“Blues is a natural fact, it is something that a fellow lives.”Big Bill Broonzy.
South Africa’s Premier Blues Music Festival returns to Hillcrest Quarry in Durbanville, Cape Town on the 6th and 7th of December 2014. Hosting 20 of the country’s top Blues Rock Artists over 2 days, the 2014 concert is proudly presented and brought to you by local main sponsor COMBUSTION TECHNOLOGY and also with great sponsor support by PAUL BOTHNER MUSIC and FENDER SA.
So friends and fans, all you need is a ticket and them’ blue suede shoes (whether real or imaginary) to come and enjoy the finest music making by the following phenomenal local artists:
Dan Patlansky, Albert Frost Trio, Boulevard Blues, The Blues Broers, Gerald Clark and the Deadmen, Pebbleman, Ann Jangle, Dave Ferguson, Mean Black Mamba, Natasha Meister, Crimson House, Basson Loubscher & Violent Free Piece, The Wayne Pauli Trio, Patrick Canovi’s ‘Kiss the Sky’, Piet Botha and Akkedis, The Parlor Vinyls, Charlie King Band, Nhoza Sitsholwana, Riaan & Nick, Fake Leather Blues Band and Sven Blumer.
This year the Blues Summit rocks on a Saturday and a Sunday. Organizer Richard Pryor says: “Ain’t the Blues just too good on a Sunday? We moved the Friday night to a Sunday so that it is easier to bring your whole family for an awesome day out.” What you can look forward to on the Blues Menu for the Summit:
20 top Bands over 2 days.
Top class quality 30000 watt outdoor sound rig! The best rig ever !!!
Huge Lighting and a huge LED screen.
Hillcrest Quarry is one of the finest outdoor venues in SA
Vibrant food and refreshment stalls and plenty of outside bars
Plenty of free and secure off street parking
Fender Guitar Giveaway and the Combustion Technology Cash Prizes R1500
Free entrance for children under 10 (must present some form of ID)
Limited camping tickets for sale on Computicket (Camping costs R150 -separate to festival ticket)
Phone and book at Computicket on 0861 9158000 or visit
Here they are, in chronological order, chosen by a 20-strong panel of LS writers using three criteria: 1) musical brilliance; 2) popular success; 3) impact on the national mind. Some tracks aced one category and flunked the other two, but plenty ticked all three boxes. Which immortal hits have we missed? Tune us the odds at email@example.com
1. Phalafala Dolly Rathebe and the Elite Swingsters (1964)
2. Pata Pata Miriam Makeba (written in 1957 with Dorothy Masuka, but a global hit in 1967)
3. Master Jack Four Jacks And A Jill (1968)
4. Yakhal’ Inkomo Winston “Mankunku” Ngozi (1968)
5. For your Precious Love The Flames (1968)
6. The Seagull’s Name Was Nelson Des and Dawn Lindberg (1971)
7. Nomathemba Letta Mbulu (1973)
8. Mama Tembu’s Wedding Margaret Singana (1973)
9. Stimela Hugh Masekela (1974)
10. Mannenberg Abdullah Ibrahim (1974)
11. Charlie Rabbitt (1975)
12. Blues For a Hip King Abdullah Ibrahim (1975)
13. Marabi Malombo (1976)
14. Chocolate Toffee Saitana (1976)
15. Substitute Clout (1978)
16. Universal Men Juluka (1979)
17. ZX Dan The Radio Rats (1979)
18. Jo Bangles Baxtop (1979)
19. Paradise Road Joy (1980)
20. Party Harari (1981)
21. Man on the Moon Ballyhoo (1981)
22. Impi Juluka (1981)
23. The Bushman Steve Kekana (1982)
24. Isiphiwo Soul Brothers (1982)
25. Hey Boy Via Afrika (1983)
26. Shadows éVoid (1983)
27. Weekend Special Brenda Fassie (1983)
28. Shot Down The Cherry Faced Lurchers (1983)
29. See Yourself (Clowns) Ella Mental (1984)
30. Burnout Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse (1984)
31. Is it an Ism or is it Art? Niki Daly (1984)
32. Jabulani Hotline featuring PJ Powers (1984)
33. I’m in Love with a DJ Yvonne Chaka Chaka (1985)
34. Stimela sazeZola – Mbongeni Ngema (1985)
35. Reggae Vibes is Cool Bernoldus Niemand (1985)
36. This Boy Sweatband (1986)
37. National Madness The Aeroplanes (1986)
38. Change is Pain Mzwakhe Mbuli (1986)
39. Homeless Ladysmith Black Mambazo (1986)
40. Johnny Calls the Chemist Falling Mirror (1986)
41. Now or Never Sankomota (1987)
42. Ten Ten Special African Jazz Pioneers (1987)
43. Scatterlings of Africa Johnny Clegg and Savuka (1987)
44. Weeping Bright Blue (1987)
45. Hillbrow Johannes Kerkorrel (1988)
46. Quick Quick Marcalex (1989)
47. Slave Lucky Dube (1990)
48. Shake Tananas (1990)
49. Special Star Mango Groove (1990)
50. Tomorrow Nation O’Yaba (1991)
51. I’m in Love with a Rastaman Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens (1991)
52. Sarafina! Hugh Masekela (1992)
