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Raka ‘n Rollas

by Eloise and Jezebel / 19.02.2010

It’s the end of the Raka 2010 weekend. Eloise and I are sitting on the floor in the lounge, comparing the cleanliness (or lack thereof) of our souls and our soles. It’s late, we’re tired, and after all that music in a magical setting, we’re inspired.

We like our laager in a cup

We like our laager in a cup

Eloise: I didn’t wear shoes once this weekend.
Jezebel: I didn’t wear underwear once. And I swam more in two days than I did all summer! Do you know what it’s like to listen to Black Cat Bones live while you swim downstream?
E: No.
J: Oh ja. You didn’t swim. WHY? Are you allergic to water?
E: No, I nearly slaughtered myself trying to shave my bikini line with your blunt razor. (I hope my bikini line doesn’t come up if prospective employers Google me.)
J: Oh em gee. I packed in a rush, sorry. But that reminds me of something else that was icky – I was getting out of the water this one time and I heard this boy say “ek dink ek’t in die water gepoef” – and I’m like, “he THINKS?”
E: Die jeug van vandag. Geen respek.
J: No but. I was out already. It’s a brilliant festival for families. Free range kids around sane adults. All that lawn. It worked beautifully. The vibe was right.
E: Unlike at Up The Creek where kids were sitting in their pyjamas looking around for their parents.
J: Who were probably tripping down the hill. Or up it. What did you think of The Bones, anyway?
E: I thought they had an unfortunate slot – first band Sunday morning. I would’ve preferred to wake up to something a bit more soothing. Like Manouche on Saturday morning. Besides, I’m biased. The lead singer pinched me.
J: So you prefer violent tangos and French bistro bars over naughty, dirty hill billy goats? Tsk tsk. I’ll take the raspy Bones any day – rough, but real. Manouche’s accordion player should sing more. She’s got a lilt I like.
E: And Mandi Lizamore! I thought I was a redhead devotee after seeing Hayley Williams sing for the first time, but Mandi’s converted me to pink.

Gregory Thompson and Mandi Lizamore, the belle of them all

Gregory Thompson and Mandi Lizamore, the belle of them all

J: And those eyes. And that voice. And my heart. Oh my god. The timbre of forty-something Southern blues belle and the innocence of a four year old. Fresh Meat.
E: There’s going to be a blood bath of artists fighting over her. Her collaboration with Johannine broke my heart.
J: That set was world class. I’ve heard Jonathan Velthuysen playing before – mandolin blues under a loquat tree. And singing in The Lua Union, demure-like, no bravado – backing vocals and bass. But the way he marries the vocal melodies and the guitar and the SILENCES in his own compositions. Superb. Unrushed. Meditative. My, my.

E: Mm – melancholic. Almost. I think he’s an amazing song writer. They should collaborate more.

Neil Basson

Neil Basson

L-R : Basson Laubser(and the Violent Freepeace), Beitel Van Der Merwe (Zinkplaat) and Jaco “Mr”. Mans (Tidal Waves)

L-R : Basson Laubser(and the Violent Freepeace), Beitel Van Der Merwe (Zinkplaat) and Jaco “Mr”. Mans (Tidal Waves)

J: Ja. It’s the bands rearranging or reinterpreting their material especially for the fest and the collaborations that stay with me the most. Remember BasSondag – there were players from more than four different bands participating in the closing jams. Ok, covers, but still. An excess of talent in one take. I mean, for a Gun to fall out of bed onto the drum stool and syncopate something none of them had even practised…I was stunned.

Gerald Clark, Beitel Van Der Merwe and Basson get it on uBuntu style

Gerald Clark, Beitel Van Der Merwe and Basson get it on uBuntu style

E: Ja, it really shows which musicians are versatile – both in their genres and instruments.
J: Why was everyone so surprised when Jakes jammed that keyboard? You’d think people would guess that the legend of Tidal Waves can fiddle a few blue notes. Beer kept changing his weapons of mass seduction, and Basson bobbed around between a bass and a solo guitar.
E: Don’t you mean lead guitar?


BasSolo, The Guitar God (aka Basson Laubser when he’s in the water)

basSolo, The Guitar God (aka Basson Laubser when he’s in the water)

J: BasSolo, baby. That’s his style. Even on bass. He treats his instruments like men should treat a woman’s body. I mean, apart from putting it above his head and biting it. Although… ag, anyway, it was Albert Frost and Gerald Clarke who had me speechless. Such a brilliantly complimentary combination. Show stealers so special they know they can arrive late and we’ll still swoon.
E: And the backup band, “Basson and Basson” really stole Ryno Velvet’s stage. When was that? Friday night.
J: Ja. FotoPlaat – Neil Basson from Foto Na Dans plus Basson Laubser from Zinkplaat. They made that set for me. Not so sure about that vocalist, though. All guts and but no story.
E: Was good to see Neil getting his country on. Strumming acoustic, doubling up the drumming, even slapping a tambourine around during Zinkplaat’s set.You know, statistically there’s a high probability that any one of Zinkplaat’s members will be on stage at any given moment at Raka– and that’s what we love about them.
J: Ja-no. They’re the foundation of the festival. Raka’s really special for music lovers and musicians; a line-up that knows what it loves, and who loves it. It’s got a good sound rig (in fact, the best at a fest so far) right next to the river …the quality, the content; it’s like family.
E: It’s almost incestuous.
J: Incestuous, infectious – it’s a small industry. With loads of new talent lately. Like Youth. They sounded like an amalgamation of New Holland and aKING, strangely enough. Or maybe not so strangely – they’re young; hearts on their sleeves, TeeJay’s melodic hooks in their fingers, and Laudo’s soaring crescendos on their tongues. If not his earth-deep bass notes…
E: The vocalist did a good job of carrying a strong and original set with a young band.
J: Original? I think it’s still heavily influenced by its predecessors.
E: Ok, I think they can go far with a bit of maturing on the song writing front. Although The Pretty Blue Guns show that youth does not necessarily have to equal musical immaturity.

