ANTON GOOSEN, DAVID KRAMER, JOHANNES KERKORREL
& KOOS KOMBUIS
On Saturday 13 April 2002 Die Burger published a letter from Johannes Kerkorrel in which he complains about being written out of the "new" history of Afrikaans rock by the likes of Dirk Uys (the notorious Dagga-Dirk of the Voëlvry days) who apparently dares to suggest, in a kind of revisionist orthodoxy, that the likes of Anton Goosen (whose music Kerkorrel condescendingly describes as a combination of boeremusiek and folk,) is the father of Afrikaans rock. Kerkorrel self-deprecatingly says he does not want to claim that he is the Father of Afrikaans Rock but takes exception to the Gereformeerde Blues Band (GBB) being written out of this history.
I do not know what made Kerkorrel write this letter but presumably it must be a retort to something Dirk Uys had said or written, and perhaps due to lack of any GBB tracks on the Vloek Van Die Kitaar (Trippy Grape, 2002) album compiled by Uys as a definitive history of Afrikaans rock, and this smacks of old friends (or comrades in arms) falling out, seeing as how Kerkorrel and Uys were both part, and prime movers, of the same "alternative Afrikaner" movement of the late Eighties and early Nineties, before the big political change-over of 1994. Dirk Uys takes pride in having been asked to compile the Voëlvry album released ahead of the GBB's tour of the same name in 1989, and was then likewise instrumental in conceptualising and compiling Die Vloek Van Die Kitaar.
Voëlvry was meant to be the evidence, such as it was, of an emergent, new, alternative Afrikaans rock sound whereas Vloek Van die Kitaar is meant to serve as a more historical overview of Afrikaans rock. In each case Dirk Uys is the man who is responsible for the decision of what fits the definitions of "alternative" and "Afrikaans rock" and he therefore gets to write the official history.
The GBB had two tracks on Voëlvry; they have none on Vloek Van die
Kitaar and this could be what annoys Kerkorrel. Anton Goosen did not feature on Voëlvry at all because he was at that time definitely not alternative (and not on Shifty Records), but there could have been licensing problems too.
At the time there was a big buzz around the GBB as the first truly Afrikaans rock band and there was big talk of a new movement of "alternative" or "new" Afrikaners that were coming out of the woodwork and standing up to be counted, as adversaries of the old political regime and closer in spirit and cultural inclinations to their English-speaking compatriots than to the old guard Nationalists. The awakening was both political and cultural. On the cultural side the alternative Afrikaners were proud to be Afrikaners but were determined to prove that not all Afrikaners were hide-bound, backward, reactionary, racist, Dutch reformed Church-going Nationalists. Somehow Afrikaans was back as a hip language of political and cultural dissent; these young people were determined to obliterate the stigma Afrikaans carried as "the language of the oppressor" and to show that they not only identified with the oppressed but that in a strange way they themselves were also being oppressed by the very same reactionary forces that were oppressing their Black countrymen.
Thus the Voëlvry tour of 1989 was somehow seen as something more than the simple promotional and marketing exercise such enterprises usually are, particularly once the various university and Technikon authorities on whose campuses concerts were scheduled had banned these concerts from their campuses. The concerts were simply rescheduled for venues outside the campuses and although the tour was apparently financially disastrous until the two sell-out concerts in Stellenbosch and Cape Town, the bannings did nothing to halt the tour and, as is almost always the case, the resultant publicity gave the whole enterprise more publicity than it could have bought and was responsible for turning Voëlvry from a fairly commonplace promotional event into a crusade of "us versus them" proportions to give the alternative Afrikaners an opportunity to flip the bird to the Afrikaner establishment that was slowly but surely losing its grip on the reins of this country.
The Voëlvry album was released in 1988 ahead of the whole Voëlvry phenomenon of the next year and was ostensibly a record of alternative Afrikaans music current at the time. I guess there could have been that kind of hype at the time and maybe this hype has achieved semi-authentic status 14 years later but if one considers the case more carefully, there are a number of transparent flaws to that version of events. Simply put: Voëlvry is just a big put-on, little more than a cashing-in exercise by Shifty Records who must have known they were sitting on the biggest commercial success of their years in the business of putting out "alternative music" in South Africa. It was only with the whole GBB thing that commercial appeal entered the Shifty catalogue, up to then full of worthy acts of strictly limited appeal. With GBB Shifty could tap a huge commercial base of potential customers and Voëlvry was intended as the perfect taster of that forthcoming commercial event and as a handy sampler of some Shifty acts who had otherwise been buried.
