Beachfront to rock

There will some good rocking going down on Margate Beachfront Boulevard, KwaZulu Natal, from April 27 to April 30  as some of South Africa’s top acts keep visitors to the South Coast Bike Fest in the groove.

“The South Coast Bike Fest 2018 talented line-up has escalated to incorporate a reflective melting pot of genres and colourful array of artists,” says event organiser, Vicky Wentzel. “We have specifically created a rock element of hand-selected bands, voted in by the motorcycle fraternity that will keep the Jack Daniels Rock Stage rocking 12 hours a day throughout the festival. A tremendous amount of detail has been put into selecting a creative line-up across the programme because we truly care about every person who attends the event.”

This year, The Carling Black Label Main Beach Stage themes will change daily – opening with an Afrikaans rock session, moving towards the younger base of visitors on the Saturday, which includes big-name artists appearing at different festival venues, finishing off the set with a colourfes Bollywood vibe on the final day.

Organisers have also arranged for a third line-up of artists set to feature on the jazz and reggae decks. Add street busking, marching bands, street hip hop, dance and even acapella to the mix and this is truly a not-to-be-missed music festival.

The Jack Daniels Rock Stage and Carling Black Label Main Beach Stage will reverberate with the sounds of South Africa’s finest bands, singers and DJs. Among them are Belville-based Unit 11, a band whose rock with blues undertones has become synonymous with the Jack Daniels name countrywide. ‘Sleeze’ rockers, The Sinners, hail from Durban and find their hillbilly rock musical inspiration in Tarantino Films, card counting and hangovers.

Alternative rockers, The Color Blew combine talent and passion to create music that is fuelled by the moment and the audience will get a glimpse at local talent, Circle of Stones, a four-piece hard rock and blues band from the South Coast.

Bellville’s iconic frontman of Fokofpolisiekar and Van Coke Kartel – Francois Van Coke – will be performing a number of his hits including the poignant ballad,’ Toe Vind Ek Jou’. Another South African legend, Karen Zoid will prove why she earned the Best Female Artist title at the 2008 South African Music Awards (SAMAs). This Belgian-born Johannesburg local is considered by many to be South Africa’s ‘Queen of Rock’.

Also featuring at this star-studded event is Springbok Nude Girls, a group that started playing to university crowds in Stellenbosch before become national icons with hits including ‘Bubblegum on My Boots’ and ‘Blue Eyes’.

On Saturday afternoon, the Carling Black Label Main Beach Stage will welcome Doowap, a sound engineering graduate with a love for bass-driven music that emerged during her time on the underground music scene. SAMAs-nominated, Durban-born Kyle Deutsch – a chiropractor by trade – will take to the stage later that night, having recently performed as an opener for Justin Bieber alongside the Wolf Pack collective.

Other Saturday acts that are not to be missed include Aewon Wolf, Sketchy Bongo and Timo ODV, while Sunday keeps the beats going with a number of headline artists, among them Chunda Munki – the DJ and producer who also goes by the name Blayze Saunders.

Ramsgate local, Aden Hinds, will feature at the Carling Black Label Main Beach stage on Sunday night. Hinds is known as an insightful, melodic songwriter with a warm, distinctive voice which has taken him across the country and as far as India. He started his career as an informal mentee of legendary Syd Kitchen who had a profound influence on his musical style.

Another singer/songwriter making waves internationally is Fish Hoek-resident Matthew Mole who made South African chart history by becoming the first local artist to enter the iTunes album chart number one with his debut album, ‘The Home We Built’. He’ll showcase his international-level talent at the Carling Black Label Main Beach Stage on Sunday night. Following him will be Cape Town’s live electronic act, The Kiffness, with fellow Capetonian electronic trio, GoodLuck, set to get the crowd wild with their musical mayhem.

Those attending the Party on the Move will get to enjoy music by legendary DJs including DJ Fresh, DJ Bruce and Michael Zuma while those making it to the Midday Shandis Nton Nton will be entertained by Gagasi FM anchors – DJ LeSoul, Felix Hlophe and FlyMotion.

