A Collection of 101 Interesting South African Music Facts

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The South African Music Scene is a bubbling and vibrant entity. It’s constantly changing and evolving on a daily basis. If you’re a fan of South African Music you’re probably curious about finding out more about the bands and artists you’re listening to.

Take note that this article contains facts about bands, artists, festivals and venues that play a huge part in the scene. I trust that you’ll find this interesting.

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Here are 101 Interesting South African Music Facts:

1. Francois van Coke’s changed his surname to stop journalists and fans from calling his parents.

2. Fokofpolisiekar played a show at Hotbox Studios in Pretoria a few years ago. The band mistook a girl who was looking for the bathroom as a crazy fan-girl and stopped her from going backstage. She ended up peeing on the stage.

3. Van Coke Kartel was one of the hardest working rock bands in the SA Music scene in 2011. I watched them perform no less than 11 times in that year at festivals like RAMFest and Oppikoppi and venues like Arcade Empire.

4. To date aKING has released 5 studio albums. Their first album (Dutch Courage) was released 10 years ago. Feeling old yet?

5. Matthew Mole became famous after he won Converse Get Out Of The Garage in 2012.

6. Theo Crous (the lead guitarist from Springbok Nude Girls) is one the top producers in the SA Music Scene. He’s produced albums for Van Coke Kartel, Prime Circle and The Parlotones (to name just a few).

7. The first band weekend was held in on the Oppikoppi farm was held in 1994. Tickets were priced at R30 per person and about 300 people attended. The first Oppikoppi festival was held in 1995.

8. Splashy Fen (which is held in the Underberg in KwaZulu-Natal every year) is the oldest music festival in South Africa. It was established in 1990.

9. Up The Creek (which is held on the banks of the Breede River in the Western Cape) is the second longest running music festival in South Africa. It was also established in 1990.

Up The Creek - South African Music

10. The first edition of Mieliepop Festival (which is held near Lothair in Mpumalanga) was held in 2011. Only 120 people attended the first edition (and that figure includes festival goers, artists and staff).

11. SA Afro-Jazz legend Hugh Masekela released a total of 49 studio albums between 1962 and 2016. He died in January 2018.

12. South African Male choral group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo have won 5 Grammy Awards. They won their first Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Recording in 1988.

13. Seether were originally known as Saron Gas. The band was founded in Pretoria, South Africa in 1999.

14. Southern Gypsey Queen was founded in 1999 in Molteno in the Eastern Cape. They were originally known as “Bombay Duck”.

15. In an interview a few years ago Desmond and the Tutus listed their influences as “Snoop Doggy Dog, Michael Jackson, Michael Buble, Michael Jordan, Michael Stevens, George Michael… actually anybody with a ‘Michael'”

16. Satanic Dagga Orgy have fake beards and moustaches to protect their real identities as high ranking members of the Freedom Front Plus.

17. Warwick from Hellcats (the garage rock kings of SA Music) takes excited poos before he plays shows.

18. To date South African singer-songwriter Ashton Nyte (the frontman of The Awakening) has released a total of 7 solo albums – The Awakening has released 8. He has been residing in the USA since 2009.

19. Greg Carlin from Zebra & Giraffe had to find additional band members in order to perform live shows after their first single (“The Knife”) topped the South African charts in 2008.

20. Shortstraw was formed in 2007 as a two-piece act consisting of Oliver Nathan (drums and backing vocals) and Alastair Thomas (lead vocals and guitar).

21. South African Music Award winning singer, pianist, dancer and performer Toya Delazy is the granddaughter of Mangosuthu Buthelezi and the great-granddaughter of Princess Magogo, a Zulu Princess and traditional Zulu composer.

22. South African musician and anthropologist Johnny Clegg was born in Lancashire, England. He moved to South Africa from Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) when he was 6 years old.

23. South African Afro Pop band Mango Groove have released 6 studio albums since their formation in 1984.

24. Afrikaans musician, singer, songwriter and writer Koos Kombuis got his last name from a time when he squatted in the kitchen of former drug-dealer and author Al Lovejoy.

25. Johannes Kerkorrel from Die Gereformeerde Blues Band worked as a journalist for Die Burger and Rapport. He was fired from Rapport in 1987 for using quotes from State President P.W. Botha’s speeches in his songs and started persuing music as a full-time career.

