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Culture, Music

A Fat Ska Beating

by Andrei Van Wyk, images Paris Brummer / 02.06.2011

The South African “rock” scene is largely dominated by indie-dance and synthetic blues rock that often obscures the true spirit of the music behind a façade of borrowed gestures, expensive haircuts and colourful skinny jeans. But not tonight. Tonight I’m watching Fuzigish!

Back in the early noughties, we had a strong punk rock scene. It prodded and challenged and ended up representing a legion of angry young suburban youths. Though many misunderstood it as a pretentious anarchic mentality, it was anchored by a few true believers who would let their souls hang out like a beer gut over the belts of their music.

Now Fuzigish are for many, South Africa’s first punk rock band. Veterans of many country-wide tours pushing that potent ska sound which battered ear drums and ignited moshpits across the land, transforming metal kids and emos alike, from moody or violent monkeys into dancing fools. Fuzigish have long done god’s work helping beat challenged misfits find their rhythm. They’ve spent more than a decade pursuing and perfecting their South African punk ska sound and will certainly go down in history, right alongside Fokofpolisiekar, as a band that left a permanent scar on the face of South African rock music.

The parking lot of the “legendary” Cool Runnings in Fourways is filled with kids and punctuated by the smell of zol. I don’t know if its weed or the excitement but I’m feeling light headed. The line to the entrance already extends right across the parking lot. The outside area is saturated by old time punk rockers who look like forty year old men who left their jobs at the insurance office early enough to get a quick mohawk cut on the side of the road. There are little girls in tight spiked up dresses and teenage boys choofing their lungs out. There’s a bunch of guys standing across from us who look like they’ve got six tubs of hair-gel in their creatively structured mohawks. At a Fuzi gig, the mo is always in fashion. I don’t remember punk rock shows being this rough or showy, but it still has a clean sincerity which hits me in the gut.


And that’s why I’m here. For the fat ska beating I’ve longed for, for years. We walk around with the smoky braai smell running through the air, hair and staining the linings of all the leather jackets. The bar is packed, the stench from the toilet floats over all, mixing with the cigarette smoke and cheap beers, which are being downed consecutively. Young girls in the skimpiest of dresses flirt with old boys with too many piercings. Even jocks that have travelled from Sandton show up. I now know how unprecedented Fuzigish’s influence is. Kids from all around drive great distances to show their allegiance.

Soon the lights go off and the sound of guitars tuning and bass drums thumping shoots into the smoky dark. The crowd begins to get restless. The silhouettes of the four punk legends emerge and the crowd releases a great roar. A rapid bass drum beats in anticipation of the frenzy which is to come. A sliding guitar leads into “Burn the fucking house down” which opens with the lyrics “Fuzigish is who we are!” all met with high praise.

The thought runs through my mind, that Fuzigish is an idea more than the band and as each kid in the crowd sings back every line they participate in the revolution they have started. Jay Bones’ voice has a calm and soothing tone as shouts “Move!’ and “Jump the fuck up!”


As the pit gets more and more brutal I linger with my eyes closed and just sing the lyrics. Kids are running up to the stage just to get a feel of Jay’s leg, as they pull themselves up to stage dive. I watch as they jump through the air and crowd surf. Greased by sweat. A fear comes over me and the violence heightens. Rockwell’s bass sends a thumping roar as it pounds like a hammer, the rhythm running through the feet of every kid with the opening of “Uncle Shifty”. Big Willy jumps and punches the air. He grabs kids by the neck and sings the lyrics of “Scratching” into their ears. He brings out a giant beer bong with a giant dick on the end of it and watches as young girls suck on it. I just stand there amazed.


Everyone pushes and shoves just to get a lick of Big Willy’s Big Willy. Their energy on stage is unmatched and their sound is perfect. As they pound through their set every song gets a great roar from the crowd, still screaming every lyric to songs like “Monique” and “Mr. Mean Man”. The violence which they have caused doesn’t take their minds off the main goal, which is the music. Though they’re often seen as just a punk band, Fuzigish’s music has an integrity like a sacred musical exorcism, leaving kids splayed on the speakers and hanging onto chandeliers.

Too soon the show ends and even though I had hardly moved through performance my body feels battered. I feel complete.