It is surely no coincidence that all the featured acts were Shifty recording artists anyway. One cannot imagine that any other Afrikaans musicians would have been deemed fitting anyway but the omission of Anton Goosen and David Kramer left some gaps even if they were more mainstream than the other acts.
The biggest shuck of the enterprise is to present it as somehow representative of an Afrikaans rock movement. Only the GBB and Randy Rambo ever released completely Afrikaans albums. Khaki Monitor, The Kêrels, and The Genuines were represented by about the sole Afrikaans song each had recorded. The guys in The Kêrels might have been Afrikaans-speaking (and its guitarist became the bass player for GBB) but their Ek Se album from which "Slang" their Voëlvry track was lifted, contains only that one Afrikaans song and as such they could hardly be called an Afrikaans rock act. The same applies to Khaki Monitor, and how on earth The Genuines could ever have been included in a sampler "alternative Afrikaans" music is beyond me and I'm sure beyond them. This alone shows the cynical nature of the compilation: take a bunch of atypical Afrikaans songs from a motley collection of Shifty artists, put them together out of context and voila! you have perpetrated the fraud of creating a spurious "alternative Afrikaans music" movement.
Andre Le Toit (as he then was) also has two tracks from his fully Afrikaans cassette tape album but this is hardly rock, being simply Le Toit strumming his accoustic guitar and singing his indubitably well-crafted lyrics in a throw-away manner befitting the demo recordings the album allegedly contains.
I guess it's not only true that the victors write history but also that the people who write history actually determine history by what they choose to include, how they slant the reference and by what they choose to leave out. Everything one says can be true while the overall truth, the complete picture, is distorted because unpalatable or unsuitable truths have been ignored.
So, Dirk Uys was responsible for putting us all on with the Voëlvry compilation and now he possibly seeks to do the same by presenting to us his view of how things were, and are, through Die Vloek Van Die Kitaar. Between then and now he apparently decided that he should have a more respectable sounding name and no longer wants to be known as "Dagga-Dirk." He was heavily involved with the now-defunct Trippy Grape label based in Stellenbosch and currently runs Boereplaas Plate, a label that (for now) seems to concentrate on Afrikaans rock music where Trippy Grape did not have a language policy but was mostly a base for rock bands from Stellenbosch. I guess "Boereplaas" is somehow ironic unless Uys truly identifies with the Afrikaner's rural heritage, somewhat like Andre Le Toit's "Boer In Beton."
If I understand Uys correctly he wants to have a wider definition of Afrikaans rock than the single signifier of language and he is happy to include acts that contain only or predominantly Afrikaans-speaking musicians. By this definition the Springbok Nude Girls would qualify; the band formed in Stellenbosch, the members are Afrikaans and they've recorded at least one Afrikaans song ("Pappa Ek Wil 'n Popster Word" on the Wingerd Rock 1 compilation on Trippy Grape, compiled by Dirk Uys, natch.) That the band's oeuvre is 99% English is neither here nor there if Uys can make the facts fit his theory and version of Afrikaans rock history.
Now Kerkorrel feels he has been written out of that history. If he has no longer been given any place in it, then he has a right to complain because he deserves a place as much as does Anton Goosen or Andre Le Toit/Koos Kombuis or David Kramer, or even a number of earlier Afrikaans singers who presently do not really seem to feature all that much, either because they were not "rock" acts and/or because their music fitted in the standard middle-of-the-road AOR pop sounds prevalent in Afrikaans music.
The thing is that Kerkorrel is not truly a rock artist unless one stretches the definition to the degree where many presently excluded Afrikaans artistes from an earlier era would also fall within that ambit, but maybe a major reason for his inclusion is that he was supposedly an alternative act in the late Eighties, part of the hip, young Afrikaans-speaking crowd who were challenging the Old Guard of Afrikaner orthodoxy. That is: Kerkorrel is seen as part of the Afrikaans rock movement not purely because he played rock'n'roll but because he belonged with the rock'n'roll crowd, or derived his initial popular boost from it, though not actually subscribing to all its tenets.
