By Vanessa

I was first introduced to the folk Afrikaans music of the Radio Kalahari Orkes in 2012. Trust me, I was a late bloomer when it came to this discovery. RKO had been around since 2005. When I first heard the music, I thought to myself, “Where have I been all this time that I missed this gem?”

Now, I am not so much into Afrikaans music; mostly because I have been exposed to the shallow side of the genre; the Europop of Afrikaans. The EDM of Afrikaans. The stuff that is produced in a garage with a Casio keyboard with the same loop over and over again. Those songs sung by guys who all sound the same and sing lyrics like “Jy is nie lief vir my nie”, “Ek wil jou sien”, “Wys my jou muis”. You get my drift.

The first album I listened to is called “Die Geheim van Slangfontein”, which featured collaborations between RKO and Jack Parow and Chris Chameleon to name but a few. The song “Staan my by” is a stunning tribute to friendship and camaraderie, but the track that stole my heart is “Transboer”.

Now, I am a true patriot of my country. Having travelled to many countries throughout my life, I learned that my heart is in Africa – more specifically South Africa. Being alive at this very time and moment is a blessing and not a curse and that I am living as new pages are being written in history books. Many friends and family have left South Africa in search of greener pastures due to political turmoil and financial instability, but I have chosen to stay because this is my country in all splendour and beauty. The song “Transboer” perfectly captures the feeling in my spirit when it comes to choosing to stay, accepting the changes and working towards a better tomorrow for us all.

Transboer … die trek lê vorentoeEen voet in die verledeTwee oë wat voorwaarts loerTransboer… my broer woon in ParaguaySussie bly in LondenMaar ek vang vis in die Katrivier en ek moet sê dit voel kwaai. Ja…

Radio Kalahari Orkes

So that was me: hooked. In order for me to appreciate music; to love it enough to purchase it and to listen to it over and over again, and to become a full-on groupie, certain criteria must be met – so to speak. For me, if it has organic instruments that can create landscape sound, profound or fun lyrics, unique vocals and intelligent musical construction and format, I am sold. And this is exactly what happened with the Radio Kalahari Orkes and their music. They encapsulate all of these aspects in one foul swoop. They gained a fan for life.

I was over the moon when I stumbled upon a post on Facebook notifying the Lowvelders that we would be graced with RKO’s presence. We were to be spoiled to a show at The Barnyard at Casterbridge, White River two weeks’ ago. I immediately organized tickets as by now, I have become somewhat of a ‘groupie’ and if their music sounds that good in digital format, I could not imagine what it would sound like live – because you know, live is better.

Enter Barnyard Theatre on Friday night and the place was already humming with Afrikaans folk music enthusiasts. However, the turnout was not all as grand as I had hoped. I suspect the event was probably poorly marketed and advertised as the Radio Kalahari Orkes is well known and supported throughout our country. Nevertheless, in spite of a mediocre attendance, I was ready and could not wait for Ian Roberts to make an appearance on stage.

And then suddenly, there they were: frontman Ian Roberts on guitar, Alicia Van Dyk on female vocals and accordion, Bradley Cooper on drums, Barry Steenkamp on bass guitar, Wynand Davel on violin and Friso Woudstra on guitar. They did not hesitate to get right into what they do best: folk music. And when I say folk music, I’m talking next level.

During the first set, we heard some new songs, and even an English number and after the brief drinks break some of the old stuff where everyone had a chance to sing along. The music was flawless. It was better than the albums. They were better than better.

 Ian Roberts and Jannie Kromhout -
photo by Vanessa Small Town Music
Ian Roberts and Jannie Kromhout
(photo by Vanessa)

Ian Roberts has a stage personality second to none. With a very dry sense of humour and his deep voice, I felt like I was being whisked away into storyteller land. He enabled us, through song, dance and music, to feel like we were part of the stories told; that we were living inside the folklore being so gracefully narrated in their melodic masterpieces.

Vanessa with Ian Roberts of Radio Kalahari Orkes (photo supplied by Vanessa)
Vanessa with Ian Roberts of Radio Kalahari Orkes
(photo supplied by Vanessa)

After the show, the band humbly joined the eager crowds at the bar where we all had the opportunity to shake their hands and even have selfies taken with the legendary Ian himself. What a guy. What a band. Humble, down to earth and eternally grateful for the people who made the effort to see them sing.

When I think about it now, it is almost as though Ian Roberts is our very own Roger Waters – without the sad stuff. But the music was just as good and the storytelling just as riveting.

Anyone who plans on seeing them live wherever they may find themselves in our beautiful country, you will not regret it. In fact, you will – like me – be talking about them for many days afterwards. They are proudly South African, super talented and they have the power to bring people together through music.

In their words and taken from the song “Kwagga” Afrikaans: die taal wat skop en dans. They have certainly made me proud to be South African and thanks to them, we are not always subject to the Sokkie Treffers that are constantly being shoved down our throats until our ears bleed.

If you haven’t seen them yet, do yourself a favour. It will be a night you won’t soon forget!

Vanessa is a hippy/gypsy/traveller of the world. A single mom who loves all things music and a complete festival junkie