*All images © Paris Brummer.

15   4
  1. Anonymous says:

    I grew up in the joburg punk scene. fuzigish. ya. they were cool, until one of their bandmembers stood on stage at carfax urging everyone to get fuct up drunk instead of vote. then i realised, it was all about being white trash rather than anarchic and revolutionary. so I moved to Cape Town and became a hipster instead, and have never looked back on the Fourways days.

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  2. TheGrizzlyLumberjack says:

    hot damn you have no idea how depressed i was, for weeks, not making that show. Fuzi is the best ska in the world.

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  3. grinch says:

    @anonymous…. yup being a ‘hipster’s’ cool.
    while you’re at it why don’t you watch this video


    the brits like to use a synonym for ‘hipster’

    enjoy 🙂

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  4. Chaday says:

    Funny thing is, punk has been around for an extensive amount of time; from the assumed proto-punk of bands like MC5, The Stooges, Wreckless Eric and even the Plastic Ono Band, through to post-punk occuring while punk itself was occuring: Television, Wire, etc.
    On towards the oi movement, ska popping up en route, hardcore, post-hardcore (Rites of Spring), emo (Real Emo, circa Sunny Day Real Estate, American Football, Cursive… I mean, it goes on for super long.

    I can’t pretend to know anything about most of these scenes, and I most certainly do not but ever since i turned ‘hipster’ or, for lack of a better word, ‘got an informed opinion’ – since the word hipster gets bandied about as if everyone has some effing clue what it means instead of drawing straight from some internet meme of some sorts – but I guess it’s when i turned indie that I first noticed this immutable lack of change that has and will continue to occur in the Joburg straight-ahead punk scene.
    I dare someone to prove me wrong, please do, I haven’t been to a punk show in ages upon ages – but I seem to have noticed and upsurgence in prefix-billy movement of late (like, the past five or so years), but even that was around in the scene for a lengthy amount of time before i ‘departed’. I agree with Andrei that punk can be exhilirating and if anyone wants to have an idea, since I’m rambling on a bit here, Iggy Pop put it quite succinctly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mr9EAjD4yM

    And those are the things that make punk and most, if not all, rockenroll that touches our hearts something far more than awesome.

    I digress; Haveing seen punk undergo all these radical transitions through it’s pure functioning aesthetic and social norms, functioning as a reactionary force – even Twee (The Pastels, Primal Scream, Field Mice and later Belle & Sebastie(a)n) some consider to be of the punk aesthetic, deriving itself from a reaction to the angrier, punkier sounding UK bands of the mid 80s.

    All in all, punk has been a force with a continued motion; and when I tend to look at bands, and we can argue that most, not just those cut of the punk cloth, in and around JHB, DBN, CT, there seems to be a lack of forward motion, which is, in my mind, not very punk.

    When people ask me if Punk Is Dead, I’m tempted to say yes, yes, it’s dead. It’s been dead for a FUCK long time; In fact it kinda stalled mid-way through the 90s; but I see it as just being ressurected in the form of lo-fi punk bands such as Japanther, or in Punk/Noise/Lo-fi fiends that have fallen in and out of a club called The Smell in Los Angeles.

    So, when I look at Fuzigish, and see that they haven’t changed that much over the past decade or so, that they’ve just been sucking the hind-teet of various sub-genres for awhiles now it kinda saddens me; I wish people would push a little harder and avoid getting raped by the same sound over and over and over again. It’s vom inspiring.

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  5. mega-douche says:

    sounds like you sucked their dick too? And you knew someone would give you a jibe about ‘first’ punk band… maybe the generation that thought ‘tweak’ were unique. Yes, fuzi are cool, but ultimately aping a stock genre… complete with rockabilly tattoos and hair and brass. All good, all fun, but they’re no legends. Or maybe they are… hmm. Let there be all-out rockin. Cool write up.

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  6. mega-douche says:

    P.S. Anyone else notice how much Bones looks like Bonny Prince Billy?

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  7. Chaddy says:

    Sorry for all the sweet sp. mistakes. Appy Polly Loggies.

    It should also be a bit more articulate, but hey, whatevs.