One genesis of the alternative Afrikaans movement, or at least the moment when it stuck its head above ground and found not only that its head wasn't summarily blown off but that there was actually a huge groundswell of interest and support, was the "Piekniek By Dingaan" stage show that was such a hit that it toured the country to great popular acclaim as the harbinger of a brand new day in Afrikaner culture. The show was a collaboration between Kerkorrel, Andre Le Toit and, if I'm not mistaken, Dagga-Dirk Uys, and took the form of a revue with sketches, speeches and songs with backing provided by a rock band of sorts. Kerkorrel' songs from the revue came part of his repertoire with GBB and Le Toit's songs likewise became part of his repertoire. So, Kerkorrel subsequently put together the Gereformeerde Blues Band and adopted the role of frontman of a rock'n'roll group.
This renaissance in Afrikaner culture had its origin the multi-cultural melting pot that was, and is, Johannesburg and in particular Hillbrow which had always been a haven for weird bohemians, whereas the more "trendy" middle class Afrikaners with cultural pretensions who were dictating the agenda through their positions on semi-State Afrikaner cultural organisations and the media, lived elsewhere either in suburbia or amongst others of their kind in newly gentrified inner city residential areas just outside the CBD. Hillbrow, on the other hand, was there the down-and-outs and the hanging-on-by-the-skin-of-their-teeth came together. It was a place of cheap rents and cheap thrills and mythically regarded as the Sodom-and-Gomorra of South Africa. Andre Le Toit lived here while he was still immersed in his literary career - poet and novelist - and it was during this sojourn that he became acquainted with the Shifty Records crowd, as well as with the young Afrikaans journalist Ralph Rabie. I believe Le Toit and Dagga-Dirk and/or Rabie shared a flat in Hillbrow. Le Toit was a fairly well established bohemian presence on the alternative Afrikaans scene whereas Rabie was the aspiring young pretender and had respectable employment on the staff of Beeld, the Afrikaans daily in the Transvaal area. Beeld was seen as a liberal newspaper, in the Afrikaner context of course, slowly but surely shifting the Afrikaner political and cultural goalposts. Even so, when Rabie embarked on his show-biz career he thought it wiser and more intriguing to adopt a nom de stage and named himself after a church pipe organ manufacturer, ergo Johannes Kerkorrel.
The GBB became popular in Pretoria and the Witwatersrand, among trendy young Afrikaners and then more generally, with a mixture of rock'n'roll songs and cabaret-styled "serious" songs, and eventually landed up with the Shifty Records album Eet Kreef, the second Afrikaans release on the label after the Andre Le Toit Daar Ver Van Die Ou Kalahari tape, but the first full-on vinyl release, mentioned above.
Eet Kreef was Shifty's first serious chance of making serious money off a record release, hence the Voëlvry album and tour.
My very first GBB experience was exhilarating and it was in no small part due to the heady expectations that had been built up in the press, through the Voëlvry album and the news of all the campus bannings, and the exuberant crowd at the Drie Geuwels Hotel venue where the Stellenbosch concert, the first of the two Cape concerts and the penultimate show of the tour, was to take place after the authorities at Stellenbosch University, in line with their Northern counterparts, refused permission for the concert to proceed in a campus venue. The result, as it could have been expected, was the opposite of shutting out the movement or dampening its spirits; the feeling of being part of an anti-Establishment gesture (or possibly crusade, if one was optimistic enough) was empowering and heady. Andre Le Toit played an excellent accoustic set accompanied by a beatbox and the GBB came on stage to a great roar of approval and proceeded to take over Stellenbosch for the night. My critical senses were dulled and objective judgement held in abeyance.
I had been to a couple of Le Toit's solo performances and found them rather tedious; he strummed his guitar and sang in an off-hand way, the performance was not even interesting because of any quirks in phrasing or because he had a "bad" singing voice or anything that could have sustained interest over a whole show. The guitar playing was pretty basic and to my mind the only reason for Le Toit's success was his amazing rapport with his audience who quite clearly loved him for the eccentric hobo Casanova literary figure he aspired, or pretended, to be. Le Toit went down a storm live because he was one with the audience, not because he was as such a great performer; it was generally too folksy and homey for me. Dare I say it, too Boerevolk. Anyhow, the Drie Geuwels gig was a huge improvement mostly because of the added point of interest of the beatbox to relieve the tedium of the lackadaisical guitar playing, and Le Toit was obviously high, whether on intoxicants or the atmosphere or both, and delivered a more enthusiastic performance than usual.
