Bellville Rock City - Various (CD/DVD)

2009-02-18 10:54
 
Belville Rock City
 

And in a gesture which will remind you of the way they airbrushed Lenin out of Communist Party photographs, the doccie makers have painted Springbok Nude Girls in as a Bellville band, because two of the five members went to school there. But hey, if Theo Crous and his hulking monster of a bodyguard (what’s that you say? It's Francois Blom from K.O.B.U.S.!? Even scarier, then) claim that Springbok Nude Girls are a Bellville band, who the hell am I to argue with them. And equally, if the stellar cast of Bellville boykies (there are apparently no rock chicks in Bellville, although Tatum is included on the CD) want to type themselves as part of a Bellville scene, then no-one can tell them different. If Seattle can make up a scene, then why not we.

Leaving aside the lacunae in the way history is presented, Twelve Mile Stone is a fascinating South African story, both a tale of childhood dreams and adult aspiration. It’s also a very welcome new addition (as is Steve Hofmeyr's recent autobiography, Mense van my Asem, which is eerily similar in its early chapters) to the unfolding narrative of what it means to be a musician in South Africa.

The shots of 'Snakehead' Venter and the boys in economy class seats winging their way to Joburg are a far cry from John Bonham being serviced by groupies on board Led Zep's Starship. And we often forget how hard bands have to work in this country just to get noticed, and how fantastically good Fokopolisiekar and their friends are at doing that.

The way the Bellville scene is documented is fascinating, albeit that it’s for a very limited part of SA music history. In truth, if this was just the biography of a few location-typed bands, rather than an attempt to colonise a major part of music history, Twelve Mile Stone would work rather better.

Philip Erasmus of Thieve describes the music of the Bellville bands as: "It’s an honest interpretation of their immediate surroundings," and looked at from that perspective, we've got a winner. How do you create the undeniably authentic rage of Fokof and, to an extent, aKing, out of middle-class angst? How do you go from a park in a small town to the big stage of Oppikoppi? How do you service an increasingly necrotic Afrikaans youth audience without compromising your chances of graduating to a bigger stage? All interesting questions; all beautifully answered or alluded to in Twelve Mile Stone.

But there’s only one response when you pull out soundbites like these: "It's the most genuine attempt this country has seen to make music," and "it's the first time we've had a real classic rock 'n roll vibe in this country. It's people who will be remembered for their contributions, other bands have just disappeared, whereas people who are making music now hopefully will be remembered." And that response is: don't talk kak, man.

We can namecheck Radio Rats, Dog Detachment, No Friends of Harry, VOD, Housewives Choice, Sugardrive, Taxi Violence, eVoid, Koos Kombuis en die Warm Blankes, Wonderboom, The Parlotones, Kalahari Surfers, Asylum Kids, Gereformeerde Blues Band, Battery 9, Koos, Die Kerels, Rabbitt (the band most like aKing, oddly enough) and dozens of others. But should we bother? No.

Another irritating part of the doccie is the inclusion of irrelevant soundbites from managers. Can’t you just pass your used groupies on to them, instead of foisting their platitudes on the world? But I could be wrong about this. Maybe it’s a sign of the integrity of the FPK gang that they’re inclusive, and that the talent and the suits aren’t kept apart. As with most things, there are always at least two ways of looking at something.

It's true that for some people, Fokofpolisiekar is the beginning of rock 'n roll, because they're the band that taught you what rock 'n roll is. If you are that person, then this hagiography is for you. As Theo Crous says (in English - most of Twelve Mile Stone is in English, oddly enough, which I assume is a conscious marketing decision), Fokofpolisiekar "showed people it's cool to sing in their own language."

And it's true that Fokofpolisiekar and their various offshoots are among the most professional and inventive musicians currently working. They’ve made an invaluable contribution to a significant part of the SA music landscape, and they’ve kick-started many great creative projects. You only need to listen to the tracks on the Bellville Rock City CD to understand this.

From Ashtray Electric, those swingin' indie rockers, through the metal mirth of K.O.B.U.S!, via the melodic musings of Foto Na Dans, and ending up with aKing’s gorgeously bald statement of intent, "I believe", there's a wealth of good songs. Packaged with a beautifully designed booklet and the Twelve Mile Stone Dvd, Bellville Rock City is a collector’s item worth having. It's kind of indicative that the credits don’t thank the fans, but rather, "you, the customer who supports local music."

This is probably what really sets Brand Fokofpolisiekar apart from the crowd. Not their passion, their talent, their love of music, but their awareness of how to create a product, and with Twelve Mile Stone, how to create a history. They might not have invented rock 'n roll in South Africa, but they sure as hell have gone a long way to perfecting it. But in the end, history will judge itself. It won’t find Fokofpolisiekar and their offshoots wanting, but it won’t find them quite as important as Twelve Mile Stone wants them to be.


Mythmaking is a fantastic thing. According to 12 Mile Stone, the DVD documentary that accompanies the Bellville Rock City compilation release, there was no SA rock music before Fokofpolisiekar and their coterie invented it.

Babely 2009/02/16 1:40 PM
Awesome. It's hard for rock to survive in SA and people who forget the people who did so well in the past only make themselves look stupid.
Agree (to an extent) 2009/02/17 10:28 AM
I do agree with you to a certain extent. One thing that myself (as someone a tad older than Philip Erasmus) can say is that I think his statement was aimed at purely the Northern Suburbs of CT. Unfortunately for him he is too young to remember the days where Lithium and Nine rocked Hangklip Hotel. I assure not everyone on this DVD has forgotten those other bands.
Lithium Fan 2009/02/17 5:28 PM
  • Rating:
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
Lithium ws the best, Loved 'em, Also loved Suger drive.
tannie 2009/02/17 9:34 PM
hunter, jaco, francois, johnny en wynand - van 'n tannie wat julle almal sien grootword het - julle is briljant en die CY mense is trots op julle!
vis 2009/02/18 8:56 AM
Love the style you wrote this in. btw, as an ex-elitist music fan. FPK is punk. objectively. BUT, they are honest, and that is their best asset, and Saffers love myths, so well done to them for selling what the people want... So can someone make a doccie with the real rock bands, that shaped our industry?
Chris Roper 2009/02/18 10:34 AM
  • Rating:
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
Thanks, Vis. And 'Agree to an extent' (what's with that weird nick?), I think you're right. Although the whole documentary does imply what Erasmus states. It's a great little film though, which I hope I heartily recommended enough, as well as criticised?
Goda 2009/02/18 10:46 AM
These bands are a weird bunch. Most bands are more fun to listen to play than watch being interviewed. This lot are the other way round.
Agree 2009/02/18 1:12 PM
  • Rating:
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
The nickname was just cause I couldn't think of anything else at the time. It was accidentally exactly how I felt. You did make a very valid point in your review (maybe something that most other reviewers would have missed). And yes, when I read it as first it seemed a tad harsh, but on second read I think you hit the nail on the head. I also agree with Vis about the DVD about the 'older' bands. The logistics might be a nightmare though... Maybe this is why BRC was easier to produce. I think I feel like some Zenon Supertroopers now...
I'm on this CD 2009/04/26 6:09 AM
and I wish I was'nt. I have to say I agree with the review. The fact that this is one big advert for Fokofpolisiekar and not a doccy about Belville's musical history only became clear after the release.
NEXT ON CHANNELX
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.