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  8. Al Anon says:

    The only cool thing about Fuzi is Bones and over 15 years its really just been him and whoever else filled in. Anyway this ‘best of’ and a handful of shows per annum tells me that its basically over. Yay. Part time punk rock fools in this country. Its not dead but its fucking embarassing.

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  9. Andy says:

    Al Anon… they still pull a massive crowd. And the crowd are totally into it. Fucken dedicated. That’s a lot more than can be said for many SA rock bands. And while Bones is a legend, that’s not to discount the roles of Big Willy, Rockwell and Lee.

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  10. Reader says:

    All the kids out there looking for “something new” are really gonna miss the party. I feel a little sorry for them.

    p.s. Andrei – what’s the difference between a band playing stock standard blues rock and a band playing stock standard ska-punk?

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  11. Grinch says:

    @chaddy – What an unnecessary comment.
    But then again, with a name like ‘chaddy’ I expect nothing less

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  12. Brad says:

    chaday is a genius, thanks for sharing your wisdom.


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  13. Reminiscing old timer says:

    As long as those there had a good time. Who gives a flying fuck.

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  14. Ol' one eye says:

    Great band. Good to see they still handing out Fat Ska Beatings.

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  15. Chadee says:

    @Reminiscing Old Timer: It’s support for crap that consistently helps music not to grow. Notice how I did say something about punk being fun… anyway, as to my long-winded, exasperating and overwrought comment, well, it’s just my stupid fucken opinion. Also, seeing a girl I like with a beercock in her mouth wasn’t all that inspiring. Let’s blame it on that, revenge tactics. Big Willy, you going down!

    Basically, stock-punk is boring, like Christianity. If it does something for you, then, well, good for you. Doesn’t stop it from being godawfully boring, though.

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  16. Reminiscing old timer says:

    Chadee, maybe I was not clear…”The only new thing in this world is the history that you do not know”

    I am relatively “old” and in my old age now realise that no matter how much of a fuck off wicked time I had (and still on the rare occassion have) rocking out, guzzling quarts and smoking what our good countrey has to offer…it meant/means sweet nada. It is just another good time.

    I love music, dirty blues inspired hazy semi hard rocking sounds being my preference, – the lyrics tell me things I already know having experienced them, the sound effects me like it always has…the days and idea of music actually changing anything have been sold a long time ago. In years of old certain musicians were banned by Kings because of the threat they were to stability and their rule.

    Rage Against the Machine sounded great and promoted political issues relevent to them…I can dig that…but the mexicans still mexi-can’t.

    Music is now just a soundtrack that serves some chronological purpose.

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  17. Chadee says:

    @Old Timer.

    That is such a fatalistic viewpoint, I’m sorry to say.

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  18. Chadee says:

    Besides, I’m merely talking about the evolution of music on a sonic level.

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  19. Anonymous says:

    SA’s first punk band? You’re off by like 30 yeas there.

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  20. Anonymous says:

    WIll Oldman looks nothing like Jay Bones!

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  21. Chadee says:

    @Anon(punk): Yeah, totes, started in the late seventies. Durban was a good place to be punk.

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  22. Ri says:

    “the sound effects me”

    that’s pretty fucking hilarious!

    i blame local radio and our so called “authorities” on music for being so stuck in a fucking rut.
    where’s the choice. Major Record labels here are 100 times worse than in any other country too. Assuming what people will like instead of simply giving them a choice to listen for themselves.

    having a fun time and getting totally wasted aside, that’s why bands like FUZI are so huge,
    because there has always been so little to choose from in this country.

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  23. Sigh... says:

    Stop hating. According to the writer and the evident pictures, looks like many had a great time that night. Who gIves a fuck if fuzi are this and this and this… Constructive criticism. Yes. It’s always a good thing. But, this isn’t a review on the band. This is on the show. And wow those kids in those pictures look like they’re really enjoying themselves. So what. You gonna deny someone of a good time? That’s a sick thing to do.

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  24. Al Anon says:

    We’re voicing opinions @Sigh not stopping shows or banning music so get over yourself … You fucking douche (there’s some ‘hating’ to make you feel better 😉

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  25. Zam says:

    Hey, so this is just my (admittingly biased) opinion ….

    Personally, I’m getting a little sick and tired of every band these days trying to be something totally different. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily saying it’s a bad thing to be creative, I promote it fully, but the fact remains that creativity i’n itself is now creating a stale music scene.

