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South African bands and why they rock

I love South African music. There’s something unique about the South African music industry, the culture behind the bands and the unique dedication and passion with which musicians and industry folks go about things. I’ve been listening to some really excellent South African bands lately and the other way, while in the car, it occurred to me that the band I was listening to released the album almost 6 years ago. Despite having released subsequent albums and having grown astoundingly as a band, the album I had on still sounded amazing. This notion lead me to the topic of this blog post- bands I’ll most likely still be listening to in 10 years time and why.

A few months ago, I posed the question of “is it the bands or the musicians?“- this question repeats itself here. It is said that a song, when played in a particular context, can trigger memories and feelings from a point in your history. Below is a list of several South African bands, what they do and what they mean to me. These are just some of the bands that have fueled my love for South African music. If you haven’t heard of several of them, I recommend you try and check them out (well, those that are still around). Let’s kick things off, shall we? In no particular order…

HOAX

Okay, these dudes rule. Off to a good start. In short, an insanely cool punk/rock band consisting of two brothers (now fronting and drumming for The Plastics), Mr. Mork on bass and the shredder Sir. Slayer in lead guitar. Wow. Fond memories are but the beginning with these guys.

Having managed HOAX for 2 years or so, I shared so many awesome experiences with these guys. It’s pretty clear to me that my fond memories of the band go deeper than just the awesome music. Listening to HOAX brings back fond memories of random after parties at the band room, crazy nights out, gigging up a storm and having an awesome time with band mates.

Quality punk-y rock. ’nuff said.

The Awful Truth

And the awesome continues. So much of it.

The Awful Truth were a ska/punk band from behind the boerewors curtain that is the gateway to Durbanville in Cape Town. An insane crew, really. The kindest most awesome of people and insanely talented musicians. You know the guys are having fun when everyone ends up going so crazy that they fall into the drumkit which, in turn, ends up falling all over the drummer. Yes, this was a ska band, believe it or not.

As with HOAX, many fond memories were created with these guys. Definitely one of my favourite South African bands of all time.

Martin Rocka and the Sick Shop

This might sound a bit odd, but one of my favourite things about Martin Rocka and the Sick Shop is that their lyrics aren’t about really serious topics. They don’t generally sing about politics and the like… more like hot rods, booze, sex and zombies. I mean, what’s wrong with a few zombies driving hot rods and drinking whisky once in a while?

Aside from the awesomely random lyrics, their unique brand of rockabilly is incredibly catchy. Definitely one of my favourite genres. It’s nice to have a bit of fun with the music and sing about random things (seems a recurring theme in the genre). Definitely a talented trio. If the lyrics disturb you, I’d strongly recommend trying to look past them and listening to the music. It’s really awesome.

The City Bowl Mizers

Similar to Martin Rocka, without the hot rods, booze, sex and zombies. Substitute those for a few martinis, some bikini-clad ladies and a few surfboards pitched in the sand on the beach. There you go.

The City Bowl Mizers are a surf-rock group based in Durban. These guys, like many other bands in South Africa, are incredibly hard working. I mean incredibly hard working. What it has taken for them to get from a young garage band (as we all start out) to where they are now has been what seems like the most incredible journey. Between Durban and the UK (they were there for a year or so, I believe?) their journey sounds truly unique, most likely best recounted by the band members themselves.

Aside from their music, which I really enjoy, one thing that can for certain be said about these talented guys is that they’re a bunch of solid stand-up okes. A friendly smile and handshake is what generally awaits you when chatting with the Mizers. The best kind of band is a band that cares. ’nuff said.

The Rudimentals

The Rudimentals are an 8-piece ska/reggae/dancehall band based in Cape Town.

The band that can make anything better. Words cannot describe the talent of these individuals. The synergy between musicians is also of such a unique nature. Their music, vibe and general approach to all things in life is heart-warming and inviting. Their music brings out all those happy feelings from inside and lets them shine on the surface. Whether or not you understand the music or lyrics, the vibe projected in their performance is of such a unique nature, they are able to impact on listeners of any age, creed, race or nationality.

Fuzigish

Fuzigish are a ska/punk band based in Johannesburg.

This is really a case, for me, of a collection of incredibly uniquely talented musicians. Rambling Jay Bones (whose solo project I’ve currently got on repeat as I type this) is an amazing musician and lyricist, able to capture an audience with the strike of a single chord. Mr. Malcolm Rockwell (aka. Chest Rockwell) has a voice and bass playing ability that not only stands steadfast on it’s own, but perfectly compliments the stylings of Bones. What sounds like a few simple chords are then added to interesting lyrics and an enthralling bassline to create the unique sound that is the core of Fuzigish. With the addition of brass and maniacal drumming, the sound is complete.

Their music is catchy and happy. I have many fond memories of their live performances, which I recall every time I hear their music.

Hog Hoggidy Hog

Okay, I’ve been listening to these guys forever. If I remember correctly, the first live concert I went to in my teens was a Hogs show. Those are the kinds of memories you can’t just conjure up.

This punk/ska band is a truly iconic outfit. Having been around for well over a decade now and seen the music scene morph and evolve, the Hogs have stuck it out and stood up tall, proud to be punkers and purveyors of fine pork rock.

Give them a listen. Make sure it’s at a live concert. You’ll know the feeling.

Bed on Bricks

Once again, such talented musicians. Where does one begin?

Their live performance is incredible. Truly incredible. The first time I saw them live, I wanted to pick my jaw up off the floor, go home and write a bunch of songs in the hopes of starting an awesome record-deal-acquiring band, to be as awesome as their live performance. Just typing about it brings back fond memories of the first time I saw Bed on Bricks perform live.

Bed on Bricks, for me, epitomises the heart of Cape Town city. Their uniquely chilled rock sound, coupled with their general approach to their music, reminds me of an act that is uniquely Capetonian.

Their live performance is not to be missed (in case that wasn’t clear from the first paragraph about them).

This list can go on forever. I could listen to any of the above bands, at any time of the day, any day of the week. They are all truly incredible, none more so than the others. Music has played such a pivotal role in my life, I find I have many many fond memories of stages, speakers being pushed to their limits, being flung across stages during insane mosh pits and generally having an amazing time to some really cool music.

There are loads of awesome South African bands on Twitter, if you’re keen to connect with the bands directly.

If you don’t often go out to listen to South African bands, I’d strongly recommend you take a turn at the next gig you see and give it a go. The locals are really friendly and are always keen for more folks to join in the fun. 🙂

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