The GBB motored through a slickly paced show where each song segued into the next, alternating the rock'n'roll type songs with the more reflective cabaret type tunes. "Rock'n'Roll Ossewa" was the GBB's radio hit off Eet Kreef but their show was more like a rock'n'roll Ford Escort XR3 (to fully contextualise it within South Africa) and came across as powerful and moving, especially with the big ballads where Kerkorrel delivered his social comment.
The last show of the tour was at the Three Arts Theatre in Cape Town and this crowd, many of whom, like me, had also been at the Drie Geuwels, was as large and as enthusiastic as at Stellenbosch but for me the show was an anti-climax. Firstly, a somewhat tired and emotional Le Toit gave his customary off-hand performance (sans beatbox) where he clearly counting on his reputation and "witty" banter to carry him through the half an hour he was on stage which was less of a performance than a mere diversion, the filling up of empty time until show time.
The GBB's show was worse. It was exactly the same show as at Drie Geuwels, not merely the same songs in the same order but also the same "ad libs" and exhortations from Kerkorrel and I realised that I was not truly watching a rock show, no, it was simply cabaret on a large scale with rock trappings, like a revised, tightened up version of "Piekniek By Dingaan." The whole enterprise was slick and powerful because it had been carefully scripted, staged and rehearsed and not because of any inherent strengths in the music or lyrics. It was a giant put-on in the guise of some kind of alternative, new Afrikaans cultural thing. It was in truth only alternative in the sense that it was different, and opposed to, what had gone before as the acceptable Afrikaans cultural experience but we were talking merely of a difference in degree not a complete sea change. The crowd might have believed that a totally new future was ahead but the Kerkorrel experience was going to end up as yet another orthodoxy, yet another Establishment to displace the old Establishment simply through effluxion of time. GBB returned to the Three Arts in early 1990 and this show confirmed my view of the year before. It was the same show and had by now completely lost its lustre and exciting aspects. In any event no big new movement had materialised; in the Cape there was only the Valiant Swart Band to represent an Afrikaans rock "movement."
Kerkorrel must have realised that the sell by date of his "rock'n'roll cabaret" had been reached and disbanded the GBB shortly afterwards and has since then followed a solo career more openly and honestly flying the "cabaret" banner and in general becoming part of the light popular musical scene in South Africa, releasing both Afrikaans and English material in the good, old-fashioned tradition of the all-round entertainer.
Andre Le Toit changed his stage name to Koos Kombuis, left behind his literary career and devoted himself full-time to being a more proper, alternative Afrikaans rocker, with regular album releases, alternating electric and accoustic music, Afrikaans and English songs. His Cape Town gigs in support of the Niemandsland… & Beyond album, his first vinyl release, were proper rock concerts, backed by elements of the Shifty mafia, including James Phillips on guitar, and with Koos dressing in "ethnic" garb and sporting a dreadlocks wig. The format recharged, or energised, the Kombuis stage manner and the gigs were genuinely exciting and entertaining -- the only fault I could find was that his new English songs were not nearly as good as the Afrikaans songs, they simply did not ring true.
Valiant Swart had a four piece country rock styled band with chugging rhythms and fierce lead guitar and was truly exciting for the first year or so, even though the nightly set closer of "Die Mystic Boer" quickly became tedious since the song actually promised more than it delivered, the epic approach Swart was striving for fell flat and the performance of the song was just this long, drawn-out coda that left one wishing he would stop soon, maybe ending the set with a short, sharp rocker. The Valiant Swart experience eventually became as tedious as "Die Mystic Boer" because the set list was unvarying and at gigs I started to get the impression that the musicians were just going through the motions. At first they had seemed fired up by the feeling, or assumption, that they and the audience were all part of this wonderful new breakthrough in Afrikaans popular music but by year's end they had levelled out to a cult audience, the mass breakthrough never materialised, and playing gigs became less of a joint celebration with the audience than just another job. Gigging became a grind and this sense of failure communicated itself to me to the extent that I ceased following the band. This loss of interest was perhaps to my loss entirely because Valiant Swart maintained a musical career, through the release of a number of CD albums and even most recently a retrospective compilation, and has become a senior statesman of Afrikaans rock in his own right, taking up his place on a stage where once Koos Kombuis sat alone.