53. It’s About Time Boom Shaka (1993)
54. The Crossing Johnny Clegg (1993)
55. Mmalo-We Bayete (1994)
56. Never Again Prophets of Da City (1994)
57. When You Come Back Vusi Mahlasela (1994)
58. Waar Was Jy? Skeem (1994)
59. Sea Level Urban Creep (1995)
60. The Child Inside Qkumba Zoo (1995)
61. Kaffir Arthur Mafokate (1995)
62. African Dream Vicky Sampson (1996)
63. Kiss the Machine Battery 9 (1996)
64. Magasman Trompies (1997)
65. Stand in your Way Just Jinger (1997)
66. Fords Nissans Toys en Beetles Brasse vannie Kaap (1997)
67. Shibobo TKZee (1998)
68. Vul’indlela Brenda Fassie (1998)
69. Yehlisan’ Umoya Busi Mhlongo (1998)
70. Sondela Ringo Madlingozi (1999)
71. Thathi Sgubu Bongo Maffin (1999)
72. Blue Eyes Springbok Nude Girls (1999)
73. Genes & Spirits Moses Molelekwa (2000)
74. Born in a Taxi Blk Sonshine (2000)
75. Nkalakatha Mandoza (2000)
76. Afrikaners is Plesierig Karen Zoid (2001)
77. Meisie Meisie Kurt Darren (2001)
78. Ghetto Fabulous Zola & Kaybee (2002)
79. Ndihamba Nawe Mafikizolo (2002)
80. Ayelekile Amasango Ismael (2002)
81. Picture Perfect Perez (2002)
82. Midnight 340ml (2003)
83. Umoya Skwatta Kamp (2003)
84. Nomvula (After the Rain) Freshlyground 2003
85. Destiny Malaika (2004)
86. Nizalwa Ngobani Thandiswa Mazwai (2004)
87. Matofotofo Pitch Black Afro (2004)
88. Akekh’ uGogo Mzekezeke (2005)
89. Whistling in Tongues Felix Laband (2005)
90. De La Rey Bok van Blerk (2006)
91. Sister Bethina Mgarimbe (2006)
92. Feel Good Lira (2007)
93. Bantu Biko Street Simphiwe Dana (2007)
94. Show Dem (Make the Circle Bigger) JR feat Hip-Hop Pantsula (2009)
One of the most noteworthy final albums ever recorded might never have been made had Steve Rowland not been sitting in the London office of music publisher Freddy Beanstalk one day in the summer of 1970.
Rowland looked on Beanstalk’s desk and saw a copy of an album hardly anyone had ever heard of, by a singer-songwriter from Detroit who was just as obscure. Rowland borrowed Cold Fact and listened to it.
“I said to Freddy, is this guy Rodriguez gonna do another album? Because if he is, I’d like to get in line and be the producer. I really, really am into this,” Rowland recalls telling Beanstalk.
“Freddy said, ‘Be my guest, man, because nobody’s really interested.’ I said, well, I don’t understand that, because this guy is great.”
That fall, Rodriguez was on a plane to London. Within three weeks of meeting him for the first time, Rowland had put together Coming from Reality, Rodriguez’s second and final record. The closing track, “Cause,” was the last song Rodriguez would ever record for an album.
Rowland, who has produced more than 20 albums and dozens of singles that span the musical spectrum, says “Cause” is the saddest song he’s ever heard – sad enough to have made his girlfriend at the time, actress Sally Farmiloe, cry when she heard Rodriguez record it in the studio.
Forty years later, “Cause” nearly brought Rowland himself to tears while being interviewed for the documentary Searching for Sugar Man. The profile of Rodriguez elevated to international fame the near-destitute construction worker whose two albums were total failures in the US, only to learn nearly 30 years later that he was a superstar in South Africa whose anti-establishment lyrics helped bring down Apartheid.
The “Cause” scene is one of the Oscar-winning film’s most lasting moments: Rowland, sitting in his home in Palm Springs, California, plays the song for filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul. Rodriguez’s opening line – Cause I lost my job two weeks before Christmas – visibly stuns Rowland as though hearing the song for the first time. He manages only to shake his head and say, “Oh, man…”.
After collecting himself, he explains that Rodriguez was dropped from his record label shortly after Coming from Reality was released in 1971 – “as if premonition,” Rowland says, two weeks before Christmas.
A song that is held between happenstance and genius, “Cause” has become the five-and-a-half-minute, 239-word anthem for the improbable, almost impossible story of Sixto Diaz Rodriguez.
Setting Sail into a Teardrop
The 10 tracks on Coming from Reality were recorded in the fall of 1970 at London’s Lansdowne Studios, which has also hosted the likes of John Lennon, Maynard Ferguson, Rod Stewart, Sex Pistols and Rowland’s own band, Family Dogg. The studios had been installed inside a former underground squash court with thick walls 20 feet high.