26. When he’s not banging the drums, Allesandro from Hellcats is a full-time hairdresser.

27. Albert Frost has played at every Oppikoppi Festival since it’s induction in 1994 (including Easters and New Years Festivals). The term SA Music legend comes to mind if you ask me.

28. Jack Parow (aka Zander Tyler) is an extremely big gamer. He plays handheld and console games.

29. Before forming Die Antwoord with Yolandi Visser in 2008, Ninja (Watkin Tudor Jones) fronted The Original Evergreen, Max Normal, MaxNormal.TV and The Constructus Corporation.

Ninja on stage @ RAMFest 2011 - South African Music

30. South African songstress Karen Zoid was born in Brussels, Belgium. She grew up in Belgium before moving to Johannesburg.

31. Zolani Mahola and six other musicans formed Freshlyground in 2002. To date they’ve released 6 studio albums.

32. American singer-songwriter Dave Matthews was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and moved frequently between South Africa, the UK and the USA before settling in Charlottesville, Virginia to form the Dave Matthews Band in 1991.

33. This year’s edition of Oppikoppi festival is named Nomakanjani. The name is taken from the Brenda Fassie’s 1999 album and song of the same name.

34. Dylan Hunt (the drummer of Southern Wild) also played drums for Van Coke Kartel and Pestroy.

35. Pretoria rock band Cortina Whiplash lists water polo, high-speed car chases and gospel choirs as band interests on their Facebook page.

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36. Pretoria stoner rock band Ruff Majik recently toured Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

37. Tim Edwards plays drums for both The Tazers and Pollinator.

38. Cape Town Blues / Rock musician Guy Collins played guitar during 9 different artist / band sets at Up The Creek Festival in 2015. I’m speaking under correction, but this has to be a record for someone jamming sets at a South African Music festival (at least).

39. The Fake Leather Blues Band have never released an album. They were formed in 2003 at the Nile Crocodile venue in Pretoria.

The Fake Leather Blues Band - South African Music

40. Besides having a solo career, Peter Toussaint also plays guitar in The Fake Leather Blues Band, The Barbosa Experience and Hoot ‘n Anny.

41. Before Pretoria’s one-day festival Park Acoustics was hosted at Fort Schanskop (in the Voortrekker Monument Nature Reserve), it was hosted at the National Botanical Gardens.

42. South African Blues Rock musician Gerald Clark started his music career as the lead vocalist of the band Delta Blue in 1997.

43. Cockles is the brainchild of Shortstraw frontman Alastair Thomas.

44. Adventure Man is the brainchild of Shortstraw keyboardist Gad de Combes.

45. Besides Dylan Hunt, Jason Oosthuizen and Justin Kruger also played drums for Van Coke Kartel.

46. South African Alternative Rock act The Narrow have released no less than 6 studio albums since they were formed in 2003.

47. Before Hanu De Jongh became part of The Narrow he was also part of Not My Dog in the late 1990s and early 2000s. De Jongh lives in New Zealand now where he’s part of a rock band called Fire At Will.

48. All female rock group Clout‘s single “Substitute” reached number 1 in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Denmark and Belgium in 1978. The song also reached number 2 in the UK and number 67 on the  Billboard 100 chart in the USA. Not kak for a band from Johannesburg, right?

49. Four Jacks and a Jill released “Master Jack” in 1968. The song reached 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA and number 1 South Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe).

Four Jacks and a Jill - South African Music

50. John Kongos (the South African born father of the 4 guys who make up the band KONGOS) released 2 singles in 1971: “He’s Gonna Step On You Again” and “Tokoloshe Man”. Both tracks reached number 4 on the UK singles chart.

51. South African Blues maestro Dan Patlansky was voted as the 4th best rock guitarist in the world by Total Guitar Magazine in December 2015.

52. In 1985 the legendary Piet Botha lived in Los Angeles. He worked construction and other immigrant jobs by day and wrote and recorded music at night. By a stroke of luck he teamed up with a young, aspiring actor, drummer and singer from the South named Billy Bob Thornton (who later won an Oscar for Slingblade). Thornton did the drumming and vocals in the studio and Botha did the guitars, piano, vocals and harmonica.

53. Jack Hammer was formed by Piet Botha in 1984 and released their first album in 1986. They opened for Deep Purple and Uriah Heep on their “Masters of Rock” Tour and were also privileged to be the supporting act for ZZ Top on their South African tour.

