SAMA winners

This weekend gave us the 2009 South African Music Awards and I’m happy to report that several of the bands supported on this blog came through as winners:

But if Saturday night reminded us just how good SA music can be, we were brought right back down to earth by the final of SA Idols on Sunday. If you want to know just how good the standard of SA Idols is, then don’t ask me. I was just unfortunate enough to catch the last ten minutes in a poorly organised glance at what was on Carte Blanche at 7. I have now been put right off Mnet for life.

(For those of you interested, a duet by Sasha and Lee beat Jason into 3rd place, apparently.)

Zebra & Giraffe – The Knife

I have been listening to a lot of Zebra & Giraffe recently, possibly due to their fantastic performance at CokeZeroFest.

This is a great example of their New Order meets The Cure at a local pub and a young Depeche Mode drop in and join them both for a swift Red Bull or two before heading off their separate ways vibe.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqNy-RM1sWU]

It’s called The Knife. And it’s another surefire hit for Fleet of Worlds, whose musical tastes often seem dangerously close to mine.
He may want to see someone about that.

The Zebra & Giraffe album Collected Memories is available on iTunes and you can follow @Zebraandgiraffe on twitter. (Although it does seem to be mainly about stir-fries).

Music in Politics

Those of you in South Africa will be well accustomed to the use of music in politics. So much of the African culture revolves around music and dance, that no decent South African political rally is complete without the obligatory traditional songs and dancing.
But music has also been used in politics in the UK too. Remember back in 1997, when Labour swept to power, D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better was their victory song. 12 years on, some might disagree with that sentiment.

The big difference of course, is that here, the politicians join in with the singing.
In fact, Jacob Zuma (our President-in-waiting) even has his own much-discussed theme song, Umshini wami. And he’s got quite a voice on him:

But things are changing. Perhaps having seen the success of JZ and eager to have about 30 million voters giving him their X, North Hertfordshire Council hopeful, the Liberal Democrats’ Allan Witherick has come up with his rap “Six to Fix”, malaigning the shortfalls of the current Conservative council.

I would ask you to compare the passion, the performance and the personalities of JZ and Allan. I would also ask you to ensure that you don’t have anything in your mouth as you click on the video below, as you may be in danger of
choking.

UPDATE: Allan has made his video private. If you’re watching it, you’re a friend of Allan. Just saying.
Fortunately, I’ve found a copy for you here.

Yes, “that, my friends is our six to fix in a funky mix with a little bit of flair”.

I’m glad he finished off by telling us that. I had completely missed the funk and the flair was sadly drowned out by he sound of my sides splitting.
Probably best we leave the music to JZ, hey?

CokeZeroFest 2009 – Review

COKE ZERO FEST 2009 PHOTOS AND VIDEOS HERE!

Having survived the nightmarish drive out of the otherwise stunning Lourensford Wine Estate and the 60km back to Cape Town late yesterday evening, I feel I am now in a position to let you know if the 2009 CokeZeroFest was a hit or a miss.
And I’m going “hit”.

From the time we drove into the venue, surrounded on three sides by mountains, with sweeping views down to False Bay on the fourth, it was obvious that this was going to be a chilled day in the sun with some (hopefully) decent music to listen to while we were at it. And we didn’t have long to wait – diving from the beer tent through into the Golden Circle to see Die Heuwels Fantasties, and their unique brand of Afrikaans rock. I’m not a great Afrikaans speaker, but the music was pretty good – and made last year’s Van Coke Kartel look as amateurish as a first round Idols failure.
They were followed up by more Afrikaans rock in the shape of Foto na Dans, who have a lead singer bearing a worrying resemblance to Leo Sayer. That concern aside though, choral tones over the heavy nu-metal background made for an interesting and (perhaps surprisingly) functional combination. Great stuff and certainly worth a listen.
It should be noted that this genre of music is supported by a fanatical following and they were out in force up front for the first two acts.

Time for some English now though, please and Cassette obliged after a slightly shaky start with the bearded Jon Savage striding around the stage and giving us his no-holds-barred opinions of the last minute cancellations. Pushing their new album Who do You Trust?with the title track accompanied by a cartoon of Jacob Zuma on the big screens was topical and popular. The Boomtown Rats’ Tell me why (I don’t like Mondays) cover was a big hit, as was Useless Confusion.