“When the studio was built they didn’t tear those walls down, so the sound in that studio was completely original. You would get a sound that nobody else had. Lansdowne was known for that,” says Rowland. “It provided the overall ambience of the whole album, and you can hear it especially on ‘Cause’. There’s a majestic quality to it, and it comes from that studio.
“I suppose today, with all the digital stuff, you could probably re-create the sound. But nothing is as good as natural.”
Lansdowne, since closed, wasn’t far from Abbey Road Studios, where The Beatles recorded their final album track a year earlier. “The End” evokes emotion with hope: And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. “Cause” does it with despair:
Cause they told me everybody’s got to pay their dues
And I explained that I had overpaid them…
So I set sail in a teardrop and escaped beneath the doorsill
Cause the smell of her perfume echoes in my head still
It was lyrics like this that moved Rowland to produce “Cause” and the rest of Coming from Reality in a way that completely went against the grain during that era.
With the advent of concept albums and new technologies – not to mention lavish studio budgets – many bands would spend months or even years working on a record. Instrumental tracks were obsessively laid over each other to the point that the instruments drowned out the vocals. An experienced actor who placed a high value on the spoken word, Rowland made sure Rodriguez’s lyrics stood out from the music – so that every word was discernable.
“We tried to get a dramatic effect without overpowering the vocal. That’s so important. Because for my money, good production is: less is more.”
The only music that can be heard on “Cause,” in fact, are Rodriguez’s gentle picking and strumming on his converted, hollow-sounding classical guitar, and a simple, undulating string arrangement composed by a young violinist named Jimmy Horowitz.
“We worked a long time on ‘Cause’. The strings were written and recorded to match Rodriguez’s vocal,” Rowland said. “He seemed to be completely thrilled with what was coming out. He loved those arrangements.”
The strings are orchestrated to coincide so closely with Rodriguez’s lyrics that they can actually influence how you hear the song. Horowitz’s arrangement begins to soar lightly just as Rodriguez sings the line, And give a medal to replace the son of Mrs. Annie Johnson. The gently rising strings conjure the first glimpse of a sunrise, so subconsciously you may hear sun instead of son. The orchestration and melody reach a calming resolution, as though the sun has finally climbed above the horizon.
After this moment passes, you realize what Rodriguez is saying. The government gave Mrs. Johnson a medal because her son had been killed in the Vietnam War.
“Rodriguez is saying it in a sardonic tone, but it’s a front for how he really feels. He’s being very sardonic and cynical. Yeah, give a medal to a mother for the son she lost in Vietnam,” says Rowland. “What he’s really feeling is: how can a country do something like that? The country had no feeling for the actual person himself.”
The juxtaposition of the music and the message brings more power to both. “The arrangement is the complete opposite of the lyrics, and that’s how we looked at it,” Rowland said. “Rodriguez loved it, and it worked.”
Drowning the Sun
The son of a film director and great-nephew of MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer, Rowland was a teen star during the 1950s, appearing in TV’s Bonanza and The Rifleman, and a number films including Battle of the Bulge and the original The Thin Red Line.
After crossing over into music in the ’60s, he went on to produce a string of hit acts including Jerry Lee Lewis, The Pretty Things, P.J. Proby and the British pop band Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, which charted 13 Top 10 hits. Rowland discovered Peter Frampton and The Cure, worked with Elton John when he was a young session pianist named Reggie Dwight, and had a hit single with his band Family Dogg – the choralized, minimalist “Sympathy.”
It would take an effort on the scale of producing Coming from Reality to overshadow what Rowland achieved at Olympic Studios in London the previous year. In September 1969 he was producing Proby’s album Three Week Hero when Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham played on the psychedelic-tinged “Jim’s Blues.” It was the first occasion all four members of Led Zeppelin, then known as the New Yardbirds and barely into their 20s, performed together in the studio. Days later, they began recording their eponymous first album.
Though he had worked with many musical greats and was himself a top-selling performer, Rowland was aware that the unknown but sheerly gifted Rodriguez would present him with a new set of creative openings and tests.
Rodriguez arrived in London with his manager/girlfriend at the time, Rainy Moore. (The story goes that the album was named spontaneously when Moore was asked where Rodriguez was coming from.) At that first meeting, Rowland remembers, both he and Rodriguez were on guard.
“I was apprehensive about the whole thing because I wanted to do the album so badly. I wanted to make sure that he believed in me as a producer. But when we started to talk, he was very shy, quiet, very introspective. He’s an intellectual. He thinks before he speaks. He’s not a guy who is outgoing. I guess he was trying to suss me out as well.”
Despite having worked and crossed paths with Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Henry Fonda, James Dean and many other legendary figures, Rowland confesses he was star-struck by Rodriguez.
“We as artists and creators have our heroes, too. And we get just as awe-inspired by our heroes as people who aren’t in the business get inspired by big movie stars or rock stars or sports stars,” says Rowland. “And when you meet them, you know, it’s always overwhelming. Well, that’s how it was for me with Rodriguez, because I really, really was into the way he was writing. I was into the way he thought.”
Within a day or two, when Rowland and Rodriguez began going through the songs together, the barriers fell and the two began an intense collaboration. “I said when we were in the studio, let us – in music – show the guy’s soul. Let’s show what this man really is,” says Rowland. “How can I make this guy felt in the music? That was my main objective. How can I get people to feel him?”