54. SA rock legend Valiant Swart was born as Pierre Nolte in 1965 and has released 16 studio albums to date.

55. Afrikaans pop legend Kurt Darren was born as Kurt Johannes Van Vuuren and he’s won more than 7 South African Music Awards (SAMAs).

56. Afrikaans singer Bles Bridges sold out the Sun City Superbowl in 1987. He drew a bigger crowd than Frank Sinatra did when the venue opened in 1982.

57. In 1963, Anton Goosen was expelled from boarding school after he was caught playing his guitar and smoking in a bath. His guitar was confiscated and its case was filled with bricks. Despite this, he persevered and formed his high school’s first rock band that same year.

58. South African rock singer and member of the Voëlvry movement, James Phillips (also known as Bernoldus Niemand) was born in 1959 in Springs. He was the son of a Presbyterian minister. He died of injuries sustained in a motorcar accident in 1995. Today a stage at Oppikoppi festival is named after him.

59. Fokofpolisiekar‘s song “Hemel op die Platteland” was the first Afrikaans song to be officially playlisted on 5FM.

Fokofpolisiekar - South African Music

60. Naming James wrote a song about his beloved city, Johannesburg. Mix 93.8 FM asked their listeners to send memories, things and places through that make the city great and he wrote the song based on suggestions.

61. The Ska Punk Kings of the South African Music Scene, Fuzigish have been around since 1997 and they’ve released 5 full studio albums.

62. Johannesburg rock band, The Slashdogs have been around since 2003.

63. Matt Carstens is missing a fingertip on his right hand because he had an incident with a particularly large hammer when he was about 6.

64. South African Rock band Wonderboom was formed in Johannesburg in 1996. The band was originally called “The Electric Petal Groove Machine” and they were the opening act for Simple Minds. They have been nominated for 5 South African Music Awards over the years, but have never won.

65. The last time that Koos Kombuis performed at Oppikoppi Festival was in 2013 at Bewilderbeast.

66. Sugardrive was formed in 1994. They released 5 albums, headlined all the major South African Music festivals and toured Australia on the Big Day Out tour. Over the year they’ve been nominated for five SAMAs.

67. Before dying in a motorcycle accident in March 2013, Garth McLeod played drums for Sugardrive, Wonderboom and Martin Rocka & the Sick Shop.

68. The first ever South African rock supergroup, Blood Brothers was established in 2015. All concerts proceeds go towards the Vrede Foundation (which aims to spread cancer awareness to the youth of South Africa).

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69. Legendary South African Musician Ray Phiri played the guitar on Paul Simon’s hit song “You Can Call Me Al” (which was released on the Graceland album in 1986). Simon ignored a cultural boycott and collaborated with him and other South African artists like Lady Smith Black Mambaso on the album. The album went on to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1987.

Ray Phiri - South African Music

70. Johannesburg rock band Shadowclub planned to record their debut album in 12 days, but they completed it in 9. The album won the South African Music Award for Best Rock Album in 2012.

71. Gangs of Ballet won two South African Music Awards in 2014. Not bad for a band from Durban that was originally formed in 2011 as a side project.

72. Black Coffee started his music career in 1995, but only got his big break in 2004 after being chosen as a participant in the Red Bull Music Academy in Cape Town.

73. The Tazers used to have band practise in one of the band member’s back yards in Gauteng. Their attempt to damped the noise levels with zync sheets actually increased the noise levels.

74. Both Valiant Swart and Jack Parow have their own brands of brandy. Valiant has Mystic Boer Brandy and Jack Parow has Parow Brandy.

75. Benoni Bluegrass Officianados Crystal Park was the first band in the South African Music Scene to release their own craft beer.

76. In 2005 Fokofpolisiekar drummer Jaco “Snakehead” Venter jumped out of a moving vehicle, suffered multiple injuries and ended in hospital. He was replaced by Justin Kruger – Justin ended up working with the band on their Brand Suid-Afrika EP and Swanesang album.

77. Boogy Central, the folks that bring your That 70s Fest every year, is the brainchild of The Tazers.

78. Dominic Peters and David Poole (the two jazz musicians that make up Goldfish) first met eachother while they were stuying music at college in Cape Town.

79. All three members of Bittereinder are from Afrikaans-speaking families in Pretoria but went to English-speaking schools.