Handsfree: Gregory Thompson and Lucas Swart (The Pretty Blue Guns)

Handsfree: Gregory Thompson and Lucas Swart (The Pretty Blue Guns)


J: Yeah. Now only adulthood is an excuse for immaturity. And …The Guns! Finally showed us they can.
E: can what?
J: Can probably anything they want. Their rearrangements underlined what I like most about an acoustic festival – the improvisation, the innovation, the invitation to experience a familiar sound differently. I was so surprised. Stunned. It’s about time they flared those feathers. The songs have hinted at it for ages, but the makeover they gave them really let more of their musicality through.
E: The last song that André did on his own was exceptional.

The exceptional André Leo (The Pretty Blue Guns)

The exceptional André Leo (The Pretty Blue Guns)

Rattle your bones, rattle your cage (André Leo, The Pretty Blue Guns)

Rattle your bones, rattle your cage (André Leo, The Pretty Blue Guns)

J: Its poignancy puts a lot of other local song lyrics to shame, really. Tom Waits and Johnny Cash would be proud. Did you know it’s about a local girl who was raped and murdered by someone she knew?
E: Wow. No. Well, then, that just shows how mature they are, to handle subject matter like that so sensitively.
J: Speaking of sensitive, what about that guy who spent most of Friday night singing at the campsite?
E: who, Hugo Brand?
J: mm. éF-éL ‘s former drummer. He could claim a place on any number of commercial playlists and in any number of teen hearts with his voice. Not my taste, but talented.
E: And Louwtjie “Loopstation” Rothman. I missed ‘SA’s Got Talent’, so I’d never heard of him before Raka. I was blown away by his set.

Louwtjie “Loopstation” Rothman:  aNEW king on the block

Louwtjie “Loopstation” Rothman: aNEW king on the block



Louwtjie “Loopstation” Rothman : aNEW king on the block

J: It’s a nice party trick, composing layers to a live crowd, but it’s not new. What moved you so much about it? I mean, I can see why one’d get excited about Mr. Cat & The Jackal – they’re wild and these days they’re tighter than a tannie’s lips when you say ‘shit’. THAT blew me away. But lovely lips blew you?

Crackling Gertjie Besselsen (Mr. Cat & The Jackal)

Crackling Gertjie Besselsen (Mr. Cat & The Jackal)

What a spectacle - Pierre-Arnold Theron (Mr. Cat & The Jackal)

What a spectacle - Pierre-Arnold Theron (Mr. Cat & The Jackal)

Dr. Jekyll… Jacques du Plessis (Mr Cat & The Jackal)

Dr. Jekyll… Jacques du Plessis (Mr Cat & The Jackal)

And Mr Hyde - Jacques du Plessis (Mr Cat & The Jackal)

And Mr Hyde - Jacques du Plessis (Mr Cat & The Jackal)

E: Listen, I cried in the trailer of August Rush; obviously finger tapping is an emotional trigger for me. Many guitarists pointed out that all the electronic effects sound a lot more impressive than they really are, but I don’t see his technically brilliant set as being obscured with smoke and mirrors. YOU try performing live and having your mistakes looped over and over and over and over.

Jacob 'Zakes' Wulana is a LEGEND (Tidal Waves)

Jacob 'Zakes' Wulana is a LEGEND (Tidal Waves)

J: I don’t sound very original but the one thing I never ever, ever, ever get tired of is Tidal Waves. There’s always so much energy and poise in their sets. And their song writing is decidedly deceptive – simple, but so strong. They were worth waiting up for.

Abrie Mmakola on keys (Tidal Waves)

Abrie Mmakola on keys (Tidal Waves)

E: It was quite a nice pairing, Hot Water following Tidal Waves. A nice way to end the night. Or at least my night.

Donovan Copley (Hot Water)

Donovan Copley (Hot Water)

J: Mm. I love the dreaminess of festivals. Though depending on who (or how) you are, it’s possibly less a hangover or sleeplessness that’s responsible, and more a result of snorting sand (like Oupa) or eating chicken that’s been out in the sun all day (with a bito buns). And it can lead to broad-minded balladeers suddenly singing ‘jy maak my styf’ and ‘something something jou lyf’. Can you fit Raka in a Twitter post?
E: “@Raka you’re more likely to bump into an old friend than to score a random. It’s clean. It’s the type of fest you can take a sceptic to.” 
And you?
J: “Raka is so much more than a local, acoustic festival for music lovers. It’s a state of mind that keeps you singing long after the last song.” 
Your best moment?
E: When I shut you up so I could listen to Louwtjie Rothman.
J: Mine was when you ran like a girl to listen to Gary Thomas. After driving like a woman to get there on time for his slot while I put up the invisible tent. Was it worth it?
E: You should ask the trigger happy boys who were in the car with us – they certainly thought so.

Eloise and Jezebel do agree on one thing: this weekend is exactly what the hosts De Plate Kompanje (DPK) stands for – good vibes, good friends, good music. Its charm reaches beyond the audience and into its relations with the men and women who make it all possible – the musicians. In the spirit of uBuntu , DPK members are willing to be the organisers and the performers, to share the stage with colleagues and competitors alike. In so doing, DPK createsa unique space in the festival landscape for true quality and a place in the South African music scene for true love.

All photos © Eloise the classically trained Plus One.

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