2010 releases

Die Antwoord interview… Can’t tell you how proud I am of these guys.

So Die Antwoord recently did an interview with Xeni Jardine, and I can’t tell you how proud I am of them. For the last few months, I’ve been defending Die Antwoord to my Australian compatriots who view them as just… well, a joke. Here, watch this interview and make up your own mind…

As Ninja says, at one point… “We’re considered a national embarrassment”. And that’s what a lot of people are telling me, after watching their clips. The thing is, I’m beginning to wonder if you need to be South African to understand them.

You see, we “old school SA hip hop lovers” used to know “Ninja” by the name “Watkin Tudor Jones”… because Jones was, at one point, the leader of my favourite South African band of all time… Max Normal. Head over to my “Top South African Bands” post from a while ago, and you’ll see them listed there as band #27. You see, before Max Normal went through their “Max Normal TV” incarnation, they were just good old fashioned Max Normal. And they were awesome. And then we saw Jones disband the group at their height in 2002, and come back a few years later in the three piece suits and boardroom antics.

To be honest, at the time I was totally pissed with him for that, and it took me a long time to realise that we don’t “own” bands… they just let us chill with them for a while. But gradually, I began to understand…

It was clear that being “Normal” was the furthest thing from their minds.

Which is why, when “Die Antwoord” landed on the scene, I knew this was Watkin Tudor being… well, Watkin Tudor. To call the guy a chameleon is like saying water is pretty good at being wet.

So I’m going to ask you something. As a South African, I ask you to look deeper than the surface of their songs. Yo-Landi, in the interview above, calls their stuff “car crash music… you know you shouldn’t look, but you want to”. And that’s a damn insightful comment on what these guys are doing. It isn’t comfortable… it’s damn sure not pretty… but I want to make clear that it IS worthwhile music. Underneath that top layer, Waddy is still experimenting. On all of us.

And I want to see where this experiment goes. Not only for what it will tell South Africans about themselves… but also for what it will tell South Africans about how the rest of the world reacts.

More resources:

  • Die Antwoord’s “Enter The Ninja” music video…

  • The guide’s profile on Watkin.
  • The NME have their dreams shattered when they realise the Ninja didn’t just appear overnight.

I’m beginning to wonder about a few things, though… how many of these lives can Waddy live? How long before he becomes completely consumed by these characters? Is Ninja his most real personality? Does he even have one? Or… is he a reflection of all of us? I’m beginning to think that might be the case… because I know there’s a little bit of me in there.

Time will tell.

live songs

Mumford & Sons – Untitled (Toad Session)

Seriously, I know I’ve said this before, but there is a reason that SongbyToad is one of my favourite music blogs. And this is just one example of why.

I stumbled across this video of Mumford & Sons performing “Untitled” at a recent Toad Session, and man, it’s beautiful…

Anyway, this is more of a “tip o’ the hat” post than anything else. In other words, check out the Toad blog. You won’t regret it.

His full post of the session is here.


In memory…

Yet another year goes by… but I won’t let it pass without comment. RIP.

artists concerts music

Rodriguez, live at the Tivoli in Brisbane. March 31, 2010

On Wednesday night, I went to possibly the best gig of my life. And no, I don’t write those words lightly.

But when I managed to see Rodriguez – the legend behind one of my albums of the century (Cold Fact, naturally) – at the Tivoli on Wednesday, it was easily one of the musical highlights of my life.

First off, some background: I don’t think I’ll ever be able to quite articulate the effect that Rodriguez has had on my life. When I first heard “Cold Fact”, I probably would have been all of 5 years old, because both my parents were big fans and actually had the LP. By the time I was… ooh, I’d say 13, I had my own copy of the Cold Fact CD, and I listened to it religiously.

This went on until… well, to be honest, it never stopped.

