Our 2002 ObituaryWe can't think of the '80s or '90s without thinking of Johannes Kerkorrel's face. The songs on Eet Kreef and Voelvry were anthems for cultural renewal and rebellion.
He hanged himself from a tree near Kleinmond . His death is a big deal for anyone who loved his music - and there are a lot of us. Because he left behind a legacy of great alternative pop music that challenged the Apartheid establishment. Kerkorrel's music reached people over the years after democracy came. I can't think of the '80s or '90s without thinking of his face. The songs off Eet Kreef and Voelvry were anthems for my school friends and I.
We'd sing them loudly when we managed to get our hands on cheap white wine on a Friday. Kerkorrel changed the way English people like myself saw Afrikaners our age. He showed us English kids, who liked to blame the whole mess of Apartheid on Afrikaners, that there was more than one way to be Afrikaans. He also opened up the way we saw ourselves.
He taught us that you could be both white, and african - South African first, pale only second. His music was banned, and slapped down by the establishment. But he was too good to remain completely unplayed. I still treasure the second hand SABC copy of Eet Kreef I own. The word AVOID is scratched in big red letters next to the tracks that the National Party didn't think the public should hear - tracks that ridiculed PW Botha and mocked the SABC propaganda machine ("Sit dit af"), poked fun at the ongoing Great Trek ("Ossewa") and talked about love across the lines of war and colour bars ("Die ou, ou lied van Afrika"). He gave a hip and trendy tang to the way we hated Apartheid. The Nats hated him for that.
But Kerkorrel's power was about something much more than the potent politics of the time. Because above all else, Kerkorrel made beautiful music that lasts and stays true. This is why we listened to him, and why we still do. Give "Donker, Donker Land" a listen. You'll see what I mean.
- Jean Barker (2002)
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