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Van Coke Kartel still marching to own beat

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TO SW Van Coke

Jean-Pierre and Dudley Byrnes.

VAN Coke Kartel started their year with the announcement of a new drummer – Pestroy’s Dylan Hunt.

The Afrikaans rockers haven’t stopped since Bloed, Sweet en Trane was released in October, with frontman Francois van Coke and bassist Wynand Myburgh even finding time to do a 10-year anniversary tour of Fokofpolisiekar, the Bellville garage band that spawned it all in 2003.

“We did a tour of all the Barnyard Theatres across the country, interspersed with club gigs and campus shows, all at the same time,” said Van Coke this week.

It’s all part of making a living out of music in South Africa, some- thing Van Coke admits has to be a combination of doing a range of other projects, sometimes one after the other, or one on top of the other.

A decade older than the firebrand frontman he was for Fokofpolisiekar, the drive remains the same, the passion is there, it’s just been tempered and moulded by time.

“When we started Fokof-polisiekar, we wanted to do music we loved, but in a language in which we spoke and were comfortable in. We loved the lyrics of singer-song- writers like Koos Kombuis and Johannes Kerkorrel, but we needed to do it in rock.”

Rebellious, with an incredible and infectious stage presence, Fokofpolisiekar wanted to “stick it to the man”, thumbing their noses at the Afrikaner establishment, of whom Van Coke’s father was and is a pillar, as an ordained dominee.

Alcohol was a major part of it all, with Van Coke becoming legendary for his on-stage intake – and output – before and during performances.

Bloed, Sweet en Trane, Van Coke Kartel’s fifth album, reflected this transition – particularly because it was written over a nine-month period during which Van Coke foreswore all alcohol.

“I’d married the year before, times had changed, I’d moved back to the suburbs. At first we drank in Polisiekar because it was a symbol of our freedom, now the trick was to still be free, but without the alcohol. It was a weird time, a difficult time.

“I drink a little now, but I try to keep it together when I do.”

Bloed, Sweet en Trane was recorded with drummer Jason Oosthuizen, who did the percussion on the previous album Wie’s Bang? as well. He has been replaced by Hunt, who becomes the band’s fifth drummer.

The parting was amicable.

“We knew Jason was about to leave when we were recording Bloed, Sweet en Trane, but we didn’t want to announce it at the time. His dream has always been to play in the big stadium bands and he’s made no secret of it. He’s young and he’s very good and we wish him well.”

Hunt is a fine replacement, having spent 10 years with his own band Pestroy, before joining Van Coke Kartel. He already has two gigs under his belt and passed with flying colours, said Van Coke.

The singer might have given up on his dream as a 16-year-old of becoming a multi-millionaire rock god, but never his passion for playing the music Van Coke Kartel and Fokokpolisekar’s fans love.

After all the years together, he and Myburgh know who they are and what the band is there for; to write good music and play it for a growing number of fans across the country who love it.

Van Coke, whether he’s had a drink off stage or on – or not at all – has always been renowned for his ability on stage and it’s something the band prides itself on too, the quality of its live performances. The combination of seeing them live and the quality of their music, even though it’s in Afrikaans, has won them many English-speaking fans.

“If you look at the interaction on our social media sites, we have probably got half English and half Afrikaans fans.

“Language isn’t a driving issue any more, it’s just about the music,” Van Coke says.

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