- Cobus Rossouw: guitar, vocals
- Samantha Goosen: viola, vocals, keyboards
- Steve Savage: bass, vocals, keyboards, percussion
Our SA Rock album of the year, and it wasn't a very difficult decision, despite the strength and quality of the challengers, especially Blk Sonshine. But in the end, it had to go to the new Gauteng band Sharkbrother who released this debut masterpiece onto an unsuspecting audience. On hearing this the first few times the obvious questions arose, as in "who are these guys?", "what have they been listening to?" and "what are they on???". No clear answers have yet emerged, and no adequate descriptions of this dark, deep and vast album present themselves. You just have to hear it and spend time floating in its murky and strange depths.
'TajMahala' has already attracted the usual moody name checks (Nick Cave, "Laughing" Leonard Cohen, Roger Waters), but all comparisons pale when trying to accurately describe 'TajMahala', as this is an original, intangible and unfathomable album, unlike any SA rock album of recent memory. In there one can hear ambient gloom hop, break beats, jazz guitar, Balkan folk songs, vocals resembling those of Tindersticks' vocalist Stuart Staples, strings and arrangements that recall the very weird String Driven Thing, and the sparse bass and space of Young Marble Giants. It will hopefully impress upon many other SA artists the importance of constantly striving to produce honest and subjective work without feeling a constant need to emulate what is happening overseas. Eleven songs, slow and atmospheric arrangements, strange concepts and lyrics, and a 16-minute multi-opus called '3rdset' that settles itself down in the middle of the album and slowly unravels its many secrets and mysteries.
SharkBrother's stated intent is "to provide a counterfoil to the proliferation of rock and jazz bands on the SA scene, providing an alternative that is beautiful and simplistic. This gels with the band's philosophy of a return to aesthetics in art and a move away from the shock tactics employed by the hardcore and the verbose technicality of the supergroup". Fighting talk or cocky hype perhaps, but that's precisely what has been achieved with the measured calm and understated depths of 'TajMahala'.
Sharkbrother are Cobus Rossouw on "guitar, vocals, ego", Steve Savage on "bass, vocals, harmonica, keyboards, percussion, programming, guitar, windchimes, and humility (although he'll argue about the last one)", and Sam Goosen on "violin, vocals, keyboards, and goat's testicle shakers". Our hearts go out, our ears go wide, our hands go clap and our lighters get raised high as we salute the finest album of the year and a huge leap forward for SA Rock.