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Sesling: Southern Thing

Sesling: Southern Thing

by Brett Allen White / 12.12.2009

Brett Allen White guest writes for us. (What? you don’t know who Brett Allen White is?) He is the bassist and backing vocalist of punk rock revival band A B Turbo and is also in the habit of spiking straight edger’s drinks.

Google Earth is wonderful. It has fast become one of my favourite on-line procrastination tools, along with Burning Angel, Facebook and Windows Live Messenger. Lately I’ve been spending lots of time checking out the American South, also known as the South, or Dixie. It is an area that I find fascinating… the strange food, the mixture of cultures, the music, they’ve all been stewed together in a big pot of super-bad ass, and produced some of the best bands in rock and roll music to date… think heavier acts like Pantera, Norma Jean, He is Legend and the genre of music known as the blues.

A “Southern sound” refers to the groove based, bluesy riffs and dirty, drawled out vocals. Imagine Matthew McConaughey in a plaid shirt, tight denim cut offs and a straw hat, rolling around on stage screaming his heart out while a bunch of bearded weirdos jam it out, throwing their bodies and instruments this way and that. That’s Southern hardcore.

I like to think that South Africa is more southern than the South though. Quote me on that, forum kids, I’d love it.

Sesling are a rock and roll band from Pretoria with a whole lot of southern in their sound.

Guitarist and vocalist Werner Olckers, who performs as a hibernating bear in Wrestlerish, and a frenzied grizzly in Sesling, told me they chose the name because there are six members. I think that’s absolute nonsense, and there is a powerful, mysterious secret behind it, and he’s just messing with me.

Drummer Willem Sohnge, who was in the band Chaos Theory, has the mightiest Elvis sideburns I have ever seen in my life. I can’t even remember how he played, because I was mesmerized by the meaty beasts that live on his cheeks. Nah, I’m kidding, he’s a great drummer. But those sideburns… hot damn…

The band is fronted by vocalist and talented graphic artist Andre Pereira. I had the privilege of spending New Years in Amanzimtoti, KZN, with both Werner and Andre. Despite the rain, things were going well until some jarhead mistook Andre for Francois van Coke and wanted to cause trouble with us because Fokofpolisiekar is “evil” or some absolute nonsense, but Andre just laughed and walked off in search of more whiskey. That’s his style. His beard is known to attract bees.


Guitarist Tjaart Swanepoel has an Every Time I Die shirt, and I’d like very much for him to give it to me. Tjaart is a quiet dude, and comes across as quite serious until you’ve taken him to your local dive and fed him a couple of Jagermeister’s, then he’s like an amazing dancing bear. He’s also the only man I know who could beat Werner in an argument.

On bass guitar is the talented Dawie Bornman. Skills aside, of which he was plenty, this guy has one of the best on stage attitudes and performance styles I’ve seen in a South African band. Leg in the air, flailing his bass for all it’s worth, hanging from rafters… he’s someone to keep an eye out for when Sesling are performing live.

Sesling arrived sometime during the week, but because I was doing an internship, I wasn’t able to fetch them. Instead we met up on Thurs at Zula Bar on Long Street where we had delicious Black Label draughts, and Tjaart taught me weird Afrikaans words for cigarettes and lighters. We then proceeded to our local, had too much to drink, danced to, “He is Legend”, watched Andre argue with a boerwors salesman, and went home.

I can’t remember work the next morning too well, because I felt like I’d been dragged through someones beard, but afterwards I went home and had an epic power nap. I met up with the dudes later on in town where we chilled out at Kill City Blues, then went on to the Shack for some beers to, A) cure our hangovers and B) cure our hangovers, before their gig at Mercury with Yes Sir! Mister Machine and Enmity.

The gig went down well, with Sesling opening for some reason, although the sound wasn’t up to scratch. This isn’t the sound engineers fault, I know for a fact Ian is a great sound man, as he’s done my own bands before, and is well known for his talents, I think it was more of an equipment issue, but regardless, Sesling blew up on stage, and got most of us doing the “Cape Town mosh” (arms crossed, head bobbing, foot tapping…) within the first two songs. Then I ran around like a bronco and we got a little square dance going, which was rad.