    Everyone wants to play some new creative genre they’ve invented and named themselves (doomsday electronic bum sex indie love core) with a 26/13 time structure, with fantastic 9/11 chords over disharmonic minors with a tone resembling a cat force fed through the starship enterprises’ warpdrive. And although I can appreciate the artistic value on a level when this is done (seldomely) correctly, most of the time I think it just ends up being “cool” rather than entertaining. And I want to be entertained.

    I think it’s one of the crucial flaws of modern day “alternative music”, the idea that one can’t just make a good time band playing four chords to 4/4. Peope these days always go “where are the Led Zepllins and Elvis Presleys” of today while complaining about the deterioration of modern pop tunes. I think the problem lies i’n this let’s be completely creative idea.

    When I get into my car after a long day at work, having my problems and a headache, the last thing I wamt at that point i’n time is Tom Yorke telling me about child labour i’n Asia. I want fuzi telling me let’s go out and have fun, have a drink and enjoy life. I want to sing along, chant to the oi’s and smack my steering wheel to the drum fills.

    Fuzi are a good time band, they’re not trying to market themselves as anything else. And I think the world needs that just as much as it needs Radiohead or Kidofdoom. So I’ll leave you with a mark twain paraphrased quote:

    “other writers write wine, I write water. The only difference is not everyone drinks wine, but everyone drinks water.”

    Well that’s my rather verbose opinion which probably no one will read. But it had to he said by someone.

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  26. Chad says:

    @Zam. Lies.
    There is a ton of really awesome simplicity floating. It’s just sifting through all the other nonsense that takes a supremely long while – and if you love music enough you’ll enjoy the ‘chore’.




    There’re so many others. I personally like the ‘scuzzier’ crap more, because they really don’t seem to give a crap.
    But if you want to find the other, you fucken do it.

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  27. Chad says:

    Oh, yeah, Times New Viking:


    Also, you can’t deny the evolution of music for effs sake. You. Just. Can’t.

    Or you could hide out at The Doors/Burn/whatever the fuck the equivalent is in CT and pretend you really care about music.

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  28. Chad says:

    [they’re moderating my comment, so I reposted this crap] @Zam. Lies.
    There is a ton of really awesome simplicity floating. It’s just sifting through all the other nonsense that takes a supremely long while – and if you love music enough you’ll enjoy the ‘chore’.

    Eat Skull, Wavves, Times New Viking

    There’re so many others. I personally like the ‘scuzzier’ crap more, because they really don’t seem to give a crap.
    But if you want to find the other, you fucken do it.

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  29. Zam says:

    It’s not just the complexity or simplicity, but the idea of a fun time band that isn’t commercial rubbish, bit something true to those who created it.

    AC/DC is by far one of the wolds least creative bands but I think are probably one of the best. I agree they aren’t evolving music but they’re not trying to. They’re a pub band and people like that about them. They have a place in the world.

    At the same time, however, they aren’t some generic mass produced product for sale. The artists are still doing what they love and keeping that music as true to themselves as possible and I can appreciate that.

    I guess what I’m saying is fuzigish is what a radio band should be. My mom likes them, and that says a lot. I’d be happy if the radio had fuzi and ACDC rather than Britney spears or who ever they now play.

    As cools as Times New Viking are, they’re not a radio friendly band (and they don’t want to be). They’re music for musicians. Fuzi is music for the discerning listener who can still enjoy the entertainment part of it. Which is why I put the mark twain quote.

    I think to write off a really good band like fuzigish just because they’re not the messiah of ska means you have to disregard A LOT of really talented musicians and bands in the world and that, for me, would make my life really dull.

    I’m not trying to pretend I know everything about music and I’m not saying your choices are bad. What I’m saying is if people were offered fuzi or the parlotones, there’s a high chance that the world en mass may choose fuzi. And that’s the problem, radio doesn’t give them a chance.

    I know i’ve swayed from the initial discussion but I’m tires and can’t be bothered trying to exPreds myself any longer

    Fuzi rule. Better than parlotones. Good music. Should not be written Off just cause it’s not creative.

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  30. Kelsey says:

    Chadee, do I know u?

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