In “Cause,” Rodriguez reveals his soul through wrenching lyrics about lost loves, despondent friends, resignation and drugs:
While the rain drank champagne / My Estonian Archangel came and got me wasted
Cause the sweetest kiss I ever got is the one I’ve never tasted…
Cause I see my people trying to drown the sun in weekends of whiskey sours
Cause how many times can you wake up in this comic book and plant flowers?
Rowland, in a way few others have, came know and understand the aloof Rodriguez, the son of Mexican immigrants who earned most of his living demolishing buildings and who reportedly lives in the same broken-down house he bought in the 1970s for $50.
“Sadness can be contained within a whole life of a person, and even some of the happiness that a person remembers in that life makes them sad as well, because it’s no longer there for them,” Rowland said. “This is how I approached Rodriguez. Because I felt, you know, here’s a guy, he lives in Detroit, which is not what you would call a paradise of the world. It’s a hard life in Detroit, and he’s lived in the same house since he was a young guy. He’s seen lots of ups and downs – probably mostly downs.”
Take Rodriguez’s lyrics, which alternate from rebellious to playful to despondent to romantic. Lay on top of this a life story that embodies these lyrics. Now, form all this into songs with melodies and structures that don’t cheapen any of it. For Rowland, producing Coming from Reality was more than a creative exercise. This became a personal responsibility – even a duty to the artist known as Rodriguez.
“I did put a lot of myself into it because I was really knocked out by what he was talking about. I believed in it that much. But actually,” says Rowland, “because I believed in him so much, nothing we did was challenging. It just flowed. I could hear it in my head.”
Perhaps because Rowland could visualize the sound and feel of the album, no song needed more than two takes to get right. The entire album was recorded in about 10 days.
It was 10 days that pushed Rowland to create something that lived up to his image, his idealized portrait, of Rodriguez.
“I wanted to make sure…,” said Rowland, pausing, “It was very important to me that I did the best I could with this man, and that I brought out everything that I saw and felt in the way he writes and sings – that I could bring that out in the record. Each one of those songs was made to give a feeling to Rodriguez. It had to be real, and I would do it again today the same way.”
“Music can change the world because it can change people,”said well-know Irish singer-songwriter and musician, Bono. This is especially true in Africa, where music is an integral part of everyday life. South Africa with its melting pot of cultures has produced a rich crop of highly talented popular-music legends, whose music has changed people’s perceptions. In honour of some of these musicians, the South African Post Office will issue a set 10 self-adhesive stamps and two commemorative envelopes on 3 July, featuring artwork by Vumile Mavumengwana.
Other famous people have also sung the praises of the power of music, notably Shakespeare who wrote: “If music be the food of love, play on…”. But more applicable in the South African context, are the words of Hans Christian Andersen: “Where words fail, music speaks.” The music of South African musicians have indeed spoken to scores of people across the board – our cities, townships, rural areas, sports stadiums and marketplaces are infused and alive with music.
The popular-music legends featured on these stamps were chosen for their innovative music, which brought fundamental change to the perceptions of South Africans and was instrumental in uniting societies. Criteria used in choosing them also included factors such as whether they introduced a completely new, original and distinctively South African style of music.
The musicians are as representative as possible of our society, covering the most important or best-known musical genres, which achieved international success.
James Phillips: 1959-1995
Also known as Bernoldus Niemand. In the musical genre Counter Cultural, Phillips represents a leading influence on the Voëlvry alternative, Afrikaans rock renaissance movement and its impact on South African anti-apartheid protest music. Alongside Koos Kombuis, Valiant Swart, Willem Möller and Johannes Kerkorrel, he was a “cultural icon, voice and conscience to a generation of apartheid-era white South Africans.”
Brenda Fassie: 1964-2004
In the musical genre Afropop, Fassie was one of the most popular urban African musicians of the 1980s and 1990s. She has been described as the “Queen of African Pop” and her bold stage antics earned her a reputation for “outrageousness”. Affectionately called Mabrr by her fans, she was voted 17th on the list of Top 100 Great South Africans.
Johannes Kerkorrel: 1960-2002
Born Ralph Rabie, Kerkorrel was a prolific singer-songwriter in the musical genre Alternative Afrikaans/Voëlvry movement. Described as “one of the leading lights of the rebel Voëlvry movement that blew a new wind across the Afrikaans music scene in the early 1980s”, he exposed a new generation of Afrikaners to political views resisting apartheid. Several artists have recorded tribute songs to his life and work.
Lucky Dube: 1963-2007
As an icon of South African Reggae, Dube pioneered and popularised this genre, which conveyed the Rastafarian philosophy, among township youth. He still influences younger musicians pursuing this style. Dube recorded 22 albums in Zulu, English and Afrikaans in a 25-year period and was South Africa’s biggest-selling Reggae artist. He earned over 20 awards – locally and internationally.
