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Bigger than Belville

Bigger than Belville

by Thomas Okes / 26.01.2010

The word Bellville has lately become something of a sickening synonym for sexy, where running around in grandpa shorts, man-perms and brightly coloured horn-rims is somehow taken for a deeply retrosexual kind of cool. It clearly has a lot to do with the age group and its innate blend of precious and precocious, but wherever it comes from, this is the Belville vibe, and the queue between the haves and have-nots is as brittle as it is bitchy. It’s only when you bunch the so-called Bellville brotherhood together in one evening that you’re able to distinguish a less self-conscious response. Four bands together does not mean four groups in tandem, and the divides they inspire say much about the current state of this little nation.

Fokof themselves are beginning to feel the need for a more mindful clarity; in a rare interview on Friday with Jason Curtis for the Cape Times, Francois van Coke was at pains to shy away from any of the attention-seeking affectation around him.
“I’m a bit gatvol of the hype… bands new and not-so-new who are from there are in for a rude awakening if they think Bellville will carry them. Fokofpolisiekar has got where it is through sheer bloody-mindedness and hard work, not because of the town we lived in.”
This sort of sentiment seems to stem from a simmering alarm at the way the scene’s freedoms are becoming its burdens, or the way a space for spontaneous creativity is being permeated with a contrived and claustrophobic pressure to be someone else. Opportunites for self-expression are only new, original or exciting if they’re explored in new, original and exciting ways, and as it is the Belville rock scene is getting a little over baked.

It’s all becoming a bit too cool for school, and it’s increasingly hard to focus on where the meaning is. In that regard, this past weekend was a big help. For all of their weaknesses, the Afrikaner indie-punk crowd has grown accustomed to putting up privatised walls of concrete cynicism. They’ve learned to guard their heartspaces, having found the difference between purely partying and making an emotional investment in their art. They have been spoilt, after all. Fokofpolisiekar has always been an event which mixes real, irreverent relevance in a jol sonder einde, capturing the spirit while shocking sensibilities, forging a new height of expectation and proudly, relentlessly bearing its standard. So when the modish new bands arrive in their faux-banged multitudes and all the hipsters fall about, there’s a subtle but serious change of direction in the air.


It’s there in the space between stage and bodies while New Holland are up, in the continued conversations during Ashtray Electric’s turn, and it’s still there when aKing swing into their most together set in a while. Everyone likes New Holland: they’re a quality festival band, with all the necessarily suggestive lyrics and funky beats; they’re nice, they’re harmless, and as such they’re greeted with the kind of enthusiasm that says, I’m having fun getting drunk. In the same way, no one really dislikes Ashtray Electric: they’re earnest, inventive, sweet when they want to be, and people watching them go a dirty kind of nuts, like they’re looking to get laid. aKing can be amazing, when all the relevant sparks connect and they’re able to ratchet out of self-destruct mode, yet even at their most impressive on Friday night the rapture below them remained restrained, as though the heaving masses were awaiting a higher gear.

The shift they knew would arrive did so twice in one weekend. Driven by the same urge that has them now gathering regularly to record another full-length album, Fokof clicked into a graceful intensity on both Friday and Sunday nights, working themselves into a cohesive froth that had both crowds surging and clawing a path to the front. Of all the Bellvillains, this is the one band that has its market most in awe; when they move into position all eyes go to the front and all fingers to the sky, in the awareness that the business end of the evening has begun. Fokof get their share of hate, it’s true, but not from their crowds and not, therefore, from those who matter most to their cause; if they can keep this up, their fans will know the difference.

My girlfriend is a virtual magnet for show-thrown stuff. She had a cap and badges hurled her way at a Zebra and Giraffe gig and was pretty stoked, she grabbed Laudo’s guitar pick out of the air at an aKing show and was over it a few Jagerbombs later; but last Sunday she caught Snake’s drumstick and she’s been speechless ever since. That’s happiness from within a guarded heartspace. That’s joy you can’t buy.

All pictures by Wink*

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  1. Garth says:

    I work in Bellville. It’s still stuck in 1985. There is nothing sexy about it at all.

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  2. don trump says:

    that’s nothing, durban’s cbd is stuck in 1965.

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  3. missy says:

    if you can read you”ll see that its actually got nothing to do with Bellville – point of the article.

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  4. Brian Green says:

    Kak article about a kak plek with kak bands.

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  5. @ Brian Green says:

    Hi Hater. Bye Hater.

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  6. heino says:

    i really enjoyed reading your article. good job!

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  7. Brian Green says:

    Damn right, I especially hate the overated bands that spew forth from that locale. Yippy!

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  8. Fan of SA Music says:

    You can all say what you like, the most talented Cape town bands/musicians do happen to come from our Northern suburbs – they are versatile, their lyrics are intelligent and meaningful, in English and Afrikaans – they are Vanfokkingtasties !! Its not just the Vanfokkingtasties bands there are quite a few others. Im a middleaged english speaking female – I love all these guys and buy all their music !!

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  9. Fan of SA Music says:


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  10. don trump says:

    FoSAM – it’s a fatal mistake to equate popularity with talent. How many bands from the Southern and Atlantic suburbs have you checked out?

