SA Rock Lists

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SA Artists in London


Walkabout, London, 7th May

The "curtain" at the Walkabout tonight was a huge screen showing Sky Sports, Ipswich v Man City to be precise. As the curtain went up (and Man City went down) the band were milling around the stage still fiddling with their equipment. In the centre, the lanky figure of the Die Mystic Boer.

The first set started off in a really laid back bluesey way, but soon moved from Valium Swart to Valiant Swart with some great full on blues. For a couple of numbers, he donned a harmonica and was to all intents and purposes, South Africa's very own Bob Doellyn, with some meaningful lyrics, delivered in a tuneful folk rock style.

Good also to see South African music supporting South African music as all the members of Dorp and some of their fanbase were spotted mingling in the crowd.

At half time, the Valiant was abandoned at the side of the road in favour of a Formula 1 Ferrari as we went into overdrive with a full on rock set. Thanks in particular to some fantastic guitar work from Blues Broer Albert Frost, Die Mystic Boer and his band took the Walkabout (soon to be renamed Die Rondloop Kroeg if this trend continues) by the scruff of it's neck and soundly shook it to it's core. A blast if ever there was one.


Britain is currently gripped by election fever (i.e. we're all sick of it). One worrying issue for the parties is voter apathy. At the Walkabout tonight I was more concerned about Wouter apathy {note for non-Afrikaans readers: "Wouter" is a common first name pronounced "voter" - ed}. Waar was jy Wouter? En waar was al jou pÍls? You have just missed one helluva jol!!

Starting off with an acoustic set by Valiant Swart in Bob Doelyn (kitaar en harmonica) mode we were treated to some new songs that should be appearing on the new album. Dorpstraat Revisited Revisited? After a few numbers he was joined on stage by Die Blues Broer Albert Frost and we rocked through some more familiar tracks.

Next was Piet Botha accompanied by Jonathan Martin. They performed a slick rock/blues acoustic set with Piet's deep gravelly voice being the third instrument on stage. Not the initial flames of a braai fire, more like the moment when the coals are just right and tshhhhh!!! the first steak hits the grill. Ah, that's lekker.

The Afrikaans have a word that sums up the final act quite well, and that word is "sjoe". Akkedis {an akkedis is a lizard - ed} came, they saw, they conquered, then conquered some more. I don't think I have seen a band rock like they did tonight. Even Valiant Swart who was in the audience by then, was lured into accompanying them on an air guitar (which he had told me earlier he got free with a Guitar Magazine...)

Songs like 'Werkloos in Afrika', 'Sweet Stellenganja' (a take on Valiant's Sweet Stellanganga featuring part of 'Wimoweh'; "in die oerwoud, die moerse oerwoud") and 'Jannie Cocaine' were blasted from the small stage with a vigour and confidence that was tangible. To top this off, Gerald Clark from Delta Blue lent his honey-dipped blues vocals to a version of 'Hoochie Coochie Man' that had the audience begging for more.

So Wouter you missed out on this gig, however you still have a chance to catch them at The Salsibury Pub and I would strongly advise that you do.

Valiant Swart at the Africa Centre 8 June 2001

The African Ambush Tour is in full swing in London and tonight it was the turn of Valiant Swart to impress (yet again). The gig was held at the Africa Centre in Covent Gardens, in a very colonial style hall. It has a high ceiling and a gallery with wrought iron railings complete with Dutch gable style decoration, a unique and atmospheric setting. The middle of Africa in the middle of London.

The small crowd that gathered was as relaxed, cool and laid back as the sounds that were coming from the stage. Valiant played a solo set with just his acoustic guitar, mixing old songs with some impressive new material. In between songs he turned stand up comic, with some wry observations on life. His whiskey glazed vocals and laid back guitar playing made for a decidedly mellow mood.

He was then joined again by Albert Frost (a.ka. Eric Capeto'n) who added a superb blues backing to the songs, but maintained the laid back mood. He and Valiant seem to have a good understanding of each other's playing and work well together on stage.

The set was finished off with Valiant's theme tune 'Die Mystic Boer' which neatly rounded off a relaxed, accomplished and highly satisfying set. A calm oasis amongst the storm of SA Rock that London is experiencing.

Piet Botha, Valiant Swart & Akkedis at the Salisbury Pub 9 June 2001

Something quite special happened at the Salisbury Pub in Turnpike Lane tonight. The Pub itself is reminiscent of a hotel kroeg in some small dorp in SA. It is somewhat rundown but spacious (unusual for London) and has a lot of character.

The crowd was buzzing and it didn't take long for the musicians to respond to this. A solid acoustic set by Piet Botha and Jonathan Martin went down well with those who were not queuing up at the bar for the happy hour-priced drinks. This was quickly followed by Valiant Swart who started off acoustically, had a few sound problems and decided to switch to his electric guitar. He was joined on stage by his usual cohort, Albert Frost, as well as Delta Blue bassist Schalk van der Merwe and Akkedis drummer, Rudi Dennis. He christened this ensemble the First World Orchestra, and they went into overdrive and joint was rocking.

Another high octane set from Akkedis followed, which included an emotive cover of Neil Young's 'Like a Hurricane'. At this stage of the proceedings I began to realise what the phrase 'Wall of Sound' meant as I was being hit by tangible waves of unadulterated ROCK!!

