Antibiotics for the angst

Thank the gods. The latest releases from first-class rock band Fokofpolisiekar and one of its spin-offs Van Coke Kartel, proves that nationalist Boer War dramas, charismatic potato farmers and movies about crooked cricket champs are not the only hot things on the Afrikaans scene. And, judging by the crowds these bands attracted to their CD launches for Antibiotika (Rhythm Records) and Waaksaam & Wakker (Rhythm Records), the Afrikaans cultural landscape seems fully evolved now.

Francois van Coke and his troops have successfully carved out their place in history.

With their latest EP Fokofpolisiekar leap back on to the local rock’n’roll scene, contemplative, screaming and annoyed. After a brief break, which saw the birth of aKing and Van Coke Kartel (are two better than one?) Fokofpolisiekar are back together on stage. With the success of the two breakaway factions still under dispute, there can be no doubt that the return of Fokofpolisiekar is good news for fans and the rock flock in general.

Antibiotics should be kept out of the reach of children. After all, they are substances specifically designed to kill germs. Antibiotika shows progression in the lyrics of a band which started out singing about slitting wrists and sweaty teenage angst. The four tracks on the EP contemplate the role and place of young Afrikaners in Africa, but lyrics such as ”Ek’s net ‘n toeris in my geboorteland” (I’m just a tourist in my country of birth) probably has wider appeal. Expect lots of introspection: ”Ek laat myself in die steek, keer op keer” (I disappoint myself, time after time) and ”Ek’s ‘n agtergeblewene, op die grasvelde van my kinderdae” (I’m a straggler, on the grasslands of my childhood).

The album is, alas, only 12 minutes long. But you also get a compilation DVD with eight of the music videos, which justifies the spend.

Wary and awake. That is the translated title of Van Coke Kartel’s second album. It is probably also the motto of a good number of primary schools around the country. In that context it makes sense because the album is a massive attack on the limited nature of South Africa’s schooling system and of oppressive structures in general. Waaksaam & Wakker is a major improvement on Van Coke Kartel’s debut album.

The lyrics and music are more nuanced and varied. There is a greater balance and fewer monotonous moments between choruses. But, although there is a hint of the edge that aided Fokofpolisiekar’s stardom, the music still sounds odd without Hunter Kennedy’s lyrics and Johnny de Ridder on guitar. There is a reason why Jake White picked Francois Steyn as centre in last year’s World Cup. He has more potential in that position than as flyhalf. Similarly, Van Coke is not a terrible guitarist, but he doesn’t make the grade when competing with the likes of Albert Frost, Theo Crous and Johnny de Ridder. One almost wishes the two spin-offs, Van Coke Kartel and aKing, came before Fokofpolisiekar.

It’s difficult not to feel distracted by these other projects from what is undoubtedly one of the greatest acts born on our shores.

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