Miriam Makeba: 1932-2008
Makeba, a legend in the musical genre World Music and Mbaqanga, is the most famous South African musician both locally and internationally. Nicknamed Mama Africa, Makeba is a Grammy Award-winner, a civil rights activist and a global icon for women. In the 1960s, she was the first artist from Africa to popularise African music worldwide. In 1987, she performed with Paul Simon in his famous Graceland tour.
Solomon Linda: 1909-1962
Linda, was a musician, singer, composer and innovator of note regarding developing the Isicathimiya musical genre and is credited with a number of musical innovations that came to dominate the Isicathamiya style. He wrote the song Mbube, which later became popular as The Lion Sleeps Tonight, and gave its name to the Mbube style of Isicathamiya a cappella popularised later by Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Spokes Mashiyane: 1933-1972
Johannes Spokes Mashiyane was regarded as one of the greatest pennywhistle artists who graced the South African Kwêla music scene in the 1950s and 1960s, at a time when that genre was one of the defining styles and the dominant dance music in the country. He later switched to saxophone and was instrumental in Kwêla’s evolution into township jive. He has a strong following to this day.
Simon Nkabinde: 1935-1999
Simon ‘Mahlathini’ Nkabinde is a legendary Mbaqanga singer, a genre of indigenous music that continues to influence musicians worldwide today. Known as the “Lion of Soweto”, Nkabinde is the acknowledged exponent of the deep-voiced, basso profundo style that came to symbolise Mbaqanga music from the mid-60s to the mid-70s. He collaborated on Paul Simon’s groundbreaking Graceland album and tour.
Kippie Moeketsi: 1925-1983
One of South Africa’s greatest Jazz musicians, Moeketsi first played the clarinet, but soon moved on to the saxophone. Influenced by his pianist brother Jacob Moeketsi, Kippie’s career started in shebeens with Band in Blue. He was the driving force in the Jazz Epistles alongside Abdullah Ibrahim, Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa and Makhaya Ntshoko who recorded the first authentic South African Jazz album.
Taliep Petersen: 1950-2006
Taliep Petersen, was a legendary singer, composer and director, who popularised the so-called Cape Ghoema sound together with David Kramer. In a tribute after his death, he was credited with “rewriting the musical landscape of the Western Cape and enriching the culture of this country.” He has been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as a Naledi for Best Musical Director/Score/Arrangement for Ghoema.
Glastonbury 2014: 19 Amazing New Acts You Can’t MissJohn Wizards The Cape Town-based act mixed traditional African influences, funk and gentle electronica on last year’s well-recieved self-titled debut LP. Reminding critics of everyone from Vampire Weekend to Parliament, we’ll just say they’re experts when it comes to magical, wide-eyed pop.
The old art of record collecting is still alive as independent record shops crop up across SA despite the growth of online music sales. Percy Mabandu lists 10 of his best
1 Mabu Vinyl
This tune emporium was established in 2001 by Jacques Vosloo, who now co-owns it with Stephen Segerman. The store was memorialised in the
Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugarman
in which it featured extensively. It stocks a rare selection of classics with a catalogue including second-hand records, books, comics, CDs, DVDs and cassettes. The average price of a record is R80 and the store is open seven days a week.
2 Rheede Street, Gardens, Cape Town mabuvinyl.co.za
Malik Bendjelloul, the Swedish director of ‘Searching for Sugar Man’, has committed suicide aged 36. It’s just over a year since the documentary about folk musician Rodriguez won Bendjelloul an Oscar and captured the hearts of viewers all over the world. REBECCA DAVIS spoke to Bendjelloul’s subject and friend, Cape Town record-store owner Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman.
The last time I interviewed Stephen Segerman in his den in Oranjezicht, it was July 2012, just prior to the official release of Searching for Sugar Manin South Africa. At that time Segerman gave the impression of a man both bemused and exhilarated by the success of the film, in which he features prominently as one of two South Africans who made it their mission to track down Rodriguez.
Shortly before the interview, he’d been to the Sundance Film Festival with Bendjelloul and Rodriguez, where the film received a standing ovation. “It was just a magical night,” he told me at the time.
Watch: Searching for Sugar Man trailer
Almost two years later, the fairytale seemed even rosier. Searching for Sugar Man won the Best Documentary Oscar at the 2013 Academy Awards. Rodriguez, who languished in obscurity for years, today has fame and fortune locked down. It was the ultimate feel-good story.
And then, on Tuesday, shocking news broke: Bendjelloul, aged just 36, was dead.
“You know, with some people you have inklings and maybes. With Malik? Suicide? Impossible,” says Segerman, shaking his head. “I thought he must have died in his sleep or something. When I heard, well…” he trails off. “I’ve been seeing the comments. This dude had the world at his feet, he had an Oscar…”
Malik Bendjelloul was a teen actor in his native Sweden, starring in a show which Segerman describes as the Swedish version of America’s Family Ties. As an adult he worked as a TV reporter for Sweden’s public broadcaster, specialising in making short films about visiting rockstars. Then he left to travel the world, looking for richer stories.
Segerman first heard from Bendjelloul in late 2006, when he emailed the record-store owner to say that he was coming to Cape Town, and asked if they could meet. He had learnt about Segerman’s involvement in the Rodriguez tale through a piece in the Guardian, and wanted to hear more.
