Diary of a SA Music fan – Part 1: The Beginning (1977-1995)
I was born in 1977 in a little town at the foot of the Soutpansberg in the Limpopo province of South Africa. I have to admit that I had an awesome childhood in Louis Trichardt. Riding my bicycle to and from school, the local video shop and from the local corner cafe had become part of my daily routine before I was 13 years old. The neighourhood kids and I played a lot of backyard cricket, soccer and sometimes touch rugby, rode our bikes through the local tree park and played “klei lat” at the town dam (when it still had water). I played a little rugby and cricket and also gave athletics a try in primary and high school, but I was never really one for doing sports, I had a different calling.
I was introduced to music at a young age. I remember getting into trouble now and then for overplaying my dad’s Elvis Presley Simon & Garfunkel, Nana Moskouri, David Kramer, Des & Dawn, Johnny Rivers and Johnny Cash records on his 1970’s style Philips hi-fi in our living room. I eventually got into local music like Leon Schuster, Bles Bridges and other contemporary Afrikaans artists that got airplay on National TV and radio in South Africa at the time.
Listening to a proper radio station was a mission because Louis Trichardt was (and still is) 16 km out of range from proper 5FM (then Radio 5) signal, so I had to get my music fix by either listening to Radio Jacaranda (now Jacaranda Stereo) or by press-sticking a long-ass radio antenna to my room’s ceiling. I also remember picking up the 1980’s vibes from shows like Fast Forward, Pop Shop, Toyota Top 20 and No Jacket Required on television (whilst enduring my parents’ “check nou weer daai takhaar met die oorbel” rants about Alex Jay).
By the late 1980’s / early 1990’s I was listening to Radio 5 in the mornings, in the evenings and the American Top 40 and Radio 5 Top 40 broadcasts over the weekends. I recorded a lot of songs that I liked onto cassette so I could listen to them over and over. This was Roxette’s golden age and it wasn’t long before I finally saved up enough money to buy their “Look Sharp” album on cassette. At the time it set me back R17,99 at the local Checkers and believe me, that was a lot of money back in the 1980’s. To give you an idea, a can of Coke set you back about R1,40 back then. I also admit that I bought Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan and a few Pop Shop cassettes during this learning curve phase (and I don’t regret it because I didn’t know any better and it was popular at the time, so shoot me).
By the early 1990’s CD’s had finally reached South Africa and I was getting restless that I could not play them on my dad’s hi-fi. I did have two friendly neighbours who taped albums by Indecent Obession, 2 Unlimited, Snap, Dr Alban, Bad Boys Blue, 24/7, Culture Beat, Midnight Oil and other artists for me before I had a huge confrontation with my dad (which I regret to this day). One good thing that came out of that was that we eventually got a CD player (in 1992).
I guess I could call what followed next my my experimental phase. I was listening to more and more music, but I had not found the musical genre that appealed to me yet. The age of good pop music was reaching its end, the 90’s techno revolution was in full swing and because of the changing political situation in South Africa we were being exposed to more and more music from abroad.
I first heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana on Fast Forward (in 1991). I took notice of the song and I noted that it was catchy, but I didn’t take it seriously at first. Eventually curiousity got hold of me and I asked a friend to tape all the Nirvana albums for me. I vaguely remember when I first pressed play to listen to the Nevermind album but I do remember that it almost had an instant musical impact on me. It wasn’t long before I was listening to that album and In Utero (when it came out in 1993) on repeat.
Thanks to Radio 5 and some of my classmates I soon got introduced me to bands like Pearl Jam, the Violent Femmes, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins, Alice in Chains, Metallica, Green Day, the Offspring, Live, Counting Crows and others and I wasn’t long before I was hooked. I had found the musical genre that appealed to me – I was going to become a rock fan. I taped over all the techno albums that I had on cassette.
Because of my growing love for good music the school actually asked me to play tunes during break on Valentines Day and Spring Day (which I gladly did even though my dad’s hi-fi speakers weren’t that loud). I wasn’t allowed to play any Metallica, Nirvana or something by the Offspring, but I tried my best to make a success of it. I wouldn’t say that I was the best high school daytime DJ, but I didn’t get any complaints. Tunes by Crash Test Dummies, the Spin Doctors, INXS and others went down pretty well during these sessions.
In 1995 I got a phone call from Barney Simon. I was in matric at the time. He had chosen me for the “You Say It I play it” segment on his show. I’m speaking under correction, but I think he asked me something about ostriches and oranges during the call. I recorded this on tape so I could listen to it but eventually it got played in a class at school when someone mentioned that I had been on Radio 5. Barney also sent me a signed Radio 5 sticker via snail mail.
Thanks to Barney I also discovered a multitude of SA bands. The SA music revolution was starting after the end of Apartheid and I was discovering blokes like Koos Kombuis and bands like Urban Creep, Lithium, The Led, Springbok Nude Girls, Sugardrive and Wonderboom. The scene was extremely tiny but it was breaking the chains that Apartheid had put on the music scene and people were starting to take notice of it. Hearing these bands on the radio cemented a love for SA Music in me – something that’s definitely embedded in my vains to this day.
I left Louis Trichardt to study at Technikon Pretoria (now called the Tshwane University of Technology) and to get a better radio signal in 1996. I will always remember these early days as the ones that shaped me and made me what I am today.
This was Part 1 of Diary of a SA Music Fan. Watch this space for the next chapter. It should be up in the next week or two on Running Wolf’s Rant
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