South African Music History: Bright Blue’s Weeping

Weeping by Bright Blue

This is the original uncensored music video for Bright Blue’s seminal South African song ‘Weeping’. It was filmed by Nic Hofmeyr on the Cape Flats in the late nineteen eighties, during the State of Emergency. Catch the ‘Nkosi Sikelela’ bridge, snuck onto SABC airwaves despite the anthem’s banning, and look out for the late Basil ‘Manenberg’ Coetzee on sax, filmed in Manenberg township! The song has been covered by Josh Grobin, Vusi Mahlasela and others.

Nic Hofmeyr


I knew a man who lived in fear
it was huge it was angry
it was drawing near
Behind his house a secret place
was the shadow of the demon
he could never face.

He built a wall of steel and flame
and men with guns to keep it tame
Then standing back he made it plain
that the nightmare would never ever rise again
But the fear and the fire and the guns remain.

It doesn’t matter now it’s over anyhow
He tells the world that it’s sleeping
But as the night came round I heard
it slowly sound
it wasn’t roaring it was weeping
it wasn’t roaring it was weeping.

SAX SOLO – Basil Coetzee

And then one day the neighbours came
they were curious to know about the smoke and flame
They stood around outside the wall
but of course there was nothing to be heard at all
“My friends”, he said, “we’ve reached our goal
the threat is under firm control
As long as peace and order reign
I’ll be damned if I can see a reason to explain
Why the fear and the fire and the guns remain”.

It doesn’t matter now it’s over anyhow
He tells the world that it’s sleeping
But as the night came round I heard
it slowly sound
it wasn’t roaring it was weeping
it wasn’t roaring it was weeping.


It doesn’t matter now it’s over anyhow
He tells the world that it’s sleeping
But as the night came round I heard
it slowly sound
it wasn’t roaring it was weeping
it wasn’t roaring it was weeping.

Composed by: Heymann/ Fox/ Cohen/ Cohen

Recorded and released by Bright Blue in 1987. One of South Africa’s greatest songs… includes instrumental references to ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica’.


New Video, Take Me Down from Steve Louw, launched today!

Steve Louw – Take Me Down

The official video for “Take Me Down”, created by Jacqui Van Staden and Kian Eriksen.

Written by Steve Louw.

From the album “Thunder And Rain“, released 11 November 2022.

Produced by Kevin Shirley.

Stream/download “Thunder And Rain” album:


by Steve Louw

A 1964 Epiphone Casino guitar gave me the gift of this song. The intro riff played high on the neck, sounding ‘Beatlesque’, led me to the chord changes and chorus.

A song of endings and beginning of solace in solitude, of joy in the future, of hope, resilience, and anticipation for the future.


Five in the morning
I’m out of my head
I can hear voices calling
People I thought were dead
And it’s alright, you know
When you’re down on your knees
I can see the light
Coming up on the trees.

Take me down, down, down
Down to the ground
You got to count me down
Count me down, but don’t count me out
Count me down to the ground.

Hey, I got to say, it’s gonna be OK
Hey, I got to say, it’s gonna be OK.

One more piece to make a picture
‘Til you can say yes
I think you know the one
I’m sure you can guess
Yeah, the love you feel
That’s been laid at your gate
Oh, you know, you know it’s real
You can feel the weight.

You gotta take me down, down, down
Take me down to the ground, yeah, yeah
Count me down, count me down, yeah
Don’t count me out, down, down.

I said hey, I want to say hey
It’s gonna be OK, it’s gonna be OK
I got to say, it’s gonna be OK
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Oh yeah, yeah.

‘Cause I’ll take the hours
I’m watching the trees
Or the flowers
Around the bees
Or that picture, anything I please
It’s alright, it’s OK, ‘cause I’m gonna be
I’m, I’m gonna be, I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be free, yeah, yeah.

You got to take me down, down, down
You can take me down, down, down not out
Just count me down, down, down to the ground
Take me down, take me rolling round.

I said hey, I got to say
It’s gonna be OK
I got to say, you gonna be OK
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
You can hear it now, it’s gonna be
You got to be, yeah free, oh yeah
Gonna be, gonna be, gonna be
You gonna be, yeah, yeah, free
I got to say, it’s gonna be OK
I got to say, gonna be OK
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jasper’s Acolytes – Water Through Our Hands

Jasper’s Acolytes – Water Through Our Hands

Video by Jasper’s Acolytes performing Water Through Our Hands. Released on Mountain Records (C) 2022, published by Songwrights Publishers. Video by Laura McCullagh.

This is an acoustic project reminiscent of 60s folk and harmony songs which I’ve just completed. All analogue recording. I think the sentiment affects all us oldies

Terence McCullagh

Memory Lane – Jasper’s Acolytes

The music that made me, the music that moved me: Leonard Cohen, Tracy Chapman, Counting Crows and The National | Rodney Reiners

From Rodney Reiners Blog

I feel music.

