GrandWest. 09.02.13. American cult singer Sixto Rodriques during his sold-out performance Saturday night at GrandWest. Picture Ian Landsberg

THE EXTRAORDINARY film of Sixto Rodriguez, the Mexican-American construction worker who was unaware he was a household name in South Africa, has nabbed another award.

On Sunday, the documentary Searching for Sugar Man won best documentary at the British Academy Film Awards (Bafta).

Rodriguez, who lives in Detroit, Michigan, was not popular in the US but was hailed in South Africa during the 1970s and 1980s.

Years later South African fans found out he was still alive and his music career was revived.


The singer-songwriter made two albums, Cold Fact and Coming from Reality, in the early 1970s.


Cape Town record store owner Steve Segerman and music journalist Craig Bartholomew had for a decade been trying to trace Rodriguez, studying his lyrics to track his origins.

They found that Rodriguez was living a modest life, making a living as a construction worker.

When he first came to South Africa, Rodriguez played six sold-out concerts at the Velodrome in Bellville in 1998. He performed in the Grand Arena at GrandWest at the weekend.

Documentary film-maker Malik Bendjelloul picked up his story 2006.

In a video clip interview with Eyewitness News posted yesterday Rodriguez said he had met the Swedish director in 2008. He admitted he was “kind of reluctant to get involved with it”, and needed to be persuaded.

When asked about the royalties from his albums, Rodriguez said: “The reason I got into music is it generates revenue. It generates oxygen and everybody needs a bit of oxygen... so there’s immediate rewards with music.

“I wasn’t aware of the royalties and all that stuff because I didn’t know about it... but this issue of royalties will be resolved some time.”

The documentary was shown last month at the Sundance Film Festival in the US, and won the documentary jury prize and audience award.

Since the release of Searching for Sugar Man last year, Rodriguez’s story has drawn major media interest.

He appeared as a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman, and performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He has also featured on CNN, 60 Minutes, and a British news programme, the Andrew Marr Show.

In the Eyewitness News clip, he said: “I enjoy doing music but the touring is not without a little wear and tear... I’m a solid 70. I’ve done the 40s the 50s, the 60s the 70s the 80s – each decade has taught me a lot.”

About Cape Town, he said: “It’s hard not to feel the exhilaration of the area – it’s very charged – there’s so many things to see.”

The musician has learnt a few basic words while in South Africa, with “asseblief” and “baie dankie” the most effective.

He plans to go to Australia next month before heading to New Zealand.

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