All these developments show that the "alternatives" of 1990 have now become the mainstream Establishment. A recent publicity photograph of Koos Kombuis (who has been honoured not only by the release of two concurrent "best of" compilations but also a "tribute" album, probably a historic first) shows him with white hair and small beard, and it could have been a photograph of a typical Afrikaner intellectual/literary type of the Forties or Fifties. That is, Koos Kombuis has left his "boemelaar" days behind, has achieved respectability and now even resembles the very people he was supposed to have been rebelling against twelve years ago. As always, the circle comes around and the new boss is the same as the old boss.
In any kind of culture there is a perpetual cycle of renewal, degeneration, stasis, change and renewal and the Afrikaans music scene is no different. Sonja Herholdt was a fresh, new young voice and cute face in mainstream light popular music in the mid-Seventies, and became famous with the songs of Jan de Wet and Anton Goosen who himself became a recording artist in the late Seventies, hitting big with "Kruidjie-Roer-My-Nie", probably the first slice of traditional-sounding boeremusiek to reach our pop charts and in a way it was so audaciously different to the run-of-the-mill Afrikaans pop that its apparent reactionary sound was almost avant garde in the "hip to be square" vein. It has taken more than twenty years for that kind of sound to creep back into South African rock or pop. Goosen aimed at mainstream, across the board appeal and slowly but surely innovated his sound to aspire to increasing sophistication and by the Jors Troelie album had managed to create a kind of Afrikaans rock that attempted to straddle the divide between the mainstream and the cult audience.
Goosen's heyday was contemporaneous with another new "movement" based around the "Musiek & Liriek" programme on SABC TV, conceived and directed by Merwede van der Merwe and featuring a new generation of Afrikaans folk music artists with higher cultural aspirations and pretensions than the simplistic mainstream light popular music of, for example, Sonja Herholdt. The recurring visual image is of an earnest young soul, male or female, hunched over an accoustic guitar, singing the words of a poem set to music, either by themselves or by a "proper" classically trained musician. As such then "Musiek & Liriek" aimed to bring high art -- modern Afrikaner culture -- to the masses via the popular medium of television. The programme made stars, if only fleetingly, of a number of young artistes, though some of them had already made a mark before their televised appearances.
Koos du Plessis had written "Kinders Van Die Wind" which became the theme tune of a popular Afrikaans TV drama series, as sung by Laurika Rauch. The song became a huge hit for her and made her famous and gave Du Plessis the opportunity to record a couple of albums of his rather lachrymose songs. These albums were heavy going; songs to listen to alone at home in the dark but not when you were suicidally depressed because you might just end up offing yourself. Perhaps appositely, Koos du Plessis died relatively young while he was still mostly a cult success. Laurika Rauch made the most of the opportunity presented by TV stardom and made sure that she sang in a variety of styles to suit all tastes and ages. Once again mainstream success was the goal for a long term career in popular entertainment.
Musiek & Liriek became a kind of short hand reference for a time and place in Afrikaner cultural history. A movement was postulated and received a fair amount of coverage in the cultural pages of the Afrikaans newspapers where intellectuals were all a-tizz at this renewal and the assumption that Afrikaans music had at last managed to break away from the down-market light popular music dead-end that had been the major characteristic of Afrikaans popular culture. The idea was that intelligence, taste and art would replace the lowest common denominator approach favoured by commercial interests who were happy to appeal to the Afrikaner lower middle classes with white washed and painfully sentimentalised versions of Country music. As it turned out Musiek & Liriek was just a movement for the benefit of those who punted it to further their own pet agendas. The artists who rose to prominence under its umbrella had some acclaim and popular success for a brief while but very few have managed to sustain anything like a proper career out of it and as a reaction to the hype that surrounded the "movement" at the time, it is now derided as yet another attempt by the Old Guard Establishment to hi-jack Afrikaner culture for its own sinister purposes and to co-opt Afrikaner artistes to serve as window dressing for a rotting facade.
The commercial exploitation of Musiek & Liriek included at least two concerts at the Oude Libertas Amphitheatre outside Stellenbosch over successive summer seasons. Laurika Rauch played at least one of these concerts, as did Jannie du Toit, as well as Clarabelle van Niekerk who was the only Musiek & Liriek alumnus to lead a group, known as Clari, of musicians including bass, drums and cello, and was therefore the only performer who deviated from the folky accoustic "house style" with some pounding, Afrocentric rhythms that put her ahead of her fellow musicians in the eventual rush for the recognition of the African roots of White Afrikaners. The others were still firmly bound to their Eurocentric Afrikaans traditions. As a bonus Clari's music was a great deal more exciting than the others.