In addition to the musical acts, the South Coast Bike Fest has an action-packed line-up of entertainment, tasty cuisine, coastal bars and brilliant biking displays.

All bikers and pillions are urged to pre-register online for #freefunseeker tickets which gives free access to the entire event precinct including the main stage featuring all the headline artist performances.

All non-biking pedestrians will be charged a nominal fee of R60 per day which provides access to the event precinct including the three main beach festival stages, beachfront boulevard themed bars, street entertainment, demo rides, trader and expo zones, stunt shows, food courts, EnduroX staging arenas and all associated motorcycle enthusiast festival activations.

For another R150, #fuelyourfun ticket holders can access the Carling Black Label Main Beach Stage Golden Circle.

Pre-registration for the biking community and limited pedestrian ticket sales are available at






Sound sense

What do you do when you are a successful business person and have a passion for music? You get a B Hons in music and build a recording studio.

At least, that is the route taken by Port Shepstone, KZN engineer Thulani Bhengu (40) who is currently building a cutting edge studio facility on the site of an old house in Southport – a small village just north of Port Shepstone and in the heart of the Hibiscus Coast.

An integral part of the studio complex is a five-bedroom Bed & Breakfast accommodation setup for musicians recording at the facility.

The studio – as yet unnamed – will feature state of the art recording equipment plus separate sound booths for the various instruments and will be totally soundproof and inaudible to the nearby residents.

“I will probably involve a couple of local schools in a competition to design the logo and name the studio,” says Bhengu. “The winning school will get a cash prize for its art department.”

The affable young entrepreneur was born and bred in the Gamalakhe township near Margate on the South Coast of KwaZulu Natal and, post school, went on to study engineering and then to form the civil engineering company Ngcolosi Consulting Engineers.

“With the business up and running nicely, about six years ago I decided I could indulge my passion for music,” he says. “I took piano lessons and this went well. I am now in the midst of exams for my Music BA Hons through a university in England.

“During the earlier years I helped a number of young local musicians by sponsoring studio time for them and this grew to the point I installed a small recording studio at my home. However, a combination of musician hours and time in the studio started interfering with family life.

“This cemented my decision to create a stand alone studio.”

Bhengu explains the decision to incorporate the accommodation suites was based on experience with musicians.

“Travel for many of these people is a major problem and so much valuable time is wasted if they have come from far afield each day. Also, between leaving the studio on one day, going home and maybe going out for a few beers with friends, there is a detectable change in voice tone by the following day.

“It will be much better to contain them on site to maximise studio time and to try and eliminate the kind of changes I mentioned.”

The recording studio is 150 square metres in size and has individual sound booths plus the engineer’s control room, which will be kitted with the latest generation recording facilities sourced from England.

The studio itself has been designed by Johannesburg-based sound specialist, Harry Timmerman from 4th Dimension and, besides the soundproof cladding one would expect, features double width air-gapped walls to prevent any sound creep inside the facility or any leakage to the neighbourhood.

Even in its current state of ‘undress’ a handclap anywhere in the studio precinct produces no echo!

“The specification for the studio and the equipment being installed can be compared to that used by the giant studios overseas such as Sony BMG and Lucas Films,” says Timmerman, who is a THX certified audio engineer.

“The backbone of the recording desk will be Pro Tools, while the Playback Suite will conform to full Auro standard with 32 speakers, so the artists can hear every minor nuance of their work and become wholly immersed in the sound. There are only a handful of studios worldwide that have this specification and this a first for South Africa.

“The smallest sound booth is 7,8 square metres and we are using Miller and Kreiselle speakers throughout – the same speakers used in the creation of the soundtracks for movies such as Pearl Harbour, Gladiator, Jurassic Park and Star Wars.”

A resident full-time sound engineer will be employed to operate the equipment but Bhengu says artists are more than welcome to bring with their own producers to work with the engineer during the recordings.