I don’t listen to it, I don’t hear it.

I feel it.

As the ‘laat lammetjie” [late child] in the family, and my siblings much older, I spent much of my childhood alone. Trapped inside my head, and unable to make sense of the bizarre South Africa I was born into, music provided an escape route, a safety valve, a mellifluous, lyrical conduit to quell the encroaching demons.

So, even today, music, songs that appeal to me, simply seep into my consciousness; it wriggles under the skin and pervades my emotions in a manner that’s almost textural, tangible.

“Music is the emotional life of most people,” said Leonard Cohen.

Wherever we come from, whatever we are, whoever we are, irrespective of race, culture or religion, notwithstanding colour or creed, music is something we all have in common.

We might like different types, different sounds, different rhythms – rock, pop, classical, jazz, country, folk or even all the new musical genres  – but there’s no disputing the fact that music evokes emotion and memory.

As the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow so aptly summed up: “Music is the universal language of mankind.”

For me, it’s always about the listening, the feeling. I have an album of Paul Williams that I remember playing on repeat at the age of 12 – and I’ve always been charmed, captivated by the inscription on the back: “There are those who listen and those who wait to talk. This album is dedicated to the listeners.”

Earlier this week, my son, Rustin, and I watched the new Cohen documentary – “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song” – and it triggered, inspired this blog post.

As the movie credits scrolled down at the end of the documentary, the curtains to the screen of my life opened. It catapulted me back to my childhood, to the starting point where my love for music and, more importantly, lyrics and words, were first awakened.

Poet, singer and songwriter, Cohen’s inner strife, his pain and passion, has always intrigued and inspired. His dexterity with words, to make it come alive, to make emotions come oozing out of a phrase or sentence, provided comfort, cheer and clarity to this young kid growing up on the streets of Factreton.

In addition to the new documentary out on the circuit now, I’ve also seen the 1974 documentary, “Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire”, and the hauntingly beautiful “Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love”.

I also have his book, “The Flame”, which Rustin gave me as a birthday present a few years ago.

But, back then, musically, it wasn’t just Cohen…

It actually all started with John Lennon and the Beatles. As a young boy, I was obsessed with Lennon and his revolutionary, non-conformist approach to life. There was no TV, there was no social media, so I spent hours in the local library, reading just about anything that was available on Lennon and the Beatles.

In addition to Cohen and Lennon, there was Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Carole King, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Jim Croce, Don McLean, Janis Ian, Peter Sarstedt, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Bread and Fleetwood Mac [including the husky vulnerability of that most idiosyncratic voice, Stevie Nicks].

But music doesn’t only elicit emotion, it also freezes a moment in time. And that particular moment, that memory, endures – eternally. For me, that instant etched in time is Rustin, as a little boy, probably around 3 or 4, seat-belted in the back of my car, and singing along, at the top his voice, to the words of Alanis Morissette’s “Thank You, India/ Thank you terror/ Thank you disillusionment…”

And, I guess, as fate would have it, Rustin is a talented musician/singer/songwriter himself today.

In the same way that he was introduced to my love for music, he is now able to expose me to new singers and new sounds – like Phoebe Bridges, Gregory Alan Isakov, Novo Amor, Paolo Nutini, Harrison Whitford, City and Colour, Iron and Wine, Noah Gunderson, Sufjan Stevens, Ben Howard and Paper Kites, to name a few.

Rustin doing his music thing

My musical past, though, cannot be complete without three more names – Tracy Chapman, Counting Crows and The National.

When Chapman released her first album in 1988, it blew me away. “Fast Car” and its lyrics spoke to the socio-economic issues affecting so many South Africans, and “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” echoed the political struggle we were faced with.

The unique sound of the Counting Crows and the raw, emotionally-charged lyrics of enigmatic lead singer Adam Duritz always renders me exhausted and breathless. Duritz’s brutally honest, heart-on-a-sleeve style often brandishes a metaphorical razor blade at your emotions, your intellect. And, like a poet, he leaves you, spread-eagled in admiration, eager to craft your own interpretation of what you’ve just listened to, of what you’ve just felt.

I have almost every album the Counting Crows have released. There are so many good songs, so many good lyrics. But to share just one.. It comes from a song called, Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby: “If dreams are like movies, then memories are films about ghosts.”

It’s a kaleidoscope of words and thoughts and pictures and images and similes and metaphors – it’s just so clever, so complicated, so devilishly ingenious, that you wish you could have written it yourself.

Rustin introduced me to The National, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I never thought anybody could pen lyrics/words as good as Cohen and Duritz, but in The National’s lead singer, Matt Berninger, they certainly have a rival.