“At that stage we had a shop on the corner of Long Street with lekker big glass windows,” remembers Segerman. “I can still see him coming around the corner and saying: ‘Hello, I’m Malik!’”
“I met Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman, the guy who first started to look for Rodriguez in Cape Town, and when he told me the story I was just blown away. It was just so beautiful and touching. Just the one-sentence summary was pretty strong: ‘A man who doesn’t know that he is a superstar.’”
For his part, Segerman instantly warmed to the lanky Swede.
“He just had such a lovely energy: tall, bright-eyed…He reminded me of Tintin,” he says.
Segerman took him up Table Mountain and Bendjelloul filmed a short sequence of Segerman telling the story of the hunt for Rodriguez. Then he disappeared off to Sweden, and Segerman didn’t hear from him for six months. At that point, Bendjelloul emailed to say: that’s the story we like in Sweden.
Bendjelloul returned to Cape Town and shot a one-minute trailer in Segerman’s den. He took it to the Sheffield Documentary Festival, where aspirant filmmakers pitch their stories. Bendjelloul won. A full-length documentary was on the cards.
Segerman points to a photograph pinned to a cabinet. It shows Segerman, Bendjelloul and camera womanCamilla Skagerström. “That was the team,” he says. “Just them. They came here and shot, then went to Detroit. There was barely any budget. Just – excuse the cliché – passion.”
Photo: Stephen Segerman, cinematographer Camilla Skagerström, and filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul, pictured in Segerman’s den in Cape Town.
In Detroit, there was the tricky business of persuading the reclusive Rodriguez to feature in the film at all. Bendjelloul worked his way in by meeting the musician’s family members one by one. He got his way eventually through sheer charm, Segerman says. Even so, filming Rodriguez had certain unique challenges. There’s a scene in the film where Rodriguez is fiddling with a video microphone while he talks. It still had to be used: there was no question of a do-over.
“There was always only gonna be one take,” Segerman chuckles. “No way was Rodriguez going to say all those things all over again.”
For over a year, Bendjelloul sat in his flat in Stockholm making the film. People promised funding and backed out. He ran out of money for animation, so he had to do the animation work himself. It’s the stuff of legends now that some scenes in the documentary had to be filmed using a $1 Super-8 iPhone app.
“That movie is sort of a bit jerry-built – kind of smashed together,” says Segerman. “I saw it for the first time and thought: That doesn’t look anything like movies I’ve checked, slick, beautifully-made documentaries!”
But the film’s sheer heart – and the incredible story it told – more than compensated for its technical weaknesses. Some suggested that the story was a little too incredible – that Bendjelloul had conveniently omitted aspects of the Rodriguez narrative that didn’t easily fit within the rags-to-riches trajectory.
“There were two main snipes about the film,” Segerman says today. “The first was that Rodriguez wasn’t actually an anti-Apartheid hero – which I never said. The other criticism is about Australia.” Bendjelloul’s documentary left out the fact that Rodriguez was aware that he had a major fan-base in Australia, and had toured there twice in the late 70s and early 80s.
“The simple explanation, which we spoke about, is that [Searching for Sugar Man] is about the search of two South Africans for Rodriguez,” Segerman says. “I found out about the Australian tour the night that I met Rodriguez for the first time, in March 1998. If I’d known, I would have tracked him through Australia! It was not part of our story.”
Segerman says Bendjelloul was unruffled by this criticism. “It made zero difference,” he says. “For him to create something which brought so much happiness into the world…Nothing could have bothered him about that.”
Segerman and Craig Bartholomew, the music journalist who also features in the documentary as instrumental in the hunt for Rodriguez, attended the Oscars with Bendjelloul last year.
From his wallet, Segerman extracts a piece of card on which he’d jotted down ideas for an acceptance speech for Bendjelloul, since the filmmaker hadn’t prepared anything.
“I’m superstitious about preparing speeches – this has been lucky for me,” it begins.
In the end, the laconic Swede didn’t need the prompt. “Oh boy!” Bendjelloul said when he won. “Thanks to one of the greatest singers ever, Rodriguez!”
There’s a photo in Segerman’s den of the three men tux-ed up, Bendjelloul clutching his statuette, at the prestigious Vanity Fair after-party.
“Just on my left side, over there,” says Segerman, pointing at the photo, “there was this old American dude. I thought: who’s that? He obviously wasn’t an actor.” He pauses. “It was Buzz Aldrin. For a baby-boomer like me, you don’t get any better than that. I met Buzz Aldrin, and then I went home.”
Interviewed by the New York Times in May last year as part of a list of ’20 Filmmakers To Watch’, Bendjelloul hinted at the surreal aspects of having made such a successful first film.
“Since everything was the first time for me, it was a bit confusing to understand what last year was all about,” Bendjelloul admitted. “To travel around with your film is a weird experience. Filmmakers are not musicians, they can’t perform their film; you don’t even need to load the projector. It was weird to think that that year was the reward for the work. But now I realise that it’s this year that is the reward. To feel free to do exactly what you want to do without feeling too scared that your ideas won’t interest anyone or worry about the rent or having to deal with people who think they know better.”