Significantly, studio time in Southport will be around a quarter of the cost of time in a Johannesburg studio, making it that much more accessible to young and upcoming artists.

“We intend to be as flexible as possible,” said Bhengu. “Many young musicians just want to get one or two tracks recorded professionally they can use for promotional purposes and possible radio play while they build a following that would justify going into studio to record an entire album.

“We need to make it as easy as possible for them to do that. At the same time, the lower cost we hope will attract top line and well-known artists to the venue and we would also love to see some foreign artists taking advantage of our lovely sunshine, the beautiful South Coast and the value of the Rand to record here.”

So, why Southport?

Bhengu chuckles and explains: “I bought the house eight years ago and wanted to have the zoning changed so I could move my office there. However, my staff was so against the idea I ended up renting it out as house for a few years.

“When the idea for a recording studio took hold, it was the ideal venue. I approached all the neighbours and we submitted the plans and proposals to the Council. Nobody was opposed to the idea as long as we could guarantee the studio would be soundproof.

“All the nearby residents have been very supportive of the project – which I hope will be complete by December of this year.”

Local resident and drummer for The Sound Dogs, Mike Linten says many local musicians are likely to benefit from the facility and that it will be a long-term gain for tourism in the area.


Wake Up to the Frost

Telling someone “to catch a wake up” is usually dismissive of their abilities, intentions or a combination of both. Telling yourself, on the other hand, is motivational – exactly what Albert Frost has done with his new album, ‘The Wake Up’.

The legendary (well, in the circles I like to move in) blues guitarist is in a state as we chat backstage at The Barnyard in Umhlanga before the live launch of the album to a Durban audience. He is, quite frankly, terrified and this is palpably obvious in the body language, but it is the eyes that are really telling the tale.

There is so much excitement in those eyes, so much belief in what is to come….

“Some of the ideas included in the album go back 20 years,” he says. “However, most of it has really happened in the last year.”

Back in the 90’s when just 15, he joined the Blue Broers as guitarist – in itself an interesting mix as his father, Frank Frost was the drummer. Sadly, Frank died in 1999 and it was nearly the end for the band that used to rattle the pipes in The Pump House on Cape Town’s Waterfront.

Fortunately the band recovered and Albert grew in the role to become one of the country’s leading blues players. He also expanded his own horizones and has worked with the likes of Arno Carstens, Koos Kombuis and Vusi Mahlasela as well as being a regular member of Riders From the Storm with Mel Botes, Nathan Smith, Piet Botha and Valiant Swart.

He has shared stages with The Rolling Stones, R.E.M. and Simple Minds and performed for Nelson Mandela. Alongside Arno Carstens, he shared the stage with Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and the Pixies.

He’s played all major festivals in South Africa as well as having had the honour of performing solo at the famed Isle Of Wight festival, where he also did a collaboration with James Walsh from ‘Starsailor’.

Some months ago he announced his decision to quit the Blues Broers permanently.

“It really was a hard choice, but I needed to finish The Wake Up and I needed to have no commitments that would interefere with the writing and recording,” he says. “I love the blues, I will always love the blues, but I needed to exand musically out of that niche and The Wake Up is a mixture of things and influences from pure rock to West African sounds, accoustic to electric and all stops in between.

“I needed to be more than just a lead guitarist and this is me ‘coming out’ as a singer and songwriter as well.”

Frost is joined on the album by Jonno Sweetman on drums and Schalk Joubert on bass – for the live launch augmented by Peter Mitchell on accoustic guitar and backing vocals.


“The whole album is self-funded from the recording through to sales and marketing. The good thing is I had total control over the production, which I co-produced with Albert Meinjties and recorded at VH Studios – and I am extremely happy with the result.”

Like Shotgun Tori, Piet Botha  and so many other local musicians he spends months on the road playing small and larger venues, festivals and country shows with little or no support from the industry at large or from radio stations, these tours involving moving, setting up and taking down their own equipment and most often all on the same night before hitting the road again.