I have two of the band’s lyrics tattooed on my arms: “There’s a science to walking through windows”… and… “I’m the rocks they weigh down the angels with”. Explaining the words, and what it means to me, would take another 1 000 words – so take from it what you will.

I also have a tattoo featuring a Cohen lyric – it’s from a song, called Anthem: “There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in”.

In a world, in a life, so difficult to negotiate, so inaccessible, so bewildering to comprehend, Cohen’s glimmer of optimism in that meaningful line is something to desperately hold on to.

I still have a Cohen album [we called it LPs back then], in which Kris Kristofferson says he will carve the words of a Cohen song – “Bird on the Wire” – on his tombstone: “Like a bird on the wire/Like a drunk in a midnight choir/I have tried in my way to be free…”

The cover of the album, featuring Kris Kristofferson’s promise

Cohen died in 2016 at the age of 82. The music lives on.

I still listen, I still feel his music, the words, the emotions… And I will – until, in Cohen’s words: “I’m leaving the table/I’m out of the game…”

Emily Dickinson’s immortal words in the poem: “Because I could not stop for Death/He kindly stopped for me…” Sooner or later, we all have to get on that carriage. Cohen’s acceptance is summed up in the letter he wrote to Marianne Ihlen, his muse, the woman who inspired the song “So Long Marianne”.

Leonard’s letter to a dying Marianne

Cohen died four months later.

And I am left with my favourite lyric/image from ‘So Long, Marianne’ – which gave me goosebumps, as well as succour, at a time in my child/teen/hood when I needed something to staunch the flow of hopelessness: “I’m standing on a ledge and your fine spider web/is fastening my ankle to a stone.”

It’s now decades later – and those words are still as relevant as ever.

I’m still on a ledge, my ankle is still tied with a fine spider web…

New Song from 10 Rogue – Hell To Pay

10 ROGUE is a new breed of alternative metal band that grew out of the musical friendship of seasoned songwriters Jon Buckley and Vincent Weynen who were teenagers and mates in South Africa. Sadly, Jon passed away in 2017.

On the 28th of October 2022, 10 Rogue’s newest single “Hell to Pay” was released worldwide!

10 Rogue are a truly international band with members from Belgium and South Africa. 

The opening riff grabs you by the throat and shakes you until you submit, willingly!

And it doesn’t let go, until you are singing along to the powerful vocals, altogether now; “make you scream and shout, let it on out, yes, you got Hell to pay.”

10 Rogue – Hell To Pay

World in Union with PJ Powers & Tygerberg Children’s Choir | CTMA News: Youth in the Spotlight

World in Union (2020 Tribute) by PJ Powers and the Tygerberg Children’s Choir (TCC) is a tribute to all Covid-19 essential workers and public efforts made in fighting the corona virus pandemic. This new version of the song was filmed and recorded by the artists in isolation during the country’s lockdown, and released on Africa Day 25 May 2020.

According to PJ Powers the song choice was perfect for the cause as World in Union is a song that expresses so many things that we as humans need. “ When I did it in ‘95 for the Rugby World Cup it became a song of triumph and victory for South Africa, of unity and strength. This time around I approached the vocal with a sense of healing and hope in my mind, and without changing a lyric I feel that is what we have captured in this version.”

PJ and the TCC were originally scheduled perform at the 2020 Suidooster Festival in Cape Town during May. The project is a proud initiative by the Suidooster Festival in association with CTMA, Die Burger and other festival partners. Keep an eye on our social media platforms for new scheduled festival dates for 2020.

PJ Powers

Karina Erasmus, conductor, with members of the Tygerberg Children's Choir
Karina Erasmus, conductor, with members of the Tygerberg Children’s Choir

Lockdown Blues – The Bottom Barrel Blues Band

Featuring Robin Auld, Steve Walsh, Simon Orange, Tonia Möller, Schalk Joubert, Willem Möller, Kevin Gibson, Mauritz Lotz & Nico Mac

“Lockdown Blues” is a blues song created and performed by the Bottom Barrel Blues Band – a collaboration of prominent South African contemporary musicians. It was recorded individually by the artists in isolation during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.
True to the nature of the blues, “Lockdown Blues” is an uplifting, bitter-sweet tune depicting the challenges of life under lockdown regulations. It is produced by the Cape Town Music Academy (CTMA), a Cape Town based not for profit company, creating opportunities for local contemporary musicians.

During the Covid-19 pandemic many musicians have experienced a harsh decline or complete halt in income due to lockdown regulations and the ban on public gatherings. But despite these challenges, musicians will always express themselves, practice their craft and collaborate.
We therefore urge you to please support your local musicians by continuing to buy their albums, follow their online and streaming initiatives or by making a financial donation.

