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Lions, Wizards and Bars

by Katie de Klee / 19.03.2013

Last Saturday night, after spending an evening (but not a penny) in the Grand West Casino, I ended up in the relatively new Lion’s Head Bar on Bree street. Sitting in the bar is a bit like sitting inside a navy submarine: the walls, the floors, the chairs and tables, and the bar are all a stark shade of grey. (Just the one shade of grey.) The bar serves craft beers, whiskeys and biltong, and the crowd – now the crowd were pretty cool. A lot of lace up shoes and second hand clothes, I think I found where the hip people go to avoid the young.

In the back of the Lion’s Head there is room for gigs. And, having missed the act I’d heard of and had hoped to see, I stumbled upon the beginning of the John Wizards set.

There are quite a few members of the band and I can’t remember all their names. They looked young, standing there together. Neat haircuts – all their ears were visible – and wearing lace-up sneakers. Still at an age where their metabolisms work at the same speed as their sexual appetites rather than their stomachs, their guitar bodies broader than their shoulders and hips.

Their music is spectacularly hard to describe. I’ve never seen someone make a guitar sound so like a steel drum. It’s a fruity cocktail of african-soca-pingu-dance-disco-funk-with an occasional calypso-jazzy-two-step-beat. And there is something of Vampire Weekend to the vocals.

At the end of their set the audience were sweaty and thirsty and the Wizards packed their keyboards into their denim backpacks and headed to the bar.

So we asked lead man John Withers a few questions about the band.

Mahala: What are all your names and ages?

John Withers: I’m John Withers, 25, guitar and vocals; Alex Montgomery, 25, bass and keyboards; Raphael Segerman, 23 or 24, drums; Thomas Parker, 23, keyboards and guitar; Geoffery Brink, 21, keyboards and guitar; Emmanuel Nzaramba, 31, vocals and guitar; Sarah Thomas, 21, guitar.

Why the name?

Why the name John Wizards? My friends and I used to refer to sportsmen as ‘wizards’ when they had reached a certain level of skill. And it’s obviously a play off my name that Sarah came up with.

How long have you been playing together?

A couple of years.

Where did you meet?

All over the place.

Are you all from Cape Town?

All except Emmanuel, who is from Rwanda

How do you describe your music?


Any big influences?

Baliki Baba Bishops

When are we going to see the album?

May, hopefully.

Who’s the songwriter amongst you? Or is it always a collaboration?

I write the music, and Emmanuel collaborates on the songs that he sings on.

What do you order at the bar after the gig?

A rock shandy

What do you like doing on Sunday mornings?


Dumbledore or Gandalf?


*Opening image © David Williams.

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