After the Oscars, Segerman says Bendjelloul was besieged with offers.
“Malik had been turning down a huge amount of stuff. He had a lot of offers of TV commercials, that kind of thing, but he wasn’t the type of guy to sell out. Your first full-length movie wins an Oscar! What the hell do you do for a second?”
In fact, for his next major project, Segerman said Bendjelloul had turned again to a South African story. He was working on a screenplay for a feature film inspired by the experiences of conservationist Lawrence Anthony, dubbed ‘the elephant whisperer’ for his work with traumatised elephants.
“He loved South Africa,” Segerman says. “I always say he should have been an honorary Capetonian. You have no idea how many people found out about Cape Town from his movie. He made it look so beautiful.”
Bendjelloul didn’t let his newfound fame go to his head, according to Segerman. “He always looked a little bit shy, a little bit awkward. It’s not an easy thing to deal with.”
Segerman was last in touch with the filmmaker last Monday, when the two had an email exchange about a legal dispute unfolding between two of Rodriguez’s old record labels. He says Bendjelloul gave no sign at all that anything was emotionally amiss.
“You know, through the film… My little record shop became a great little record shop. Rodriguez found his destiny. Malik, I thought, had found his,” Segerman says.
“You put something like that out there. The joy that I’ve got out of it – how much more so for Malik? And it wasn’t enough.” DM
This past weekend marked World Record Store day, which celebrated independent record stores and brought together music lovers from all over the globe. Now, despite a drop in CD sales and even music downloads, demand for LPs is the highest it’s been in decades. CNBC Africa’s Benedict Pather reveals why vinyl records are no longer a thing of the past.
Mean Black Mamba: Raw foot stomping roots music that grooves your body and soul. Words of humor and hope sliding between writhing riffs and the insistent thump of a cowhide drum. This is afro swamp gospel, this is blues n’ roll. Gritty & hard hitting, the music winds you off the floor and twists you to your feet. Fresh. Cosmic delta juju. Like its name-snake, mean with a smile on its face.
Born on the southern tip of Africa, Guy Collins has been playing guitar for most of his years. His interest really took off when he was 15 on a warm day. The long distance groove from somewhere in the American south, Howlin’ Wolf on Highway 49, beamed into the living room. African roots, blues, rock ‘n roll. A continual search for an elusive sound.
“James van Minnen can extract a beat from a feather and a shoe if it were asked of him; seated at his drums he appears as a blur of limbs and crashing steel from which infectious rhythms emanate in metronomic waves…he infuses African and Middle Eastern rhythms into songs with hypnotic effect”
Mahala Review (voted in the top 25 artists of 2012 by IMR Magazine)
James van Minnen and Guy Collins have both been in the music scene for years, mostly somewhat under the radar, fuelling the backline in some of the more well-known outfits around.
Mean Black Mamba is the result of infrequent collaborations between these two musicians over the past decade, an unnamed two-piece appearing at house parties, street markets and other events where they have slipped in incognito and blown people away with their rich, gritty and rootsy sound.
Live, MBM follows the template of roots and rural musicians everywhere:
“Grooves are made for dancing and once people get moving, the music takes it’s own course. There are no rules when we are playing and while we have recorded an album of concise songs, we can stretch them out live and segue them into each other over whatever groove or tempo feels right at the time.
I believe that recording an album is an opportunity to create an art piece that reflects a moment in time and we have done our best to make an album that can stand for itself while imbuing it with the raw essence of our live sound.” – Guy Collins
“Our live shows clearly get people going and I think this has a lot to do with the fact that the music is as fresh to us as it is to the audience, being willing to ride the mamba wherever it chooses to take us.” – James van Minnen
Their much-anticipated “Killer album.” (Tim Lengfeld, Audio Mastering Engineer) will be launched at Side Street Studios, 48 Albert Rd, Woodstock, on October 11th this year where you can experience this and what is guaranteed to be one helluva shindig with some fantastic guest artists and collaborators.
Venue: Hillcrest Quarry, Durbanville Dates: 22- 23 November 2013.
The Table Mountain Blues Summit 2013 is set to give you a musical thrill that’s gonna groove your mojo soul! SA’s premier Blues Festival has found a new home at the Hillcrest Quarry in Durbanville and on 22 and 23 November, the Cream of South Africa’s Blues- Rock Artists will be taking the stage.
To celebrate and trace the roots of Blues in South Africa, we will be running a competition in October: THE HISTORY OF BLUES IN SA COMPETITION: Mail your factual finds about the roots/history of Blues in SA, as well as any other fascinating tales about the development of Blues in SA to: firstname.lastname@example.org and cc email@example.com – the most interesting find will win R1 000.00. Your contributions will be posted to our website and facebook pages. Entry dates: From 1 – 31 October.
“Blues is about where you’re coming from and where you’re going. Everywhere you look you can see a blues song just sitting there, waiting to happen. It’s a reflection of life, everything, everyday. It;s what your spirit does when it needs to be comforted and revived. It’s all that is genuine and honest in music, past, present and for damn sure, future.” Andre Kriel (The Black Cat Bones)
Now in its 8th year with the continued help of main sponsor Combustion Technology and Paul Bothner Music, The Table Mountain Blues Summit has established itself as a top music festival and is ready to hit awesome and epic status in 2013.