Getting industry support is a problem going back to the ‘50s. Simply, the return on investment for the record companies comes from sales volumes and by far the largest music buying audience in the country wanted its own from township jazz to the more modern hiphop/kwaito tastes.

At the other end of music spectrum it really was only the ‘vanilla’ pop artists such as The Dealians, 4 Jacks & a Jill, The Bats, Steve Hofmeyer and the like who could generate enough volume to make it worth coughing up for studio time. Mango Groove and PJ Powers both managed to stretch their music across all spectrums and were value for money.

Make no mistake, the local record industry has never been a ‘supporter’ of local music – they’re in it for the money.

Back then there was LM Radio that was prepared to push musical boundaries (when SABC banned all play of The Beatles) and post LM came Capital Radio. Today, the national stations have morphed into an androgenuous mass pumping out insipid music – gone are the adventurous DJ’s such as Chris Prior, Leon Economides and Gavin Buckle, to name but a few.

True, they are all around on streaming radio and even LM Radio has made a comeback – but it is national airplay that generates interest, motivates sales and convinces corporate execs to spend the money on new local talent.

Sure, some less than mainstream artists did make records on the corporate dollar – Otis Waygood Blues Band, Hawk, Freedom’s Childrem, Sugadrive and Baxtop….Oh! and not to forget Rabbitt. However, these remain a few and most did not get the airplay support they needed either.

Imagine, even now, a radio DJ daring to announce a new song by Fokofpoliesiekar!

So, musicians like Albert Frost remain dedicated to their craft – and it is not surpising he is so thrilled with being able to control the end result of his work.

The Wake Up is 11 songs – some he wrote himself and some with Albert Meintjies, Hunter Kennedy and one with Simon Orange. Two he co-wrote with the man he rates as the finest guitarist in the country – his brother-in-law and fellow musician, Robin Auld.

Songs are very often stories and the tracks on The Wake Up are just that – stories from Albert Frost’s perspective that need to be heard. Tales of love, life, record companies or just being ‘Outside’ ‘Tonight’ in the ‘Summer Rain’ enjoying a ‘Modern Romance’ before ‘The Wake Up’ and ‘Leaving Town’, back ‘Against The Wall’ at ‘Sunrise’ with the ‘Morning Pages’ fluttering in the breeze as this place is ‘Home No More’ but we’re still ‘Together’


Coming of the storm

20130123_201322 Riders 2_edited Riders_edited Piet Botha

There is something, perhaps insanely, magical about the mental images conjured up by the words “Cities on flame with rock and roll/ Three thousand guitars they seem to cry/ My ears will melt, and then my eyes/ Oh, let the girl, let that girl, rock and roll/ Cities on flame now, with rock and roll”.

Even if Blue Oyster Cult was tending for some overkill with the notion of 3 000 guitars, there is just as delicious an image with six rock axemen doing it live.

And they are!

In a country that produces a prodigious amount of talent and all too often an equal amount of under-enthusiasm for artists not named Steve or Kurt, the rock guitar legends are fighting back through ‘Riders from the Storm’, an initiative undertaken by Mel Botes, renowned for his master craftsmanship on the electric guitar, his interpretations of various legendary rock works, his original compositions and his classical repertoire.

Says Botes: “The concept was born out of similar projects undertaken by international rock legends such as Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. Locally, we have also had unprecedented success with the band ‘6 Snare’, in which we have combined six of the most popular Afrikaans folk musicians into one group, roughly following the same recipe used by the international supergroup ‘The Travelling Wilburys’.

“Hence, joining six of the most prolific electric guitar players into one rock supergroup was a logical next step to take.”

The band members shared a stage for the first time at their maiden performances in February last year at the Atterbury Theatre in Pretoria. Most recently they performed at Shelley Point in St Helena Bay as part of the Hyundai SA launch of the Santa Fe – cars and rock ‘n roll, always a good mix.

