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Clap Your Hands

Clap Your Hands

by Roger Young / 21.09.2009

It’s no secret that The Arrows have a largely Christian following, and given their brand of bubbly jazz pop it’s also no surprise that most of the following is pretty young. There is something fairly brave (or is it perverse?) then about their relentless quest to bring their music to the heathens, especially seeing as the heathens aren’t listening. The Arrows could probably pack out any church hall, but they choose to perform at secular venues. Whether this means that they believe their music has relevance outside of its strict Christian dogma or they think that by playing music that preaches the “word” in these non church venues they might bring some people over to the love of the church (notice here I use the word Church and not Jesus) is irrelevant because The Arrows have squandered the good will that people who are not of their belief system had toward them with a music video last year that basically defined all belief systems not their own as evil. So at the time of releasing their new album they are in a difficult position if what they want to seek any credibility outside of the church, because in general they are not attracting a non-faith crowd. Further to their strategy is the partnering up with good non-Christian bands, I presume to bring the unbelievers to their gigs. Well, it worked. Yesterday’s Pupil played with The Arrows in Durban and yes there were about five unbelievers there.

Something about the way Max Gateway was set up did not allow for people to stand in front of the stage. The fashion venue’s ramp was in the way; many of the Arab plaid dressed young affluent Umhlanga kids were sitting on it, above the stage almost, so the dynamics were weird to begin with. Then Yesterday’s Pupil got up on stage. Immediately there was something incongruous about this mustachioed man banging out the electro from his laptop and synth to a sitting down crowd of non drinking teenagers in a well lit space. The looks on the faces ranged from confusion to disbelief. The girl in the rouge pink stretch Lycra pants who was with us was dancing, dancing hard, and she was the only one. Something about this seemed wrong to me, like why aren’t these kids into this thumping electronica?
Yesterday’s Pupil was oblivious to all of the subtext. He continued to rock out, playing “Psycho Sexual Hold” non-ironically. I noticed some girl dancing over in the other camp. Pink pants says “yeah they’re getting into it” and starts making out with the girl in the blue dress she bought with her. We think everyone is looking at us, but as our resident mathematician pointed out at the time, the more we were displaying our wanton disregard for their belief system, the more we looked like either future sermon subjects or potential converts. The dancing girl has some guy talking to her; she looks ashamed and stops dancing.

The Arrows

YP is about to start another song, somebody comes up on stage and talks to him, he looks confused, says something like “Okay, I’ve got to hurry up” and then launches into “Lines and Colours”, a song that was banned from MK because of the chorus “I think I like you, like you like cocaine.” He sets it off and I’m expecting trouble. By the second chorus he’s pasting a sample of “Censorship” over the cocaine. Looking around, the faces in the crowd may not even be noticing the subtext either; they are that hard to read. YP walks into the crowd with his guitar and gets his only scream of the night when he plays his “Billie Jean” riff. He can’t help smiling in a “what is up with these kids?” kinda way. Pink pants is almost getting bored with the crowd not really taking her bait, her few attempts at screaming “I love Jesus” at them angrily fall on tolerant ears.

After his last song, which features a very long drum solo, stage managers on the sideline looking at watches and a few tapping feat and clapping along spikes of interest amongst the seated, the kids go wild with applause and screaming. I’m a little taken aback. What I’ve taken as lack of interest or even maybe shock is merely a group of people who are not used to, or don’t know when it’s appropriate to dance. Taking the mic, thanking everyone, announcing The Arrows, he as a force of habit says “They’ll be on in fifteen minutes, why doesn’t everyone go grab a drink”. I’m sure some kids in that crowd wished they could and many hated him for tempting them.

Regardless of what you think of The Arrows’ music (and we will be reviewing the CD next week) you have to admit that they generally choose to play with pretty good bands. However if they’re going to stop merely preaching to the choir, they’re going to have to shrug off this perception that they’re preaching at all. It might help their cause if people danced at their gigs.

Pics – © Yusuf Laher

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  1. djf says:

    Reviews with something of an agenda behind them are always intriguing if nothing else. I expect a flood of fairly indignant comments for this one – should be fun.

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  2. WordWallah says:

    Yeah, I grew up in the we’re-Christian-but-still-cool culture, and they didn’t really seem to be dancers. Keep in mind that at some ultra-conservative Christian universities you get in more trouble for dancing than you do for sex.

    I’ve seen the Arrows a few times, and they seem to have the tendency to play to their own crowd, and even dis the venue occasionally. The music I heard wasn’t bad, but the whole thing was very clicque-y, in the we’re-the-ultimate-cool-kids-because-we’ve-got-Jesus-and-everyone-else-is-stupid kinda way.