For more info on how you can donate to contemporary musicians in South Africa, please contact the Cape Town Music Academy at

“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” ― Billy Joel

Music by Robin Auld
Lyrics by Nico Mac/Robin Auld/Simon Orange
Video created & edited by Schalk Joubert
Arranged, Mixed & Mastered by Robin Auld
Executive Producer – The Cape Town Music Academy

Robin Auld – Vocals, Guitar & Harmonica
Simon Orange – Vocals & Keyboards
Steve Walsh – Vocals
Tonia Möller – Vocals
Kevin Gibson – Drums
Schalk Joubert – Bass
Willem Möller – Guitar
Mauritz Lotz – Guitar

Sugar Man song featured in trailer for “Moffie” film

The year is 1981 and South Africa’s white minority government is embroiled in a conflict on the southern Angolan border. Like all white boys over the age of 16, Nicholas Van der Swart (Kai Luke Brummer) must complete two years of compulsory military service to defend the Apartheid regime. The threat of communism and “die swart gevaar” (the black danger) is at an all-time high. But that’s not the only danger Nicholas faces. He must survive the brutality of the army – something that becomes even more difficult when a connection is sparked between him and a fellow recruit.

MOFFIE, is the 4th film by director Oliver Hermanus. It is produced by South African-born producer Eric Abraham who produced the Academy Award-winning films – Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida (2014) and Jan Sverak’s Kolya (1996) and Jack Sidey of Portobello Productions. It is based on the memoir, Moffie, by Andre-Carl van der Merwe and tells the story of a conscript who embarks on his military service in 1981 South Africa. In local theatres on 13 March 2020.

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Ghosts Of Berlin by The Lyzyrd Kyngs

Written in Berlin in the Summer of 2013 by Piet Botha. Recorded in South Africa August 2014. Piet Botha on Vocals & Guitar, Arthur Dennis on Guitar. Rudolph Dennis on Drums and Vocals. Adrian John Graham on Bass. Recorded and produced by Peter Pearlson with Charl Wentzel assisting. Footage of their Tour with Freygang in East Berlin.

New Lyzyrd Kyngs album is due in November 2014.

Cause It’s the Greatest Last Song Ever Recorded

By Mark Worth ​

Coming From Reality
Coming From Reality


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.”

Stephen Segerman speaks to Daily Maverick about Malik Bendjelloul

From Daily Maverick

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!’”

In an interview with Movie Scope Magazine in July 2012, Bendjelloul described the encounter:

“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 woman Camilla 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.

Woodstock Mafia – Trigger and Gun

Woodstock Mafia is proud to release their latest music video – ‘Trigger and Gun’. Shot on a minuscule budget, as always, ‘Trigger and Gun’ is a straight-up performance driven video emphasising contrasts of light and dark; one not necessarily good nor the other evil.

‘Trigger and Gun’ was produced by the core team behind the acclaimed ‘Electric Light’ music video, with Ric Shields once again directing and editing (for many hours).

The band would like to extend a special apology to the residents of upper Harrington Street in Cape Town. If it weren’t for the rain (and snow/hail) we’re certain you would have banged on our studio door at 4am and told us to shut up.

The video marks the release of the third single off Woodstock Mafia’s upcoming debut album, DEFIANCE.

Dead Men Don’t Tour, Rodriguez in South Africa 1998 (TV Documentary) |

Dead Men Don’t Tour, Rodriguez in South Africa 1998 (TV Documentary)

Footage from this documentary features strongly in the Oscar winning film, Searching For Sugar Man.

Directed by Tonia Selley, Dead Men Don’t Tour, was first broadcast on SABC 3 at 9.30pm on the 5th July 2001 just after ‘Ripley’s Believe Or Not’.

This film features wonderful concert footage, backstage antics, interviews with Craig Bartholomew Strydom and Stephen “Sugar” Segerman, Rodriguez and his family, the promoters, the fans and the musicians.

All live footage was filmed at the concerts in Pretoria, Durban and the Blues Room in Johannesburg.

The soundtrack for the documentary is based on the Live Fact CD with video collages from the various performances. The concert footage is linked with interviews, backstage antics, rehearsals, etc.

  1. I Wonder
  2. Inner City Blues
  3. Jane S. Piddy
  4. Sugar Man
  5. A Most Disgusting Song
  6. Like Janis
  7. Establishment Blues
  8. Climb Up On My Music
  9. I Wonder by Generation EXT (filmed during the studio recording)
  10. Forget It

Produced by Incha Productions
Executive producers: Georgina Parkin and Charles Watson
Directed by Tonia Selley
Edited by Cathy Winter

Footage from this documentary features strongly in the Oscar winning film, Searching For Sugar Man.

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