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Bellville, Rock City

2008-05-20 10:51
As much as she helped, Karen Zoid couldn’t save it by herself. She just wasn’t cool enough, young enough, or spontaneous enough. Something more rock ‘n roll was needed, and it happened behind Cape Town’s boereworsgordyn, an imaginary sausage separating the English (and all those who pretend to be) from the all-Afrikaans hoods of Bellville, Brackenfell and Durbanville.

In 2003, as now, most teens didn’t have Koos Kombuis on their playlist and didn’t care for Battery 9 or Spinnekop. Anton Goosen was a nobody and even anglophone bands like the Nudies were too ‘yesterday’ for some people’s taste. But having one local rock album in your car’s CD loader would make it just so much safer for the next one.

The magic moment came when an obscure band with cool flyers started singing “kan iemand dalk ‘n god bel, en vir hom sê ons het hom nie meer nodig nie”, pissing off parents and dominees all over the Cape. That, of course, was Fokofpolisiekar. Fokof were born out of punk, and although their punk sound didn’t last, they kept vomiting on stage and kept railing at their traditional upbringing in a way that was more punk than Tweak ever managed. Hard-hitting lyrics like “Vernietig Jouself” excited fanatical devotion from many, mostly younger fans. As far as they knew, it was the most irresponsible thing that had ever been said in Afrikaans.

It seems careless to say that Fokof built up an entire scene around themselves, but in a way, that’s what happened. Before Fokof, says Theuns Schoonwinkel of Foto Na Dans, “You couldn’t go out and buy a standout rock album by an Afrikaans band. There was no such thing.” Besides their music, he believes it was their standards of commitment and professionalism that inspired the bands around them to gig with the same dedication.
Voilà, and today you’ll find that Foto Na Dans, Lukraaketaar, Ashtray Electric, Velve & Die Seks have strong links to Bellville, not to mention the post-Fokof bands aKING and Van Coke Kartel. They’re not all Afrikaans, but they have the ‘burbs in their blood and they know how to rock. More importantly, people are going to their shows and buying the merch.

It’s no surprise that all of these bands seem to know each other. That’s partly down to the nature of the music industry, but also because Rock City is a small place. Ever heard of high school band Time Spent? Probably not, but today ex-members Laudo Liebenberg (aKING), Pierre Greeff (Lukraaketaar) and Wynand Myburgh (Van Coke Kartel) belong in the Who’s Who of SA rock. High Schools like DF Malan and Bellville Hoërskool are the enclaves where many talented rockers have said “let’s jam” for the first nervous time.

South African music is a big place, with a lot of places & spaces making up the musical pie. But every few years or so, one place does more than its part, single-handedly pushing that good gooey local stuff further than we thought it could go. When that happens, it should be celebrated, we should inspect what’s in the drinking water and hope to God the magic won’t stop. Local rock needs every fan it can get.

Will the next wave of Bellville rockers outdo the lasting success of Fokof and the promise of current high-flyers Foto Na Dans? It’s possible. Mzansi rock has a wider audience, thanks to Francois Van Coke & friends. New bands are popping up all the time, some of them eerily similar to Fokof (Die Lewens Van Die Toegestikte), others more adventurous (New Holland). Some of the most interesting stuff isn’t rock at all – check out the music video for Jax Panik’s "Cigarettes & Cinnamon", or listen to the electronic feng shui of Die Heuwels Fantasties. For now, the Valley (another fond Bellville moniker) is full of variety and vitality. May Rock City never sleep.

- Niel Bekker

It’s with heavy thanks to Bellville that so many kids under twenty actually give a rat’s ass about Afrikaans music.

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