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East London Live Music Scene

Cesspool Rockers

by Dylan Mugabe / 08.11.2010

There’s nothing special about East London. Hell, most people think it’s a suburb of Port Elizabeth. It’s a small colonial town like a hundred others in South Africa, slowly rotting away under the mismanagement of squabbling leaders.

But there’s some serious hard-rocking talent down there in Slummies. Zondernaam, Ward 11, BEE; these are all some of the top-notch bands that deserve some attention.

But you’ll never hear these bands. You’ll never hear them, because they – and a hundred other small bands – are being drowned out by the cookie-cutter noise of the five bands chosen by SABC 3 to represent “the SA Music Scene” this year.

Young people leave East London in droves, like apathetic cattle wandering off to greener pastures. If you’re one of the few to stay behind, you’ll probably end up in a dead-end job, flirting with alcoholism and generally loathing your very existence.

And as we all know: if there’s one thing that breeds good music, it’s self-loathing.

East London Live Music Scene

East London’s my home. I’ve lived here my whole damn life. I’ve travelled across South Africa, attending some music festivals, playing in others, and I’ve come to realise: East London is home to some of the best bands in this country.

It’s a nest of talented, restless artists trying to escape. Ignored, shunned and misunderstood, we have no recording studios and clubs don’t have sound engineers. There are no music schools or teachers. Everything we know, we learnt by ear, by heart and through pain.

You’d think our local radio stations would give us some love, but no. They gleefully embrace the hard, white crap dropped from on high by the Almighty SABC. Except for the obligatory Christian station, but don’t get me started on them.

It’s a frustrating existence. Play in crappy bars until you can afford to record a crappy demo. Send it to some radio stations. They might play a song or two. Lather, rinse, repeat. Album after shitty album, we are ignored, overlooked by all the big labels and ripped off by the small ones.

But this is where real South African rock ‘n roll happens, folks. These guys don’t give a fuck about impressing a label. This is where musicians have fists fights with the sound guy and kick holes in the monitors.

East London Live Music Scene

Mic stand, minutes before being thrown at the sound guy

This is where whisky guzzling brutes with steely guitars and arrogant smiles put their middle fingers up at the big cities and scream “You don’t know what you’re fucking missing!” Where instead of “Cheers,” they say “Motherfuck Jo’burg.” This, ladies, is the home of proper rock and roll.
This is the shit your parents were talking about.

And it’s happening in… East London.

This town is a cesspool of forgotten dreams and broken promises. No, wait, it’s like a demon’s penis that Satan is gently stroking. And this infernal hamrocket is just about ready to blow its load right in South Africa’s eye.

Like a rock and roll facial. Yeah!

*Dylan Mugabe is the lead singer of East London rockers The Transkei Cowboys.

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