Somehow Anton Goosen, playing a National steel (resonator) guitar and backed by a pianist ("my band"), also played a show under a Musiek & Liriek banner though he had not been part of the TV programme. I guess this was simply an astute commercial decision on the part of the promoter of the concerts since Goosen was at the height of his general popular success and would draw a crowd. Indeed, unlike his more serious counterparts, Goosen delivered a tuneful, entertaining show with little regard for the high art pretensions of the original Musiek & Liriek "movement."
For a while there seemed to be more Afrikaans troubadours on TV (I never listened to Afrikaans radio so I would not know whether these people also got lots of airplay but I guess they might well have, seeing as how they were approved by the Establishment who decided these things) and it almost seemed feasible that a new generation of Afrikaans musicians were about to take over from the mainstream light popular music types but nothing like that ever happened. The leading lights of the "movement" were able to fashion careers out of the initial hype but the lesser figures soon faded into obscurity and middle-brow Afrikaans light popular music maintained its hold with the arrival of a new wave of Afrikaans country music artists like Cora Marie and Cupido who reached out to the Afrikaner heartland and appealed to the family audiences that had always been the mainstay of the Afrikaans popular entertainer.
This was a lesson soon learned by David Kramer who had the benefit of having feet in both camps having grown up as an English-speaking person in the predominantly Afrikaans-speaking Worcester. Kramer became bilingual and was then able to write songs in either language. According to him it was while touring overseas that he came to the realisation that if he were to be true to himself as artist he should forget about the "overseas influence" in his song writing, looking to American or European role models, and to accept that he is a South African who should write about what he knows, that is, his homeland, its people and its peculiar and tragic situations. Kramer then wrote his first "South African" songs while he was still overseas. He developed a big reputation in the Cape Town area as a highly talented folk-based singer-songwriter and released the Bakgat! album on Mountain Records in 1980 as a mixture of Afrikaans and English songs, some backed by a small combo, telling stories of the Cape people, whether in Bellville, Worcester or Namakwaland. The tales are by turns funny and harrowing and although the album was quickly suppressed by the SABC's mainstream radio services it deservedly became a cult item and was in its way closer to the truths of the country than anything Anton Goosen had ever written.
In the way these things happen David Kramer's career path was at the bottom end of its sharply rising curve while Goosen was at the top of his but on the cusp of a decline. Kramer was obviously an accoustic guitar playing folkie where Goosen was a popular entertainer who could play solo concerts accompanying himself on guitar, possibly as a moneysaving device, but recorded with a complete studio group. Bakgat! was a folk album where Goosen's records were pop-rock (as Kerkorrel states: a mixture of boeremusiek and folk) although both were straightforward tunesmiths who are storytellers rather than confessional songwriters.
A number of Goosen's early songs, particularly the ones first (or only) recorded by Sonja Herholdt dealt with a mythical Cape of Good Hope that existed in Goosen's imagination, or the imagination of the writers he might have used as source material, the romanticised Cape of popular Afrikaans fiction. Later on he also wrote of the country closer to his home, the Northern parts of South Africa and of the lower middle classes of the Witwatersrand. Goosen created characters and situations and wrote songs about them, mostly funny but some quite serious although it was obvious that he did not write from biographical experience, not even the ostensibly sensitive, personal love songs. He is an out and out storyteller in the best Herman Charles Bosman tradition. The first time that one has the impression that he was expressing his own feelings are in a few tracks on the Liedjieboer (his own nickname) and Jors Troelie albums.
David Kramer is no more a confessional songwriter than Goosen but he adopted that particular type of storytelling somewhat later, when he started aiming more squarely art the Afrikaans market. The songs on Bakgat! are written and sung with more personal identification than as is usually the case with Goosen; to employ the theatrical differentiation one might say that Goosen merely sings about his characters, that is he acts them, whereas Kramer sings as if he is the characters, he appears to be them. Kramer then somehow comes across as being more authentic or serious than Goosen although, to be fair, even on Bakgat! there are songs that would fit on a Goosen album and during Kramer's populist phase he moved into Goosen territory wholesale but, having said that, one cannot conceive of anything like "Biscuits En Biltong" or, more specifically "Botteltjie Blou" on a Goosen album.
