Lloyd Gedye reports on some lost South African classics from the 1980s that are getting new digital releases through the Rhythm Music Store.
Although Rhythm Records may be at the heart of the new Belville Afrikaans rock scene punting bands such as Fokofpolisiekar, Foto Na Dans and Van Coke Kartel to new rock fans, its sister online music store is re-releasing a whole host of classic South African albums from the Eighties, which up to now have been unavailable.
Classic records by National Wake, Corporal Punishment, The Popguns, The Radio Rats, Illegal Gathering, KOOS and the Kalahari Surfers are seeing the light of day again. Here are three of their recent releases.
At long last South Africans can enjoy the sounds of the country’s first multiracial punk band.
Formed in 1979 by Gary Khoza, Mike Lebisi, Punka Khoza, Ivan Kadey and Paul Giraud, National Wake were an angry response to the apartheid state’s policies and the effect it had on the band members’ lives.
“We started jamming as a five-piece with Gary on bass guitar, Punka on drums, Paul on lead guitar, Mike on congas and cow-bell, and myself on rhythm guitar,” says Kadey, who defied the state’s laws by living with his band members in a commune in Parktown.
National Wake (pictured on Page 1) announced their arrival with their debut album on WEA Records in 1981.
With cracking aggressive punk songs, such as Black Punk Rockers and International News, and some great reggae-tinged moments like Wake of the Nation and Supaman, it’s no wonder the apartheid security police kept tabs on the band.
The album caused quite a stir, as record producer Benjy Mudie recalls. “A few weeks after we released the album I got a personal visit from the special branch at the WEA office,” Mudie told the Matsuli Blog. “This record was one topic of discussion with them ... we stood our ground.
“In the final days we were being visited about three times a day—cops simply walking through the house, looking in ashtrays, poking around, never saying anything, coming and going at will,” says Kadey. “On one occasion I asked them if they had a search warrant and they threatened to haul me off to the station for possession of one seed of marijuana the cop promptly found in the floorboards.”
The incessant attention from the apartheid police placed huge stress on the band members and led to Giraud leaving to pursue a career in advertising and Lebisi going solo.
Steve Moni, who formed the Cape Town-based group, The Safari Suits, joined the band for a short while after he relocated to Jo’burg to work with The Radio Rats leader Jonathan Handley on a side-project called The Popguns.
Formed in Johannesburg in 1980 out of the remnants of Cape Town outfit The Safari Suits and Springs rock band The Radio Rats, The Popguns were a rock band that owed much to the likes of David Bowie, The Damned and Marc Bolan.
No wonder songs such as Home Address…The Burning Road sound a lot like British band Suede, which combined similar influences in the Nineties to create their drug-induced rock.
Featuring Jonathan Handley on vocals and rhythm guitar, Moni on lead guitar, Graham Handley on bass guitar and Gikas Markantinatos and Larry Friedburg on drums, The Popguns’ name was inspired by an editorial in The Star newspaper, which read: “Police use popguns to control riots.”
So head on over to the Rhythm Music Store and get your hands on The Complete Popguns 1980-1981, a fascinating insight into Johannesburg’s punk/new wave scene. Stand-out tracks include Shock Time for Rock, Metal Marie and My Baby’s Giving Me the Bends.
The Kalahari Surfers have remained one of South Africa’s pioneering musical forces since the 1980s.
Fronted by Warrick Sony, their political commentary and innovative use of sampling and electronics laid the path for numerous South African artists to come.
Now the Rhythm Music Store offers up The Eighties Volume 1 and The Eighties Volume 2, which compile the rare songs that made the Kalahari Surfers’ name during the state of emergency.
Drawn from the four Kalahari Surfers records released between 1984 and 1989 through Recommended Records in London (because of the censorship laws in South Africa, the records were smuggled back into the country), these records include such crackers as Bigger than Jesus, which was banned in South Africa at that time for being too politically radical.
Other highlights include The Last Kick/One Verwoerd in the Grave—with its great chorus “This is the last kick of a dying horse”—and the reggae-styled Township Beat that sounds like South Africa’s version of The Specials.
It is protest music that has killer grooves and for many provided a ray of hope in troubled times.
If you want to get your hands on any of these great releases from the Eighties go to the Rhythm Music Store. http://rhythmmusicstore.com/store/