Due to London's liquor license rules, most pubs have to close at 11pm. However, if you have an entertainment license (which the Salisbury obviously has) you can carry on till later in the night, and this is what these guys did. Piet Botha returned with Jonathan Martin, Albert Frost, Arthur & Rudi Dennis from Akkedis and an electric guitar and performed a pounding rock set that included a cover of the Stones' 'Dead Flowers'. The image of Piet hunched over his guitar, manically producing a raw, blinding hot barrage of sound will remain with me for a long time. Think Neil Young at his most hectic to get the picture.

Then it was back to another Akkedis set (although we had been promised Valiant Swart, I think he had become Die Missing Boer). I have been hugely impressed by this group who, until this tour were unknown to me. They produce great melodic rock tunes that are also good fun ('oh dis lekker om dronk te wees, dronk te wees en jonk te wees'). These are expertly executed on stage with a good helping of showmanship and always with a hard rocking ethos.

When I faded at 1:00am, the party was still going on. The crowd was still exited and abuzz, and as one ou said to me it had the vibe of the Koos gig earlier this year, to which I must add "ja, but a helluva lot louder".

Valiant Swart at the Springbok Bar 10 June 2001

This was probably the toughest gig that Valiant has had to perform on the African Ambush tour. It seemed that most of the crowd had not come specifically to see him and where either those to lazy to move on after the afternoon act, or where there simply because it was the Springbok Bar and that's where you go as a South African in London. It didn't help that the sound engineer, although he seemed to be trying his best, had just fallen out of matric into the Springbok Bar and had gotten quite excited about an S Club 7 track that he played to warm the crowd up.

So, battling against the sound of the crowd, and more than occasional high-pitched blasts of feedback Valiant started off his acoustic set. After 2 songs he needed help, and that came in the form of Albert Frost. It boosted the volume of the show and a few of the inebriated rooinecks who had been getting louder and rowdier to try and make themselves heard began to take note of what was happening on stage, although their attention was sporadic.

Full marks to Valiant who pioneered on against these odds. Not the full on blast of the Salisbury gig, or the goose bump inducing acoustic set at the Africa Centre, but a professional set by a musician who knows how to read an audience, is not afraid to change things if he feels the audience demands it, and if nothing works, perseveres on for the sake of the few in the audience who are listening. A valiant performance in more ways than one by a true professional.

Piet Botha, Valiant Swart and Akkedis at the Salisbury Pub 13 June 2001

Being a school night, the crowd was not as strong as it had been on Saturday, but there was a good helping of dedicated groupies and those just wanting a midweek jol to make it happen. It was also Valiant's "last night with the poms".

There was no messing around tonight as Piet Botha and Jonathan Martin launched into an in-your-face, hard hitting rock set. Two guitars have never sounded better together. They were joined for the last few numbers by the Akkedis boys and blasted out a spine chilling air guitar inducing couple of songs, definitely not for the fainthearted.

Valiant Swart has a guitar called "ice cream" which is the colour of vanilla ice cream, but the sounds were far from vanilla flavour. Determined to leave on a high, Valiant, accompanied by Albert 'the stuff that legends are made of' Frost, Rudi Dennis and Schalk van der Merwe, performed the set of the tour. Each songs was a orgasm of sound, flowing from the stage in forceful torrents. Of particular force was 'Cyber Sakkie' and 'Roekeloos'. The latter, for the non-South African readers, translates as 'Reckless' and I know what you're thinking, you thinking Braai-ing Adams, but comparisons to the man who did everything for you would be like comparing raw wors still in it's clingwrap with piping hot, flame grilled, juicy, freshly braaied wors. A fitting farewell.

I left after this set and just as Akkedis was starting theirs. Nothing personal ouens, but I needed some sleep, besides which there's always Friday night. Still the little I saw tonight only entrenched my belief that Afrikaans Rock music is alive and well, and boy is it kicking.

Valiant Swart at the Springbok Bar Covent Gardens (6 Feb) and Shepherd's Bush (7 Feb)

Having recently travelled around Memphis and the Mississippi Delta in the US, its probably fair to say that swart is the new blues, for the Boer has learnt a few new tricks with the guitar. With his mixture of rock and blues, and songs ranging from the outrageously funny to the kind that make the hairs on your arms tingle, Valiant Swart executed 2 very accomplished acoustic sets at 2 of the various Springbok Bars dotted around London.

Both venues allow for intimate gigs like these, although I think that the Shepherd's Bush one is better. It had the space for people to gather round the man in a relaxed, family gathering kind of way while Covent Gardens is a long cellar that tended to distance those at the back from the singer.

While it was typical London cold and wet and miserable outside, it was quite cosy inside and that was due as much to the music as to the closeness of the venue. Without his band, the stripped down acoustic versions of Valiant's songs are warm and comforting. His voice can be spine-tinglingly mellow or heartbreakingly emotive as he works his way through old favourites and new, soon to be I'm sure, favourites. Songs like 'Gange van Babylon, 'Duisand myl Blues' and 'Vloek van die Kitaar' rubbed shoulders with 'Maanhare' and 'Donker Pad' in a seamless flow of excellent material.

However, for me, it was the moment he launched into 'Die Mystic Boer' on the first night that you realise the effect his songs have on people. Had it not been for the music and singing, it would have been quiet enough to hear the ash falling from his cigarette that was wedged into the neck of his guitar, and all around me were faces etched with the look of people searching their souls. It is moving moments like this that you want to get put in a sort of magical doggy bag to take home and enjoy again and again. Yes you can get the tape of one of his live shows, but it's never the same as the real thing.

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