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  3. Silent Bob says:

    I really battle with these Christian rock bands/pop groups! Radio Station bosses don’t go down and start broadcasting from the confession booth! It’s the same thing! People(a lot of whom are Non-Christian) listen to the radio, for entertainment. Christian rock bands/pop groups try to hijack the entertainment waves, and use them to preach. They trying to take advantage of the radio’s listenership, in order to make people hear their music.
    If a Radio Station boss goes into a church, hooking up a PA system and putting a deejay in the confession booth, he’s trying to get the church to listen to his radio station.

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  4. djf says:

    Seeing as the Christians have probably given up on this site a while ago, may I play devil’s, er sorry…. God’s advocate?

    Pop music would be kinda boring if artists didn’t have some personal passion or belief to sing about and therefore advocate. For some it’s the environment, political injustice or their libido, for others it’s (yup you guessed it) Jesus. Aren’t we being hypocrites if we condone and encourage the expression of more liberal and alternative lifestyles under the banner of free speech and social diversity and then condemn Christian artists for promoting something that is very near and dear to their hearts? That ole Larry Flynt chestnut comes to mind again – freedom of expression being more about condoning the manifestation of things that you hate than indulging publicly in those that you like.

    My biggest problem with most Christian music has less to do with the subject matter than the creatively conservative and derivative approach that many of their artists take. This may have something to do with a less adventurous and more confined approach to expression that many religious people believe is virtuous. It may also have something to do with their target markets being less receptive to lateral thinking.

    But their are some great Christian artists out there. My favourite is an Estonian composer named Arvo Part, who many have termed a “holy minimalist”. Most of his pieces are based on biblical foundations, but their emotional and spiritual power reaches well beyond the confines or religious dogma.

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  5. Roger Young says:

    There are tons of god botherers that make good music, Believe what you will I don’t mind. One thing I do mind is being asked to tolerate intolerance. The Arrows seem to be getting past that, finally. I like their music, but really if they’re going to make it in the mainstream, they need to break the stigma they’ve created. If that’s what they want to do.

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  6. Andy says:

    Man not one indignant christian – we’re so preaching to the choir here

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  7. flying solo says:

    I enjoyed reading the review, as a person living in Grahamstown who has yet to be at an Arrows gig, but why the undercover agent in pink?

    Also, as a word of advice when grinding an axe, it is betternot to speak from a generalized “we”. I sets up discrepency straight away. Journalists do this all the time. But this review was very un-subtle when stating that the band “lost all good will from those of a different belief system”… really? So this reviewer represents a whole constituency or something?

    Maybe it just inexperience, or maybe its cowardice? I mean, say what you think but don’t summon an army to your side – that’s Bush-like tactics.

    So, I enjoyed the review for what it related of the gig at an anecdotal level but feel like I learnt nothing substantial about this band, their music or their mission. To speak less of criticism. So, weak writing I say and to the reviewer, stand on your own two feet man!

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  8. Roger Young says:

    Ahhh, the band suffers no ill will from me, but from people spoken to at various gigs where The Arrows play with other bands there is a definite and vocal element that used to like them and now does not.

    As to the music, when we review the album we will talk about that. Let me just say this, musically, on a personal level I like The Arrows, I just wish all this other stuff wouldn’t come into it.

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  9. Doctor L. says:


    Mahala seems to be ‘going down’. Possibly a result of ‘irrelevant content’, combined with the repeated pontifications of mid-thirties white aspiring/failed musicians/artists/writers.

    Strange how a writer from Mahala will cover something they don’t like and then a commenter will be angry that they didn’t like it and then the commenter will reveal that they know the writer personally.

    It seems like ‘Mahala’ has metaphorically been ‘in bed’ with a lot of ‘industry people’. I’m not sure if Mahala is ‘fresh’. Mahala seems weighed down by a tangle of past ‘industry bullshit’ and a web of ‘insider shit’.

    Mahala feels old, baggaged.

    ########Not sure who to believe here:

    Maybe Mahala should not solicit the work of established writers like Sean ‘O Toole? Maybe they should hire Montle and his friends and offer them payment this time?

    I don’t know.

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  10. gisele turner says:

    I’ve had a number of conversations with the leader of the arrows re the irony of exclusivity in spiritual matters; jesus knows it doesn’t make any sense. I’ve also questioned the decision to play j-music in secular spots and seems like its an evangelical exercise. pity: because the music is interesting and music and spirituality have a universality that appeals to me but i get really turned off by rampant egos preaching love and meaning something else altogether…..conditional and considered non neighbourly behaviour. jesus would not smile – or dance for that matter……

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  11. flying solo says:

    Above commentator goes one step further than the reviewer, and presumes to know what Jesus would or would not do? Sorry, dear readers, but without slipping into Malema-like ranting against whites, it’s a good thing I didn’t pay for this Mahala or I’d wan’t my money back.

