Mzansi’s sonic boom
When the line-up for the first Sonic Summer Tour was announced, my heart skipped a beat. Locnville, Die Antwoord, Goldfish and Jax Panik. Wow!
This was surely the most exciting tour since the Bandslam in 1996. Then we thought we were going to change the world. Lithium, Squeal, The Springbok Nude Girls, Nine and Sugardrive were the five best rock bands to herald in our new democracy. They were a by-product of the end of SADF conscription.
That’s aside from Nine, of course, who were a coloured group and therefore were never considered conscription material.
As musicians, Nine played a revolutionary mixture of jazz and heavy metal. Each member of the four-piece band was incredibly talented and when they played, everyone took notice.
Sugardrive grew from an Oasis copycat band to a forefather of South African electronica outfit with deep bass and intelligent melodies. Vocalist Paul E Flynn’s lyrics are still some of the most profound of the past 20 years.
Lithium were sheer grunge rock ’n’ roll. Long-haired über babes, they were the loudest band of their time.
The Durban three-piece that was Squeal were also fearless rock ’n’ rollers. Very tight, their no-holds-barred sound was akin to being in a sonic war zone.
Then, of course, there were the Nudies, lead by Arno Carstens with guitarist Theo Crous not far behind. They were the most dynamic and out-there band of the ’90s. Live, they had the worst sound at all their gigs, but that never mattered to the fans because their songs were just so very good. The Springbok Nude Girls’ tracks from Supergirl to Little are some of the most classic tracks of all time.
All five bands were at the top of their game. We were a new democracy, the world was in love with us and we thought there were so many doors open to us.
Unfortunately that was not the case. The only band to make it internationally was the derivative Saron Gas, who were forced to change their name to Seether when they were signed States-side.
One of the main reasons for the these bands not succeeding in the ’90s was that our industry at that time had no infrastructure to support their careers as musicians.
Corporates were just that – corporate. They had little vision when it came to the arts. Downloads and the internet were yet to find their feet and MTN and Vodacom were still getting over the fact that they were making so much money with very little consequence.
The biggest platform alternative rock bands could play on were support acts for international artists as brought out by Big Concerts. Venues were few and far between and, aside from Oppikoppi and Splashy Fen, there was no real way to get their names out there.
By about 2003, the whole scene had imploded and there didn’t seem much hope for our white brothers and sisters in music.
But seven years later, something has changed. Something big is happening. It’s all about very exciting music and very individual music and I’m not talking about Arno Carstens and that turgid “international” adult contemporary, Wonderful Wild.
I’m talking Goldfish and their beautiful inspiring dance music, Jack Parow and his white trash, whimsical rap, Locnville and their electro hip hop delivered with painful honesty. And, of course, Die Antwoord and well, Die Antwoord. Then there is Gazelle with DJ Invisible. Their parody of African dictators and their white boy electro interpretation of Fela Kuti is certainly turning heads in South Africa.
Goldfish have emerged as South Africa’s premier dance band. They signed a lucrative deal with Pacha, which is the second-most recognisable dance brand in the world after Ministry of Sound. Parow is a regular performer in Europe. Locnville is signed to Interscope, as is Die Antwoord.
Carel Hoffman, who is organising the tour, says there are many reasons for this South African explosion on an international level.
“In the beginning, nobody knew anybody anywhere in the world, which made it difficult. I like to think we at Oppikoppi made a difference by taking artists like Max Normal to festivals overseas. There they were exposed to how the international industry works.
“The internet has also played a crucial part,” continued Hoffman. “Nowadays you can control your business from Durban or Cape Town. Plus this current generation are the internet generation. They believe they can make it. There is a bigger sense of awareness of another frontier, not just the South African ceiling. We’re battling to book them at certain times of the year because they are so committed internationally - and that includes Tumi and The Volume. Channels like MK have also helped create a unique industry in the country.”
Perhaps what is most exciting is that all these bands are not your average bands. They each have something individual which sets them apart. None has compromised his art and all make great music.
It is a very exciting time to be a part of the South African music industry and it’s just gonna get better. The Sonic Summer Tour is going to be one of the greatest and most important tours in our musical history.
Catch Goldfish, Die Antwoord, Locnville and Jax Panik at these venues:
l Saturday at Riversands Farm in Fourways. Gates open at 1pm and the Tumi opens the show at 2pm.
lDecember 15 at Wavehouse, Gateway, Umhlanga Rocks. Gates open at 5pm. Tumi opens the show at 6pm.
lDecember 18 at Backsberg Wine Estate, Stellenbosch. Gates open at 2pm. DJ Waxxy opens the show at 6pm.
Get tickets at ticketbreak. co.za and Musica stores nationwide.