellinger, the songs are all geared to push and expose Ayala's remarkable vocal range. No simpering ballads here, all these songs fizz and spark from the high-powered production, arrangements and instrumental virtuosity of its Argentinian-born mastermind. Jorge has equal dollops of South American rhythms and rock noises flowing through his veins and everything he produces has a clarity, heartbeat and soul.
Jorge has poured his best work into his wife's album, truly a labour of love in the great traditions of Sonny and Cher, Mutt Lange and Shania Twain, Ike and Tina… OK! some metaphors don't bear close scrutiny but you know what I mean!
Ayala will be launching 'Satellite Café' with a series of live performances at 'On Broadway' in Green Point from Wednesday 22nd July (booking is essential so please phone On Broadway at 021 418 8338). The songs will be presented as a "multi-faceted, interactive, high impact, cosmic musical experience" (phew!). Ayala will be accompanied by the Classic Moves dancers choreographed by Didi Moss. The costumes were designed by Hipsway and Jason Searl will be adding his audio-visuals and light show effects to the performance.
This album will be reviewed during the next few weeks. Watch out too for Jorge Arrigone's trance album which was recorded during the early months of 1998 and which contains, among its more mind-expanding tracks, a lengthy acoustic African trance track that thunders like an elephant on a marula-berry binge.
Contact Ayala, Jorge or the Red Hot Rhythm section at:
The "Good-Schpiel" according to St. Matthew
This is not what I expected. After their, um, not well-received previous EP which shall remain nameless and forgotten, the acoustic/punk duo featuring Matthew van der Want and Chris Letcher (ex-Urban Creep) have put their music where their mouths are and the new 'Low Riding' album is the very-welcome result.
Van der Want's outspoken views have often brought him into the firing line as with his taste-police attack on Just Jinger. His first album 'Turn On You' was an assured and strong debut but did not achieve the sales or recognition that Matthew expected. When 'All Comes Round', the Jinger's debut, went platinum, Matthew felt obliged to point out that this was not, er, Just, as he felt the Jinger's album was too derivative and geared for that section of the SA market hooked into the Pearl Jam/Counting Crows soft-grunge sounds.
"Success" as they say, "is the best revenge" and I have a strong feeling that Matthew and Chris have produced an album capable of bringing them both success and revenge. 'Low Riding', released on the Tic Tic Bang label and recorded mostly in the Shifty Studios in Gardens, sees them going all Simon and Garfunkel on us, or should I say, all (Colin) Shamley and (Paul) Clingman, as the sound of this album recalls the days of Mangles, the Market Theatre Café, Dave Marks and the emotion and intelligence of the '70's SA folk scene.
These 11 bloody marvellous songs are soft, gentle and folky with hard-centre lyrics that entice, entertain and elicit a wide range of emotions in the listener. Beautiful but complementary arrangements support but never submerge the voices and words. 'Place Of Our Own' is just one simple and exceptional pop song among many and 'Attack' has Matthew sneaking in a quick confession with the line "Me and my big mouth what do you care if I eat myself?"
'Low Riding' is the result of Matthew's unquenchable belief in his own, and Chris', talent. All great rock music is based on a similar, high self-esteem and confidence. The proof of such a belief lies initially and finally in the songs and these two ous have decided to go where there is no path and leave a trail, as they say. One can only put out one's best work and wait to see how an unpredictable market will respond to it. But the satisfaction of producing something like this should not be judged by critical approval. Many will like 'Low Riding', others may prefer something harder, louder, funkier or faster.
Nevertheless, after a difficult and controversial period, Matthew van der Want has put his talent on the line and I am confident that 'Low Riding' will bring him and Chris Letcher the acclaim they deserve, not just for an excellent and essential album but for the part they are playing in pushing the boundaries of original South African folk-rock and music generally.
Van der Want/Letcher will be doing a 'Low Riding" Cape promotional tour during late July. Details and other stuff can be found at the Van der Want/Letcher website at: http://members.xoom.com/wantletcher
'Looking For Zim' released
Tony Cox, one of South Africa's most innovative and accomplished (and adopted) guitarists, has released his third album on the Sheer Sound label accompanied by his Cool Friction backing band. 'Looking For Zim' ("Zim" is short for Cox's childhood home, Zimbabwe) follows Cox's first and little-known debut 'In To Nation' and his more successful second album 'Cool Friction'. The Cool Friction band was born when Cox was asked to assemble a band for the 1996 Grahamstown Festival. This he did by calling on the talents of pianist Paul Hanmer, drummer Barry van Zyl and wind instrument wizard, Chris Tokalon.