    Mahala…. Wahala. Music criticism is also an art form. This piece, with it’s apriori judgements, sums of the rest of this site as I read it so far – an excuse for people to see themselves in print.

    I would not be surprised that the contributors don’t get paid. What a waster of time in the guise of non-commercialism. And it hijacks culture with these little shack pictures at the bottom in a supercillious manner, typical romantic gloss. Not cool at all.

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  12. flying solo says:

    writing on the web and censored? the power’s on the site never know who you might be anyway. that is their security maybe. having my comment deleted only confirms that there is no truth here…. cheers meneers.

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  13. Moe Joe says:

    I think the whole christian debate about the arrows is just an issue in durban cause ive seen them in pretoria, joburg and oppikoppi and loads of people come to their shows and just ROCK OUT!!! and dont even know that they are a christian band…so the problem is definitely not the arrows but actually just people in durban

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  14. Roger Young says:

    We do not moderate comments, we just have a faulty posting system. Best way to get it on is to copy before posting. If it doesn’t go up third time is the charm. Promise. Sometimes just adding a fullstop after your name helps too. Why this is I cannot tell you, no one gets paid for any work they do on this site, including the people who do the coding.

    I must at this point address two comments. Dr L and flying solo both posit the same idea when the former says “aspiring/failed” and the latter says “an excuse for people to see themselves in print” this idea is that because someone writes from a perspective that is not typical or in an (commercially or otherwise) approved forum then they must be writing because they are aspiring to be a writer, have failed to be a writer or want to be seen as a writer. How any of these positions invalidate anyone’s impulse or urge to write or have an opinion is beyond me.

    But back to The Arrows, I agree with Moe Joe, it does seem to be a Durban issue, my question is essentially how do they, being a Durban based band, get past that and do they want to?

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  15. djf says:

    Flying solo’s ongoing comments are becoming more annoying and pointless. What do they expect from this site that they’re not getting? Why do they keep coming back and complaining if they don’t hold out much hope for Mahala? It may well be that this continues to be one of very few forums in SA for intelligent cultural debate. Others (including myself) have remarked on what we think can be improved and the increasing diversity of opinion, coverage and contributors is encouraging – even if there are obvious weaknesses with many of the pieces.

    So FS, if you think some pieces are below par just click on the KAK button and see if your opinion matches those from the rest of us. Nitpicking is only constructive to a point, and I should know better than most by this stage. It takes one to know one.

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  16. Nathan Zeno says:

    SIDE NOTE: > djf as to your nitpicking, it’s needed in the comment thread still going on over at the LifeCheck story.

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  17. djf says:

    Been there, surveyed the rant and in all honesty I have nothing more to add. Sorry.

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  18. Nathan Zeno says:

    I just wanted to alert the relevant parties. No comment needed.

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  19. Ally says:

    This is retarded, and becoming a fantastically cliched religious argument.

    Evangelists piss everybody the fuck off.
    It’s nonchalant, insensitive, and very fucking disrespectful.

    There are things considered inappropriate to do/say in Church.
    So don’t do them.
    Don’t say it.

    There are things considered inappropriate – and actually quite offensive – to do/say at the the Willowvale.
    So don’t do them.
    Don’t say it.

    Religious superiority is an age-old brand of bullshit.
    Watching an evangelical act is like viewing a super irritating advert for a product you really, really don’t want.

    It’s arrogant, annoying and completly futile – in this case, at least.

    You can’t lead a drunk dude who doesn’t give a shit.


    Therefore, every ‘lamb’ with a mic should shut the fuck up,

    and we should get wasted and not give a shit.

    The Arrows write really good songs.
    But it don’t seem like this board/forum/whatever-the-fuck is about that.
    Which is kinda whack, but okay.

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  20. Nathan Zeno says:

    @Ally is the sum of your argument that The Arrows write really good songs but should shut the fuck up? I’m confused.

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  21. djf says:

    I suspect Ally is trying to cultivate yet another brand of hip nihilism which is just as irritating as religious posturing.

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  22. Ally says:

    I suspect that when djf is not chilling on his throne, with a crown and banner reading ‘ King Of The Internet’, demonstrating perfect diction to a bunch of kids who just don’t really care all that much, he’s suffering flashbacks and nightmares of the million wedgies he received throughout the course of his life(less existence).

    I think you’re an arrogant dork, trying to groom the impression of faux intellegence.
    However, being well-spoken doesn’t brush the hours and hours and hours you spend on the internet, streaming free Milf Porn, under the bed – along with your jizz stained boxers.

    You’re hated by people in the real world. This becomes blatant and obvious every time you hit Submit Comment.

    Jeez. Nihilsm my ass, you polarizing fuckwad.

    Do something nice.
    Say something nice.

    Stop being a spiteful little dweeb.
    It’s growing on people’s nerves.

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