3rd Ear Music 3rd Ear Music
Hidden Years ArchivesHidden Years ReiussesNews ForumLyricsProjectsGallery - Musicians & EventsAbout 3rd Ear MusicOrder PageLinks
 The Sugarman Rises Again. Steve Biko Stirs?

The Sugarman Rises Again. Steve Biko Stirs?

The re-discovery of Sixto Jesus Rodriguez via the award winning film, Searching for Sugarman – an extraordinary story that is wonderfully filmed we hear here –is a glaring illustration of how journos, documentary makers, authors can re-invent our past… and it’s not entirely their fault? OK, so maybe they did need to do a little more R&D? Now one doesn’t want to blunt the glory of Sixto’s beautiful moment – and it does make us SAfricans feel good; credited as we have been with re-discovering Sixto & his contemporary Folk Songs… 40 years after the Cold Fact. Good one Stephen Segerman. However, Sugarman is the most successful of many ‘doccies’ since 1994. Amandla - in 4 Part Harmony… in unison it should’ve read – is another that purposefully avoided the whole HY truth. Was it really just to qualify for foreign PC funding?

With respect to Rodriguez (and the music media who, after 4 decades of ignoring him, are now clamouring all over each other to climb on a struggle band-wagon - who is Craig Strydom BTW?) - Sixto was not the first singer-song-writer to turn pale SAfricans into rabid revolutionaries with his songs. Relax, have another toke; even the Security Branch SAP records of the 60’s (just ask Uncle Jacob or Jackie for a peep?) would reflect a different tall-tale -but without the smoke ‘n mirrors.

If the truth be known… & why on earth should it be? -sometime before the great American Folk Music Scare of the 60’s (thanks Dave Von Ronk) there were quite a number of South African singer-songwriters & revolting protesting Folkies who could fill the ‘coffee bars’ of Hillbrow, Student Union Halls and ‘Folk Clubs’ in the cities & suburbs, and our Free Peoples Concerts (Also - see the Jeremy Taylor - Piece of Ground below >>)

The desk mixed recordings of reel-taped stories that are sadly in the process of oxidizing (in the ‘7 tons of stuff’ up at SAMRO), tell a different story than some of the PC codswallop that’s been flung around lately. And with respect, not a Rodriguez protest song was to be heard at any of our many Free Peoples Concerts or 3rd Ear Music clubs! None that myself or the reel-tapes recall. Occasionally we’d hear a catchy Rodriguez love ballad or a tribute to the dealer, in a club, but then we didn’t deal too much in covers back in the early 70’s and later 60’s. We were at war remember; with the State, the SABC, the record industry and ourselves!

There must have been hundreds of thousands of SAfricans who were attracted to this ‘folk scare’ movement thing over 30 odd years … as were dozens of Special Branch Dicks – and this was achieved without the aid of commercial recordings & no mainstream-media to speak of; unless there was sex ‘n drugs involved. So, what’s changed? Nothing but the positions, times & technology!? (See Warrant Officer Paul Erasmus’ Foot Soldier for Apartheid >>

BTW – Even if the majority of Folk singers were not, as some new-age PC academics have been led to believe, overtly protesty or political; simply being a Folk ‘n Rock or Jazzitte, or attending a Folk, Rock‘n Jazz Festival or a so-called mixed-meeting, folk festival, poetry function or cross-cultural gathering, made one a suspect in the eyes of the law! The hair, the clothes & the occasional herb or chemical didn’t really help that view either. Anyway, Sixto joined the folk-scare of the Americas in the late 60’s & recorded in the early 70’s. In the meantime SAfricans were listening to Tony Bird, Colin Shamley, John Oakley-Smith, John Phillips (Zim version), Des Lindberg, Jeremy Taylor, Ramsay McKay, et al… Ring a bell? Into the 70’s - who in the NSA heard of Jannie Hofmeyr, Paul Clingman, Roger Lucey, Koos Du Plessis etc.? Of course ‘you’ haven’t!

The Silent Revolution

Reshaping or re-inventing history from the mid 1980’s isn’t as easy for the mainstream media or the record and music industries as it was in the commercially unrecorded 1960’s Folk Scare era. Thanks mainly to Lloyd Ross & Shifty Records many ‘alternative’ musicians from those daze are reasonably known & can be heard on record today. Their recordings were being distributed in the 1980’s with support from the burgeoning ‘alternative / underground press’, live gigs, festivals & clubs;but still no mainstream media or record industry support & no Radio airtime or TV. We now, more-or-less know of James ‘Bernoldus Niemand’ Phillips, Johannes Kerkorel, Koos Kombuis & others.

FYI Those who may not know - Rodriguez’s debut album, Cold Fact, sank off the coast of America in around 1971 and was salvaged in South Africa a few years later to become a so-called ‘underground’ hit; which is a little bit of a misnomer given that it sold hundreds of thousands of records above ground in South Africa (if nowhere else in the world); issued by, among other labels, Trutone Records – a division of Gallo Africa – Rodriguez, BTW, never received a cent in royalties. Ho Hum!!

But here’s another thang: just as with our South African musicians in exile, Rodriguez, for the record, did have his songs pressed into a commercial vinyl long-play recording. No such luxury was afforded any SAfrican singer-songwriter or any musician of note in the 60’s & 70’s who dared to stray – with song lyrics or stage presentations from the pop mainstream, despite filling concert halls, clubs, coffee-bars and festivals. It was only the South African Folk Music Association (SAFMA) & 3rd Ear Music who issued a few Lounge Recorded ‘Singer-Songwriter Folk Albums’ in the late 60’s early 70’s… thanks to Ben Segal record collector, archivist and 3rd Ear Music Founder in the mid 60’s. 100 / 150 copies of each LP album were pressed & posted. 3rd Ear Music / SAFMA were in effect the very first ‘indies’ who recorded & encouraged the regional ‘Folk Clubs’ to capture the moment and record their events; The Four Winds in Port Elizabeth & The Natal Folk Music Association; ‘clubs’ of Folk Musicians & Singer-Songwriters - as pale & as scary as they may have been (quote) to the safety & security of the state – were part of that Silent Revolution!

It seems as if Rodriguez certainly was an influence on many politically stymied & socially conscious frustrated troopies & folk-followers; as was Bob Dylan & many other US & UK Folk. So too was Eddie Grant with his (and SAfrican Mutt Lange’s produced) hit, Joanna, heard & joyfully danced too at almost every pale-face braai & disco; but the point is, was anybody really listening & encouraged to plant bombs or march – toyi-toyi or dance in the street because of it? I don’t think so! But who knows? Blowing in the Wind could often be heard in hotel lobbies & lifts (elevators). Who knows how many of those nifty polite toothy ‘lift’ operators in maroon suits, gold fez & white gloves were moved & motivated enough by the ‘Protest Muzak’ to go shake a few Molotov Cocktails? See Rick Andrews’ book – Buried in the Sky – troopies singing protest songs in the Border War days, see also >>


If you have any comments about this article, please drop us a line.

back to top
This Web Site is designed and maintained by Art Arena