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  11. Fan of SA Music says:

    Don, I dont recall mentioning popularity – Im talking purely talent and yes I am a great fan of many other bands too -Bed on Bricks, Dirty Skirts, Rudimentals, Freshlyground, Taxi Violence, Parlotones, No Ones Arc, New Holland, Prime Circle etc etc. I won’t bore you any more – all very talented – non of these english bands sing in Afrikaans, but they too all have some meaningful lyrics…..the Bellville bunch of bands I mentioned just seem to have something extra…….. hey, its just my opinion…..

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  12. don trump says:

    FoSAM – in the absence of any convincing explanation as to why you consider that Bellville bunch to be creatively superior, there’s a saying which becomes particularly pertinent – “Opinions are like arseholes, everybody has one”.

    I don’t think your average Mahala reader is dumb and gullible enough to believe that there is some mystique-laden aura surrounding these bands that defies the boundaries of logic and language. For many, many years the most challenging and enchanting music on our planet has been capably described and advocated by jounalists and enthusiasts – their efforts and contributions have helped many a music lover to discover new gems and to enance their appreciation of the artform – myself included. There are also contributors to Mahala who have been very helpful to the cause of local music by their efforts.

    So in the absence of any coherent explanation why you hold that particular opinion – please rather keep it to yourself.

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  13. bla bla bla.. says:

    Who fuckn cares where u come from,the music will talk for itself..If u dont like,Dont listen to it..There are millions of bands..Find a few you like..

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  14. don trump says:

    And how do you find the few that you like? Short of the hit & miss of relentlessly attending gigs and inevitably being disappointed by the majority of them – our best hope lies in the recommendations of others and how seductive their explanations may be. Yes, the music will speak for itself after that, but one of the biggest challenges that new and less commercial bands face is connecting with the most suitable audience – the audience that has decided to “find the few you like”. The situation in South Africa will not change and flourish until we start describing and advocating it more eloquently.

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  15. awe says:

    belville, kak jol.

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  16. Fan of SA Music (Our Bellville boys in particular) says:

    TO DON TRUMP : having “Something Extra” is what I said – i certainly did not say anything about them being creatively superior and you sound like an argumentative – arrogant – miserable sod – who always has to know better and have the last word, well you are welcome to the last word….I have no desire to respond to such aggressive rubbish………….get a life !

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  17. tron dump says:

    Dear FoSAM 🙂

    1. Saying that “the most talented” musicians come from a particular place is tantamount to saying that they are creatively superior. You said it and need to take ownership of it.
    2. Since you opened your first statement with the remark “You can all say what you like”, I find it ironic that you accuse me of being argumentative and arrogant. That opening gambit is clearly more confrontational that anything I have bounced back at you.
    3. I have not made any spurious assumptions about your personality, so I’m wondering why you feel the need to hurl such abuse at me.
    4. Your remark about having the last word is cute and strangely manipulative in the context of web-based commentary. I do not wish to have the last word and would be very happy if you and others contributed useful insight on the subject after me. I your case, you are invited to explain WHY you hold the opinion that you have decided to advocate. Perhaps we could learn something from you. Without any insightful background your remarks are merely confrontational and polarising along rather obvious lines. With justification they could perhaps contribute towards better cultural understanding and progress.

    We’re waiting…

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  18. Francois says:

    Being Afrikaans but also enjoying and supporting English South African bands allows me to look at the local and bellville music scene from a different perspective. What makes Fokofpolisiekar stand out from the rest for me is the weight that their lyrics carry. I remember growing up in a small Klein Karoo town just as Fokof hit the scene. Their songs awoke something in me. It forced me to think about the country I live in, the political environment that I found myself in and who I wanted to be as a young, white Afrikaans male. And as my friend just said to me, Fokof started it all and that is what will always differentiate them.

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  19. Brian Green says:

    Nothing gets me hornier than rigorous debate. Keep it coming, lovers.

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  20. Graeme Feltham says:

    This is total rubbish. Read the novella One Hundred Naked Beers to realise that Uitenhage is the centre of the universe. The place from which all else is derived.

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  21. die preekstoel says:

    Kinders, as julle vir pappa ordentlik wil afpis, speel liewers sy Nico Carstens plate deur ‘n voloordrewe kitaarversterker. Dit sal meer indruk maak as daai Fokof-klomp se deuntjies op die hoetroustelsel. Fokof en kie (hulle is mos ‘n geregistreerde sakebedryf) se produk daag net uit met sy woordinhoud, die musiek is skadelose ingevoerde (twaalf?) kroegblues wat jul ouers al baie aan gewoond is.

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  22. Anonymous says:

    what about the brown bands from down South? white kids arguing… white kids with no guns. That’s why I like the suburbs and the interweb. You can say what you like without anyone shooting you. Thanks for being articulate don trump. happy brown baby.

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  23. Happy brown baby says:

    I’m not anonymous, I’m happy brown baby. brown bands…there are alot of majorally talented ones that get denied by Rocking the daisies annually, thus henceforth white kids with interweb haven’t seen them.

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  24. poes says:

    yes u all are.

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  25. bellville-ite says:

    whatever works for you…

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  26. Lekhi Starlitz says:

    Don’t be too hard on the haters, they perform a useful function in the environment, they are your best bet to keep the fashion whores and other pretentious annoyances out from underfoot at the shows.

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  27. Bellville South boy says:

    Come to Bellvile and CY.

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