The line up for 2013:
Friday 22 November – from 16h00 Tombstone Pete, Mean Black Mamba,Robin Gallagher Trio (Fender), Ballistic Blues,
Them Tornados, Blues Broers, Pebbleman, Dan Patlansky, Fox Comet.
Saturday 23 November – from 12h30 Tombstone Pete, Jo Martin and Tony,Kevin Floyd and Guests,Crimson House Blues,
Robin Auld, Natasha Meister,Dave Ferguson, Ann Jangle, Gerald Clark, Albert Frost Trio,Boulevard Blues and Guests, Black Cat Bones.
History of The Blues Summit:
Mike Combrinck started the Blues Summit on the 15th November 2006 at the Tafelberg Tavern in Cape Town. This debut of the festival saw the reunion of the Blues Broers for a special summit performance, and with the help of Boulevard Blues, Albert Frost, Dan Patlansky, Delta Blue, Piet Botha and Southern Gypsey Queen, it was a great success.
In 2007 Mike entered into negotiation with long time bastion of Blues Rock, Richard Pryor to co-partner him in managing the Blues Summit. Richard ‘a solid man of Rock’ had an axe to grind and was sharpening his blues pencil to take the summit up a notch.His mandate was a musically successful summit with financial independence.
Tapping into his own musical resources, database and Blues Wigi Boards, Richard secured the sponsorship of Combustion Technology to help out financially.
Combustion Technology is a Company focused on Energy Efficiency.
Their core business is to concentrate on the supply of the most Modern Energy Efficient Equipment Solutions to the Steam, Hot water and Heating Industry.
Their goal is a reduction in Emissions and a decrease in Fuel Consumption
which results in a more efficient plant and a greatly reduced Carbon footprint.
Paul Bothner Music joined as a sponsor in 2009 and they have been a mainstay supporter and sponsor ever since. Fender threw some muscle into the event as well by offering a Genuine Fender axe giveaway at every summit.
Whats on the Blues Menu?
19 top Bands over 2 days.
Top class quality 30000 watt outdoor sound rig.
Huge Lighting and a huge LED screen.
Hillcrest Quarry an awesome place and one of the most dramatic outdoor venues in SA.
Vibrant food and refreshment stalls and plenty of outside bars.
Plenty of free and secure off street parking.
Fender Guitar Giveaway and the Combustion Technology Cash Prize R1500.
Ticket sales are open and are available at Computicket:
Friday R160 and entry into the Fri Night Combustion Cash Prize Draw.
Saturday R220 and entry into the Sat Night Fender Guitar Lucky Draw.
Full Weekend R320 and entry into both Lucky Draws
Camping Ticket R160 (separate and limited to 200 tickets) Camping is for both nights.
Free entrance for children under 10 years.
Note: Only presales tickets qualify for the lucky draws. Winners of the main competitions must be there to claim their Prizes.
It is with the saddest hearts that we have to report the passing of one of the greatest guitarists and our very dear friend Allan Faull – the world has been robbed of an amazing human and a giant talent.
“This excellent career overview shows a voice full of wonder and humility of the songs it sings.” Rolling Stone **** (August 2013)
“Each and every song on this collection is remarkable testament to what a truly original and consummate talent Nibs is and one of the best representations of truly original South African music.”
“The mark of any half decent guitarist is the ability to become one with the instrument. Nibs is that kind of guitar player where he becomes the guitar.”-Music Review SA
“Nibs is probably one of South Africa’s most underrated musicians. Hopefully this anthology can help change that, showcasing the broad range of this extraordinarily talented musician.” AVSA (South Africa’s leading audio visual magazine)
Acclaimed South African guitarist and songwriter, Nibs, made his first profiled performances 25 years ago. From his humble beginnings at the Durban Folk Club to International stages, it has culminated in the newly released, deluxe (2CD) anthology album ‘Crossing Borders, Driving north’. It spans the creative and diverse body of work from his 9 highly acclaimed solo albums. The bonus second disc, ‘Catching Trains’- Nibs solo live through Europe, traces his footsteps through his many tours through France, Germany and the UK. These intimate solo ‘live’ performances were recorded in theatres, music halls, open air festivals and from within the walls of a maximum security prison.
It seems almost poetic justice that “Crossing Borders, Driving north” should translate into “a journey without limitations”, so it is a fitting retribution to the rites of passage of his work to date and for what is still to come.
His virtuosic acoustic guitar style and mesmeric whispering voice have attracted a worldwide following for its intelligent folk, World and African overtones. He has been nominated 7 times at the South African Music awards, perform with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra and share stages across the world with the likes of Ben Harper, Bonnie Rait and Taj Mahal.
Nibs is also busy with the filming of a documentary about himself and his career which will be screened at his upcoming launches in the second half of 2013.
‘Crossing Borders, Driving north’ is available on CD and digital download atand on iTunes and will be available at each concert.