Saturday was hot. Very hot. I ended up at a friends birthday celebration at Monkey Valley in Noordhoek, where I got too much sun and drank Sprite, because it’s a long drive and I’m good. From Noordhoek my heterosexual life partner Dylan and I drove through to Table View to meet up with Sesling again and to watch their show at Stones with New Altum, Day Turns Night and… um… I think Betray the Emissary were meant to do the show, but their bassist was quite sick so they had to bail. I was quite bummed, because Betray the Emissary are one of, if not the, best metal bands in the country. The gig was great, Sesling had an amazing presence, and got an awesome crowd response, but once again the sound wasn’t that great. And once again, I think it is an equipment problem, as I’ve worked with their sound engineer too, and he’s done a good job before.

Afterwards Andre had over-heated, so we took him outside to lay down on the cold tiles, and a charming young man with a quart bottle walked past shouting about “poes this” and “poes that” while some attractive young ladies laughed and smiled at how amazing he was. That sums up Table View for me. We went to some weird bar that played trance, it wasn’t rad. We went home.

All in all, Sesling are a great band, and will be head-lining heavier festivals like Ramfest in no time. This article would be better if I could remember the mini-tour with a more sober mind.

All pics © and courtesy welovepictures.

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  1. Andre says:

    thx guys for the review. we love you brett!

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  2. Carol Reed says:

    I like the way the “writer” guy blames the band for kak sound because he doesn’t want the sound engineers to fuck up his sound when he plays those venues.

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  3. Brett Allen-White says:

    Carol, you’re reading it wrong, it’s an equipment problem from the VENUES, not the band. Maybe I should have written that in though. Mercury seems to have gone down in terms of their upstairs rig, and I don’t think that Stones is built for heavier bands… I’ve seen more mellow bands there and it works, but when things get loud and chunky… the sound gets lost?

    As for my own band, we’re from Cape Town, born and raised. We’ve been playing in bands since we were fourteen, and we’ve grown used to terrible sound, it’s the Cape Town curse.

    That said, Ian and Flam are both good engineers and I’ve had the pleasure of working with them before. If you think I’m sucking up to them, you’ve got an attitude problem that needs adjustment, and I think it’s sad that you’d judge me before you’ve even met me.

    Well, I hope that clears things up.

    And I’m a writer, not a “writer.”

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  4. on the verge of emigration says:

    For Fucks sake South Africa, please get over your infantile obsession with the American South and develop a sound of your own!

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  5. Roger Young says:

    How’s this guy? The American south is basically a mix between The rish settler’s music and African slave songs. Develop a sound of our own? The whole country? One Unifying Sound? With no precedent or influence. Sorry china, but welcome to the global village/melting pot. Get used to it.

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  6. on the verge of emigration says:

    Oh, so because there are some obvious social and racial similarities between the American South and South Africa and because “globalisation” is like this, um, happening thing right now we’re supposed to take this literal and dismally unimaginative lifting of foreign culture as a given? Look, I’ll accept that the original delta blues from 60-odd years back has been used as a key stimulant for the vast majority of what could be called “rock” music today, but when your musicians spend their time hovering over that landscape via Google Earth as if they’re about to be endowed with some mystical cyber-inspiration, then it’s time to get seriously fucking concerned. If Mr White really thinks that the music from that area is still so pivotal today, then he really needs to get his ass over there, attend some gigs and very quickly realize that the interesting and (dare I say) relevant bands from the American south have moved on – taking inspiration from the rest of the planet via the global village as well. White South Africa’s infatuation with this music is more in line with an enduring obsession with “classic” rock – borne out of decades of cultural isolation and inbreeding rather than a distillation of what remains crucial today. Wake the fuck up South Africa and join the rest of the planet, by focusing more on what is right in front of your noses.