David Kramer is a more versatile songwriter than Anton Goosen for the simple reason that he writes in English and Afrikaans and can therefore appeal to almost two different audiences where Goosen has only the Afrikaans audience and this might also have something to with the way each got to the mainstream. Goosen aimed straight for it, the mass Afrikaans audience, and limited himself to that group, while Kramer started out as a folk-artist with bilingual appeal but as an "alternative" musician with virtually no appeal to the Afrikaans mass market or family audience. Once he'd pandered to his core audience Goosen slowly moved away by trying to broaden his musical palette and his show-biz ambitions to include starring in a movie, and then moved beyond his audience's expectations of and then lost the mass support. David Kramer stumbled onto that mass market through the fortuitous linking of his "Blokkies Joubert" song with the Springboks disastrous tour in New Zealand in 1981, and by writing a modern drinking song in "Die Royal Hotel" that resulted in his adoption by Afrikaners as a kind of mascot, the insanely grinning David Kramer with his trademark "rooi velskoene" chasing a Volksie Bus down Tierkloof Pass on his bicycle. David Kramer became an entertainment phenomenon the likes of which must have made Goosen turn green with envy.
It became so ridiculous that Goosen actually tried, or threatened to, take legal action against Kramer on the issue of exactly who owned the "trademark" to those "rooi velskoene." Kramer wore them and endorsed a line of shoes that were commercially available. Goosen claimed that the velskoene were his idea, had been part of his image long before Kramer came onto the scene and accused the latter of "stealing" his image. This whole episode had more than a whiff of sour grapes about it. As meteorically as Kramer's star was ascending, Goosen's was plummeting but in any event Goosen had never come close to the same kind of rapturous, universal acceptance by the "volk" nor had he made anything like the same amount of money. Goosen was never asked to advertise anything on TV, much less become an ubiquitous media presence.
Then again, where Goosen assuredly has a prominent place in the evolution of Afrikaans rock, Kramer's position in that evolution, if he has a place, is more contentious. If rock is an attitude as much as it is a musical style, then Bakgat! can be filed under rock but what of the Afrikaans popular songs that he write and recorded in his mid-Eighties heyday? The songs might have been more cleverly written than, say, anything by Cupido or Francois Hayes or, for that matter, Worsie Visser, but if they admit Kramer to the Afrikaans rock world, then so should all those other Afrikaans popular entertainers who would otherwise not have been considered as being rock acts, nor would they have seen themselves as such.
Kramer started out as a folkie but must have had ambitions beyond that limited musical playground. The mission was to make a proper career out of being an entertainer and when the opportunity arose he grasped it with both hands and exploited it to the hilt. This ruthless exploitation of his commercial success enabled Kramer to step off that treadmill, to move off that highway, onto the comparatively narrow, perilous path of collaborating in writing a stage musical. As it turned out "District 6: The Musical" was a runaway success, critically and financially, and Kramer then forged ahead on the new career path of stage musicals, thereby forsaking the comic "David Kramer" persona loved by the masses. Kramer is now a respected figure in the local entertainment industry, not merely a folk or pop singer; in fact, if e once were a rocker, he no longer is and in this he has followed the traditional old-fashioned show-biz career path where one starts out as a scuffling entertainer appealing to a cult audience and ends up as an entertainer-entrepreneur who has across the board popular appeal or has ceased to appear on stage altogether to concentrate on promoting or managing other artistes on their way up. From exploited to exploiter -- though I do not wish to imply that David Kramer has ever prejudicially exploited anyone.
One should see David Kramer as a song and dance man made good. Anton Goosen should be seen as a talented songwriter whose hubris led to his downsizing. David Kramer no longer releases records (discounting the projects he guides) and Anton Goosen has recently released his first album in many years. Maybe one day soon Kramer will record more new songs and resume his career as recording and performing artist. In the meantime Goosen will keep on rocking after his own fashion. Both are "senior statesmen" of the local music world and have played major roles in the development of an Afrikaans popular music, even if it is not truly rock, that made a decisive break with the kind of Schlager Musik derived pop or pseudo folk-country that were, and astonishingly still are, the staple of local Afrikaans artists' repertoire. The curse of the Afrikaans performer will probably always be that they will have to make the lowest common denominator type of music to be able to sustain a commercially viable career and the point of Goosen and Kramer is that they showed us, especially Goosen, that an Afrikaner could play rock and not simply pander to the lower middle class tastes of the average Afrikaans household.