Cold Fact is, in my opinion, the exemplification of the perfect album. Point blank, perfection. But, thanks largely to Sixto’s slightly quirky nature – like playing at an industry showcase with his back to the audience throughout – and a second album (1971’s “Coming from Reality” which was still a cracker) that sold poorly, Rodriguez dropped out of the music recording scene, and subsequently out of the public eye. It got to the point where rumours spread in South Africa of his death… and quite frankly, most of us believed them.

You see, the thing is, while Rodriguez never really had much success in his native America, over in South Africa, his music was the stuff of legend. For a country struggling against the apartheid establishment, his music was – for us – a music that we needed.

Americans talk about Hendrix. I talk about Sixto.

And now, 40 years after the release of Cold Fact, Rodriguez is touring Australia. There was no way I was ever going to miss the chance to see him live.

Rodriguez and band, performing live at the Tivoli in Brisbane
Rodriguez and band, performing live at the Tivoli in Brisbane

Rodriguez was led out onto the darkened Tivoli stage on the arm of an assistant. It’s clear that the 68-year old is getting on a bit. His eyesight is failing, and his walk is occasionally – but only occasionally – that of an old man. But from the second that he launches into first tune, “I wonder”, it’s clear that the legend still lives.

I wonder how many times you’ve been had
And I wonder how many plans have gone bad
I wonder how many times you had sex
And I wonder do you know who’ll be next
I wonder I wonder wonder I do

– Rodriguez, “I Wonder”

Despite what I expected (almost no one I spoke to in Australia seemed to know who the man was), the Tivoli was packed on the night, and it was clear that Rodriguez meant as much to every person there as he did to me. From the very first line of “I Wonder”, the crowd sang along with each and every word, and carried on in that manner for most of the night.

And I think it blew Rodriguez away.

After every song, with the crowd belting lyrics back at him, Rodriguez had to step back from the microphone, seemingly overcome with childish joy. I can’t tell you the light this guy gave off. Seeing that massive smile, that childish joy on a 68 year old? Man, I hope I never forget how I felt that night.

“Go get your hugs,
Don’t do drugs.
Stay smart,
Don’t start”

Rodriguez, introducing his flagship tune, “Sugar Man”

Of course, it was always going to be Sugar Man that brought out the biggest cheers. When that bass line started, the crowd literally erupted. Times have changed for Sixto… and I think that’s why he introduced “Sugar Man” the way he did.
I wonder what he thought of the pungent smell of marijuana emanating from the crowd, looking back on how his life has changed from those times?

Sugar man, won’t you hurry
‘Cos I’m tired of these scenes
For a blue coin won’t you bring back
All those colors to my dreams

– Rodriguez, “Sugar Man”

I don’t think I’d be able to pull out highlights of the night if you asked me, because the entire night was one long bliss-fest. That said, some of the moments that still stay with me are the renditions of “Sugar Man”, “Only good for Conversation”, “Crucify your Mind” and “Forget It”.

But there was one point in the evening that I hope I never forget. It was a special moment, where everyone in the crowd – whether they were in their 20s (minority) or 40 – 60s (majority) – came together. And it was during the quintessential Rodriguez song, “This is not a song, it’s an outburst: Or, The Establishment Blues“. If you don’t know the song, I’ve included it below… but there was a moment there, where the song ends off with the immortal lines:

“It’s a hassle it’s an educated guess.
Well, frankly I couldn’t care less.”

… and the entire crowd yelled out that ending couplet in perfect unison. It was the most cathartic moment I’ve ever had at a gig. Hell, I think it may have been the most cathartic experience I’ve ever had, point blank. And I never, ever want to let go of that feeling.

Rodriguez is currently touring. I urge you (you hear that? Urge. I almost never urge people) to go and catch one of his shows. Rodriguez is a treasure that I fear may slip away from us, before his message gets out. So do your part, and spread the word.

Below, I’ve included a grooveshark player with some of his tunes that you can cycle through.

Listen. Love. Support.

***Post Updated 5 April***

Updated post thanks to Debo in the comments, with a video of Rodriguez and band performing opening number, “I Wonder”. See video below… killer!