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  7. Roger Young says:

    No. I was not saying that it had anything to do with the similarities. Not at all, I’m saying that all music is influenced by other music and other cultural factors. You cannot choose to like something or choose to be influenced by something. And trying to and basing those attempts on the notion that we need to “create” a “south african sound” is just counter productive. Some people like some stuff and they let it influence them, then they bring in their own stuff on top of that, it’s how any new art or music is made. To studiously ignore anything from outside South Africa is not joining the rest of the planet.

    Here’s a thought. Listen to the band first before you assume that they merely copy the deep south sound.

    Also, learn to distinguish between the writer and the subject.

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  8. Francis Frankie Franken says:

    I love you Brett… Your name shall be worn with pride on my skin. Oh… and your article rocks too 🙂

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  9. Kevin says:

    so…..how did a sweet litte article make its way to a no-name taking his paternal frustrations out on anything and everything white south africa?

    jesus christ seriously? You don’t see this much frustration at a nun camp.

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  10. Baden says:

    I like how stranger # 1 is on the very of emigration over a misconstrued interpretation of someone else’s opinion but is still trying to tell people off on what should and shouldn’t be done. I hope you have luck ‘developing a sound of your own’ once you’ve emigrated elsewhere.
    Are bands in South Africa who find similarities with more refined aspects of underground movements, take these influences and fuse them with immediately identifiable local cultural characteristics, and create a new and fresh response… seriously getting heat? In THIS country? Where musical originality is about as rare as hearing a decent song on mainstream radio…
    How was the view from the soap-box, buddy? Hope you felt like you resolved something- selling your damned if you do, damned if you don’t attitude.

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  11. Roger Young says:

    I like that he called Brett, Mr White.

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  12. Don says:

    Id like to see MORE internet-cocks waved around plz.

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  13. on the verge of emigration says:

    Right, would you lot like to shower your opinions on the relevance of specific bands in your neighbourhoods rather than take me to task for stimulating a li’l discourse over here? As Wodger says, might be useful to hear them bands – I’d be far happier reading comments where people refute my observations based on a first hand appreciation of what they are producing. But can anyone flatly deny that there is an enduring obsession with American blues-based music in South Africa as a signifier of what is considered legitimate and authentic? Can anyone refute that much of this is based on decades of cultural isolation and a lesser ability to keep up with international trends since this music enjoyed its heyday in the ’60s?

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  14. Roger Young says:

    That statement becomes irrefutable if you add this to it.

    But can anyone flatly deny that there is an enduring obsession with American blues-based music in THE WHITE ENGLISH ROCK OF South Africa as a signifier of what is considered legitimate and authentic?

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  15. Moose says:

    You are very opinionated about what south african’s should do given your closeness to immigration…
    Is that a winning or whining strategy?

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  16. old fart says:

    I remember student radio back in the mid-’80s. Very few DJs played music from the punk era onwards. Those who did were considered freaks and the one or two who aired the likes of Wire or Sonic Youth were held in the lowest esteem – that’s in the rarified world of student radio, so imagine the climate in a broader South Africa.

    Punk as a social penomenon largely bypassed South Africa. We were too busy wrestling other more obvious demons to spare energy for an aesthetic shift in pop culture that demanded such a fundamental change in mindset. Our collective awareness only started to catch up in the early ’90s when Nirvana made it big and grunge offered a punk hybrid that had been spliced with more vintage-flavoured blues-rock. So it could argued that “classic” rock has never really departed from our aesthetic check-list – as a society we don’t really know what it’s like to live without it?

    I expect that some may disgaree and would be interested to hear why. A couple of other things – Roger, I would tend to agree more with your corrective statement if you removed the ‘EGLISH’ bit. I would suggest that the original blues-rock still carries a much stronger influence amongst the Afrikaans rock bands than the English ones in South Africa. Moose, if someone is on the verge of IMmigration they are about to move to South Africa – in that case the opinion is more justified?

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