This band achieved great critical success and went on a nationwide tour of eight cities and fifteen concerts. While on this tour, the band composed and developed the tracks for this album and in January 1998 they began recording the ten tracks that would finally appear on 'Looking For Zim'. Although there's a strong jazz groove throughout the album, there are other important styles and touches woven into the songs that are necessary to achieve the results that Tony Cox wanted. Cox saw this album as a return to his Zimbabwe roots and the time when he began using his unusual skill on the guitar to discover and cross a variety of musical boundaries. The songs are mostly instrumental although Wendy Oldfield and the Malawian Wambali Mkanda Wire contribute vocals to the album.
I know this has been said before in many different ways, but, it gets clearer from each of their releases that Sheer Sound have an unfailing knack for finding these little gems and giving them a local release. They released Tony Cox's previous album and have been repaid for their faith by being asked to release this new album. The Sheer Sound label on any album is a guarantee of something special, Tony Cox's latest album, 'Looking For Zim' shows no signs of spoiling this cool company's admirable record.
For more info on Tony Cox, the Cool Friction Band or Sheer Sound, see:
Without giving too much away, you should expect some major and innovative changes to our Alive site in the near future. With the Net in a state of constant flux, change is inevitable to keep on moving forward and this is where we are heading. So no clues as to what to expect, just watch this space.
Till then, you can browse all your old and trusted favourites. The Mashing Potatoes….sorry, that should read, the Smashing Pumpkins will be gracing us with their presence in August. This week their new album 'Adore' is featured in our Review section. There's the Bioscope page where Ian and Karon keep all you square-eyed addicts informed. The France '98 World Cup gets a good summing up on our Sports pages and you can still get all nostalgic reading through Gon.za's ravings, rantings and writings from the stands at the tournament. Our own Hunter S. Gon.za has caught the stream of altered consciousness bug and is looking for new sports tournaments to experience.
Payday approaches so take a slow finger-stroll through all the SA CDs on sale at One World, the biggest, coolest and cheapest online SA CD store on the pla-Net. There's also the Two Oceans Trading online shopping mall where you can purchase Springbok rugby merchandising, SA books, jewellery and CD-ROMs, amongst many other items. Pam Sykes keeps her eagle eye on the Internet in her Webmistress column and there's lots more to be found at Alive.
Any thoughts, requests, problems, complaints, praise or interesting and relevant SA music news, please email it immediately to:
This is a big weekend for us South Africans as our honoured and much-loved leader, Nelson Mandela, is heading for a double-simcha with his 80th birthday on Saturday 18th July. It is widely rumoured that Mr Mandela will be celebrating his eight decades with a marriage to his close companion, Gracha Machel, at the birthday party, quite a present for this fully deserving, totally cool and world-respected man. We all wish them every happiness in their future as well as many more happy and healthy birthdays together.
And remember, sometimes you're ahead and sometimes you're behind but it's a long race and you're only competing with yourself, so relax!
Stephen "Sugar" Segerman
Five CDs currently warming up my hibernation cave:
Olu Dara - Into The World
Search this out and play it to death. A New Orleans based collection of blues, jazz and world music that is heading for album of the year status.
Van der Want and Letcher - Low Riding
A muscular return to the old SA folk traditions. Great songs, instrumentation and production all contribute to this assured and lekker album.
Dave Matthews Band - Before these Crowded Streets
Not sure about this album. Durban boy Dave has mixed so many things into this opus that sometimes you can't taste anything at all. Intriguing and annoying.
Van Morrison - The Philosopher's Stone
This should be the only title on this week's list. A new double box set by Van needs at least a week to initially work through before the magic really starts. Totally essential!
Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue
Added this to an online CD order from CD Now.com. Wondered why I took so long to get this. Still regarded as one of the, ooh, five most important jazz albums ever recorded. Miles and John on the same album??…..bye now, see you later
The One World Top Ten SA CD Charts
(based on sales at Seedy's and One World in
Pretoria and One World on the Net)
1. TKZee and Benni - 'Shibobo'
2. Boomshaka - 'Words Of Wisdom'
3. Various Artists - 'Pump Up Di Gong'
4. Stitch - 'Are You Ready'
5. Brothers Of Peace - 'Mapodisa'
6. Ringo - 'Sondaleni'
7. Don Laka - 'Supernova'
8 Makhendlas - 'Jammer'
9. ' Rebecca - 'Somlandela'
10. Rodriguez - 'Live Fact'
(CDs available at One World online CD store at: http://www.oneworld.co.za )
The Original Evergreen
Qkumba Zoo online interview
Theatre Sports interview
Honeymoon Suites interview
Scabby Annie interview
Elephant Sun interview
Danièle Pascal interview
The Great Rodriguez Website
Your online CD store
Lager Mentality - Interviews, Features and previous Beatspeak and News articles