The band members are: Mel Botes, Piet Botha, Albert Frost, Valiant Swart and Nathan Smith. There will always be an invited sixth ‘mystery’ member who will be selected from guitarists from popular local rock bands, session musicians and solo artists. In fact, for the latest gig, Mauritz Lotz joined and Robin Auld was the guest – Nathan Smith sitting this one out.

Botes is an accomplished player, interpreter and originator of legendary rock works, including his evergreen nationwide top-sellers ‘Crazy Diamond – A tribute to Pink Floyd’; ‘Sultans of Swing – A tribute to Dire Straits’ and his own original, ‘David’s Confession – About Time, Chapter II.

Piet Botha is renowned as one of the pioneers of South African rock and has become a legend in his own time as front man of ‘Jack Hammer’ as well as a host of solo Afrikaans and English rock works. Along with the likes of Valiant Swart, it was Botha who was a ‘voortrekker’ of Afrikaans rock and their groundbreaking work probably paved the way for the likes of Koos Kombuis and Fokof Polisiekar.

It was never easy and in the early days more attention was paid by the media to who Botha was related to than the music and I recall talking to him at an early Jack Hammer gig where he said, emphatically: “I don’t care about that shit; I just want to play music.”

In fact, what they were doing back then was a huge step away from what was considered ‘normal’ for a pair of ‘boereseuns’ and their songs were not cutesy little ditties about boy meets girl but real reflections of life, love, hate, fear and hope in a changing South Africa. And this probably scared the crap out much of the ‘establishment’.

Now, older and sporting a Willie Nelson kind of look as the long tresses ease towards grey, he is doing just that. Playing the music. So too is Valiant Swart.

As a session musician, Mauritz Lotz’s innovative style can be heard on more than 1 000 local album productions and he has shared the stage with various South African artists supporting international artists such as Roberta Flack, The Bee Gees, The Rolling Stones, Ronan Keaton, Eric Clapton, Sting, Midnight Oil, Joan Armatrading and OMD.

It is hardly surprising the rest of the Riders joke about taping two of his fingers together before a gig to even the playing field.

Albert Frost is one of the most accomplished guitarists in South Africa and brings some edgy blues-rock to the collaboration, having cut his teeth with the Blues Broers and in his capacity as a solo artist or with his trio.

Says Botes: “The brief to these musicians was simple – each had to contribute three compositions to the group’s performance in which that particular musician plays the lead guitar to accompaniment from a full rock band.

“They were given a choice between original or standard rock renditions, provided the music fitted within the overall criterion of ground-breaking work. Furthermore, each musician also had to submit material that could be played be the group as a whole, balancing recognisable sounds with new artistic works.

Of course, Riders would be little without proper backing and the engine room of the group comprises Ghapi (aka Phillip Botha) on drums, Simon Orange (Blue Broers) on keyboards and Schalk van der Merwe (Bed on Bricks) on bass.

Unkindly they have been called a ‘cover band’ and, perhaps, in a sense they are. However, it is the interpretation that makes for originality and the mix does include original works from each of the collaborators, such as Valiant Swart’s ephemeral ‘Die Vloek van die Kitaar’, ‘Suitcase vol Winter’ (Piet Botha), ‘All of Woman’ (Robin Auld), ‘Mountains’ (Albert Frost), ‘Torremelinos’ (Mel Botes) and ‘Nemesis’ (Mauritz Lotz).

There’s a spider-shiver that runs from the base of your spine to smack you in the back of the head when the entire ensemble gathers its collective force to belt our “Riders on the Storm (The Doors), Smoke on the Water (Deep Purple), ‘Le Grange’ (ZZ Top) or ‘All Along the Watchtower’ (Bob Dylan/Jimi Hendrix) and you have never heard Beethoven’s 9th Symphony played the way Mel Botes does it.

Other contributions include material from Pink Floyd, Toto, Santana, Johnny Cash, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young and Gary Moore.

This is a storm of epic proportions and it’s coming for you!