Bittereinder - South African Music

80. Bittereinder have played and headlined festivals in South Africa, The Netherlands, Mozambique and Namibia.

81. Before Bittereinder was formed in 2009, Jaco van der Merwe performed under the Ajax stage name.

82. South African Electronic duo Van Pletzen had their first ever live performance at Oppikoppi in October 2017.

83. Haezer began his live career at The Assembly in Cape Town. He has been producing his signature trash / electro sound since late 2008.

84. The Black Cat Bones was formed in 2007 in Silverton, Pretoria.

85. Coelacanth is made up of Gareth Wilson (Southern Gypsey Queen), Jaco Mans and
Andre Kriel (The Black Cat Bones).

86. Oorlog Frankenstein was a social experiment / electronic duo made up of Peach van Pletzen (Bittereinder / Yesterday’s Pupil / Van Pletzen) and Francois van Coke (Fokofpolisiekar / Van Coke Kartel).

87. El Cantante is an acoustic duo made up of Cito and Martin from the band Wonderboom.

89. Before Pedro was in The Barbosa Experience, he was in a band called Mrs B.

The Barbosa Experience @ Park Acoustics - South African Music

 

90. Before the formation of Wrestlerish, Werner Olckers was in a band called SHU (with Peach van Pletzen from Bittereinder and Barend from Kidofdoom).

91. Durban Death Metal band Vulvodynia gets their name from the medical condition of the same name that involves a chronic, unexplained pain in the area around the opening of the vagina.

92. South African Metal act Boargazm have played a live show on Kenyan Television. They’ve also played in front of more than 30,000 people at a free festival in Quito, Ecuador.

93. Cape Town rock legends Taxi Violence have been around since 2004. The band was formed after Rian Zietsman, Loedi van Renen and Louis Nel invited George van der Spuy to join them for a jam.

94. Jeremy Loops supported Twenty One Pilots on their Blurryface Tour in September 2015. Not bad for someone who was raised in Kommetjie (a surf town near Cape Town) and only picked up his guitar when he was in his final years of college.

95. Grassy Spark gets their name from an area in Cape Town called “Grassy Park” (which defines Cape Town in many ways – the people who come from there, the cultural aesthetics. It is more a play on that area and words).

96. South African born audio engineer and musician Greg Bester was a touring guitarist for American rock group The Used.

97. CrashCarBurn took part in the Vans Warped Tour in 2008. The performed sixteen dates across the East coast of the USA and two dates in Canada to crowds in excess of 14,000 people per show. They performed alongside international bands Angels and Airwaves, Paramore, Story of the Year, Reel Big Fish, Pennywise and Katy Perry.

98. The Lectric Monks get their name from “Electric Monk” character from the Douglas Adams novel ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’.

99. So far in 2018, the Garage Rock Kings of the South African Music scene, Hellcats have opened for 3 International acts: Incubus (USA), DZ Deathrays (Australia) and Seether.

Hellcats at Mieliepop

100. Prime Circle have been around since 2000. The band was formed in Witbank (eMalahleni), South Africa. To date they have released 6 studio albums.

101. The Parlotones have been around since 1998. The band was formed in Johannesburg, South Africa. To date they have released 8 studio albums.

Well, there you have it, 101 Interesting South African Music facts. If you enjoyed reading this post (which is possibly the longest post that I’ve ever done on this blog), feel free to share this with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Sharing is caring after all.

Have an interesting South African music fact to add? Leave a comment below and share your knowledge. Feedback is appreciated and welcome here.

Watch this space for updates in the Music and Facts categories on Running Wolf’s Rant.


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  1. Hi Henno, I think an interesting exercise for you would be to look into the folk music revival that is currently burgeoning in SA as well as in the UK and USA. In particular, Cape town has a many active Folkies like Bill Knight, Dax Butler, Jenny and the Jameses and plenty more. KZN still has the famous Dave Marks ( Master Jack, Mountains of men, writer) Jacob’s Saw, The Hinds Brothers and also a bunch of others. Colin Shamley is in PE and unfortunately Brian Finch is currently troubled with cancer and a folk musos campaign is on to gather funds for his treatment.

  2. The first weekend music-festival was held in Kromdraai (outside Jhb) in 1986.It was called “Concert on the Farm” 20 odd bands played among them the Cherry Faced Lurchers, Mapansula, The Genuines and many other great acts of the time. 3 more Concerts were held-last one in 1997. A LOT of SA bands played there at the various events (the last one had 40 odd bands including Nude Girls, Wonderboom, Just Jinger,Urban Creep etc etc. ) Never made enough money to continue though!

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