S: Are you a Rodriguez fan? Did you going to see him on his SA tour?
K: Yeah, I'm a big fan but I didn't get tickets for the shows at the Bellville Velodrome.
It's very strange that he never made it in America. We missed both him and the U2 concerts as we had some bad flu.
S: Willem Moller played guitar for Big Sky who supported and backed Rodriguez on his tour. You have a strong connection with him don't you?
K: We were in the Gereformeerde Blues Band together during the 'Eet Kreef' period. That was the time of the 'Voelvry' tour, the Afrikaans new wave era.
S: We sell a lot of the 'Voelvry' CDs through our One World online SA CD store. I also get a lot of requests for your first album 'Ver Van Die Ou Kalahari'?
K: It was always very difficult to get stock of that on tape and then on CD. It was on the Tic Tic Bang label. I was going to record 'Madiba Bay' on Tic Tic Bang but then I went with Wildebeest.
S: Was 'Madiba Bay' the first CD you recorded on the Wildebeest label?
K: Yes, I worked with Eckard who is in Pretoria. They are starting their own website and have signed some new bands, Dorp and Wonderboom to mention two. Wildebeest are a great label to work with as they give you absolute freedom in your choice of material.
S: Do you still have that guitar that you played in the half-hour video documentary for 'Elke Boemelaar Se Droom', the one with the new SA flag painted on it?
K: I do. (goes off to fetch it). I don't play it any more, I've played it "sut"! Dirk's girlfriend added all the little drawings on it since the video.
S: I liked this guitar so much that my wife made me a birthday cake in the same shape and colours as this. 'Elke Boemelaar' created the impression of you just wandering around writing songs as the mood and inspiration took you.
K: At that stage I'd been a real boemelaar for a while, it wasn't hype or anything. It was romantic then to be a bum at 20 or 30 but you realise it can't carry on forever, you can't be a bum when you're 40 or 50.
S: It worked for Dylan!
K: Yes, for a while but if you look at his private life now he is completely settled and probably plays golf and does corporate gigs. Dylan was one of my earliest influences and probably influenced me more than I realise. Before the 'Voelvry' tour there was a difference of opinion between Kerkorrel and I. We solved that later but at that stage he was very big on rock 'n roll and I was thinking about just doing a solo guitar act and was thinking about that Neil Young and Crosby Stills softer stuff and it sorted itself out because when we were doing the 'Voelvry' tour, I would open every night with a solo acoustic guitar spot and then Johannes Kerkorrel would come out with the band which was perfect as we had different ideas on how to do it and in the end it sorted itself out.
S: Do you and Johannes Kerkorrel go way back?
K: Ja, I got Shifty to record him. It took me about a year to persuade them. Only when they saw him live did they realise what a riveting performer he is.
S: Where did you grow up?
K: Small towns in the Cape, but I spent many years in Johannesburg and Pretoria in my 20s where I connected with Kerkorrel and Moller and the Shifty guys. Kerkorrel was here the other day and we went for a swim together. We never talk about the past and we don't reminisce. It's quite ironical that later on he left the rock scene and I drifted into rock 'n roll.
S: You've drifted into quite a few things and it seems you still haven't quite made your mind up. So tell me about 'Madiba Bay'. It obviously reflects your newfound settled domestic bliss, right? Something like Van Morrison's 'Tupelo Honey' album that was written as a reflection of his domestic situation with Janet Planet.
K: Yeah, I call it a post-angst album (laughs), like the song 'Sweet Freedom'. When I wrote that I didn't have a particular girl in mind. I was thinking about what is love, how does it work? I reckon that loyalty should be voluntary. You can never enforce it and once you have that, you have it all.
Even if I don't use that freedom, I do have it and I must be able to give it to someone else.
S: What about the second album in the 'Madiba Bay' "Boks-set" (also called "Koos se Doos"), 'Blameer Dit Op Apartheid'? That sounds like you had some spare time left over in the studio?
K: I got some feedback from Holland as I sent them both the albums. They hated the Warm Blankes rock album. They said the words are OK but you can't play two or three chord rock 'n roll and expect people overseas to still be interested in that. But they liked 'Madiba Bay' a lot. It's definitely my favourite album. I'm glad I didn't mix the two albums together into one. There is a small group of fans that prefer the Warm Blankes album. It's selling very well in Bloemfontein.
S: Are you aware of the size of your following in South Africa?
K: Well it's not as big as Steve Hofmeyr but I'm a little puzzled as to why as I get older it should peter out and I'm a bit baffled as to why it doesn't. When I go to Oppi Koppi you can't help but notice that a lot of people come to watch our set and I don't understand it. I'm getting old, I'm 40 and a bit bald and fat - it can't be my sex appeal!
S: Maybe it's partly because, for all those bad years, Afrikaans was kind of seen as "the language of the oppressor" and now with the upsurge in popularity of Afrikaans bands like the Springbok Nude Girls and the whole Stellenbosch movement, you are seen as the "Father of the Afrikaans rock scene"?
K: That was appropriate in the '80s when we set Afrikaans music right with the Voelvry tour and that stuff but I'm not sure why it is still happening now.
S: Your three last albums, taken as a trilogy, will blow anyone away, even songs like 'Lisa Se Klavier' or 'Bicycle Sonder 'n Slot', which is just a simple little folk liedjie:
K: 'Bicycle Sonder A Slot' is so corny so I don't really understand it. I'm already planning my retirement, I won't stop being creative but there will be a time when I might switch back from music into full-time writing. The 'Paradise Redecorated' thing. I've written a lot of Afrikaans books way back then but I don't want to do that same kind of thing. I want to write some science fiction. I've got five half-finished manuscripts in my computer. I'm starting to get tired of touring and live shows are staring to exhaust me. I would love to just write and do three Oppi Koppi shows a year and nothing else.
S: You live in such a lovely place here in Gordon's Bay. Why not just write ten songs every now and then and pop over to Stellenbosch and record them and come back home?
K: I'm not less creative than I used to be, but more of my creative energy is going into my prose and ideas, stories and potential books. I haven't written many new songs since 'Madiba Bay', just three or four. I used to write prolifically, at least a new song a day. Most of it's crap but I used to produce a lot of stuff. Now I pick up my guitar once a month and jam a bit and then go back to my writing. I want to write stories, which was my original job in my 20s. I was an up-and-coming Afrikaans writer but I felt a bit stifled with the Afrikaans publishers. It was the Apartheid era and they were censoring stuff and changing it. It made sense then to switch to music because I wanted to protest and it wasn't coming through in the books as they weren't distributing them and marketing them the way I wanted. Playing music was a better and more direct way to get the message across but now I feel I've got the message across. So I can switch back to writing. There may still be a need for protest stuff though!
S: That is reflected in the progression in the three albums from protest in 'Niemandsland (And Beyond)' to the boemelaar image walking around soaking up the new cool wind of democracy and now the settled feel of 'Madiba Bay'.
K: Yes. That just about sums it up. It's time to move on.
Recordings on CD:
Andre le Toit - 'Ver Van Die Ou Kalahari. (1987)
Koos Kombuis - 'Niemandsland (and Beyond)' (1990)
Koos Kombuis - 'Elke Boemelaar Se Droom' (1994)
Koos Kombuis - 'Madiba Bay' (1997)
Koos Kombuis en die Warm Blankes - 'Blameer Dit Op Apartheid' (1997)
Koos Kombuis - 'Madiba Bay' and 'Blameer Dit Op Apartheid' limited edition "Boks-set' (1997)
All these CDs are available for online purchasing at One World:
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