Now, my most eagerly anticipated act: Zebra & Giraffe. Widely tipped to be the next “big” SA band, they blew me away with their New Order vs The Cure mildly melancholic electronica. It amazes me that there are some bands that are still able to find a niche in the music market which no-one has previously exploited. While others are producing decent, enjoyable but somewhat “samey” tracks, Z&G are novel, refreshing and exciting. And eminently listenable. The performance was tight and professional, the audience interaction not too full-on, but enough to let us know they knew we were there. Very impressive and definitely the best SA band of the day. Questions do need to be asked about Greg Carlin’s choice of shirt, however.

Cape Town’s Dirty Skirts were up next and provided us with a decent, if unspectacular, set – probably their best offering being Daddy Don’t Disco. There was no huge audience connection though, which rather let them down. I have to admit to being a little disappointed. I’ve missed a couple of gigs and was told I was missing out, but it just didn’t click. That said, I like their stuff enough to give them another chance. Soon.
And there was more disappointment on the way with aKING. I’ve heard a fair amount of their stuff and I think they are hugely over-rated and their lukewarm performance did nothing to change my opinion. It was heavy, stodgy, dull. The crowd was enthusiastic though, despite the rather bland set. Time for a burger and (another) beer.

And then, the international acts, led by Panic at the Disco, who were friendly, funny and fun. Once again, an overseas act seemed bemused by a less-than-eager South African crowd, but they got through their hits and there was fun and rather too much audience participation to be had as they rounded off their set with a cover of Lulu’s enduring hit Shout. Energetic it was, and a really tight, well-rehearsed set. Impressive, if not unexpected.

Snow Patrol were next up and (for me) stole the show. They had the crowd eating out of their hands before they even came on stage with their “All of these places feel like home” display on the big screen. The power of words is incredible (if you have several thousand drunk teenagers in front of you).

It’s obvious that Gary Lightbody loves performing and loves to see his songs being enjoyed. And it was an emotional set, with the powerful Run and Chasing Cars thrown in between faster harder numbers like Eyes Open and Take Back the City. Gary couldn’t help but enthuse over the beautiful scenery, gorgeous people and wonderful country. But it was spontaneous and from the heart. You could just see that he was loving every minute of where he was and what he was doing. You can’t fake that sort of honesty.

And then, the finale: Oasis. They look old not just because of the drink and the drugs, but because they are old. But boy – they’ve still got it. Liam strutted around like he owned the place, barking orders at the sound desk and striking a bully-boy pose between lyrics. Attitude personified.

Noel looked older still, wandering around sloth-like and seemingly confused. But when it came to that voice… Wow. Every note, perfect; every chord, perfect. The brothers are well known for their “don’t give a toss” attitude, but it works so well on stage and it was a remarkable experience to see them live at long last. Love them or hate them, you have to admire their longevity against all the odds, and dare I say that their new stuff is sounding like it will stand alongside the classics like Wonderwall and Slide Away.
For me, Noel’s performance of Don’t Look Back in Anger was arguably the most spectacular moment of the entire day. And when you remember that it was up against those powerful modern classics from Snow Patrol, that’s saying something.

All in all, money well spent and an utterly superb day out.
Wonderful venue, great organisation, nice beer, great crowd, good music, perfect weather.

See you next year. And don’t forget those photos and videos!

Live from CokeZeroFest

aKING aren’t doing it for me. But that’s not a problem, because it means we can refuel with burgers and beer. Highlights so far have been Cassette and Zebra & Giraffe. But that’s not to say that the Afrikaans offerings of DHF and Foto na Dans weren’t impressive too. And the Dirty Skirts – also impressive.

The venue is beautiful, surrounded by mountains and topped with a glorious blue sky. And the organisation has been superb – from the signage and the parking, to the bars and the food stands. There’s a complete party atmosphere and smiles everywhere. Even the portaloos are lovely, although experience suggests that may change in the near future.

All in all, a brilliant experience and money well spent. And this before any of the ‘big’ bands have even thought about coming on stage.

Written on my Sony Ericsson Xperia X1. At CokeZeroFest 2009.
Nice.