Koos Kombuis Set to Rock Park Acoustics
You millennial kids have no idea what you missed out on in the days preceding your birth. There was some real cultural protest going on in South Africa and at the forefront were a couple of important names in the music scene, including this dude…Koos Kombuis. Fortunately, all is not lost and he’s still performing. You can catch him at Park Acoustics on Sunday and you should. Legend is a word easily thrown around and devoid of the meaning but this guy…he’s an icon! Richard caught up with Koos ahead of his Park Acoustics gig. We’ll see you there (event details here). In the interview we talk Victor Matfield, AWB and Koos mentions what he thinks of today’s Afrikaans music.
Richard Chemaly (RC): Lekker Koos. Ons sien baie uit vir ‘n klein SoCo, Beyerskloof en Tas…maar tot dan, let’s keep it soutjie. I’m super honoured to be speaking with one of the Voëlvry. Most millennials are unaware of the contributions you, and the late Kerkorrel and Phillips made to the rise of the anti-establishment. Of course, we’re familiar with the James Phillips stage at Oppikoppi but that’s about as far as new age institutional memory goes. Today, we’ve got a new generation of the anti-establishment but you gents paved the way. Do you feel like the new generation is maintaining your legacy?
Koos Kombuis (KK): Most of the new Afrikaans music is crap, but there are enough young songwriters and musicians who are doing wonderfully innovative work. For me, it is not a matter of a legacy which must be maintained but a tradition of integrity. There were many artists of integrity, also before our time, and there are many who do so now. So never mind all the crap.
RC: When I was growing up, one of my mentors gave me one of your books, “The Secret Diary of God” which changed a lot of perspective for me. At the time, as an Englishman growing up in Bloem, I had viewed religion as I was taught, unaware that I was allowed to poke jokes or be critical about it. As I researched you with that great known as the internet, I remember getting a similar awakening to the critical internal movement within Afrikaner culture. Of course your music encourages critical discourse internally but have you ever given thought to the value that having a critical movement within does for how outsiders see the entirety of the culture?
KK: I love speculating about so-called “spiritual matters”, and the “God” diaries were an attempt to redefine man’s role in inventing religion. The character “God” is obviously not a reference to an actual Highest being, that would be presumptuous. These speculations are something separate from my music, and I only briefly mingled the two when I released the quasi-gospel album “Dertien”. For those interested in my “spiritual” musings, there is a text on the internet that I am working which explains everything. It is called “The Bronkhorstspruit Book of the Dead” [Editorial: You can find it free online here]
RC: Let’s get on to the less serious questions. I’ve seen shows where you’ve reformed your AWB Tiete song to ANC Tiete (love them both in context). We’re guessing it happened to reflect the change in leadership and thus the change who you aim your criticism at. Has the public response to the song changed in any way?
KK: Actually, I hate the “AWB Tiete” song, and, as for the “ANC Tiete” version, I have mislaid the lyrics! These days, I do a kind of watered-down version of the song which is mostly made up from lyrics borrowed from the “Groot Verseboek:”. The AWB does not exist any more, of course, and soon the ANC might also be forgotten, so maybe it’s time to move on.
RC: What are your feelings about playing at the Voortrekker Monument?
KK: It’s a beautiful piece of architecture. I have visited it a few times and I love the details artwork on the relief panels. As for a venue, well, it’s great for open-air festivals. I’d rather hear rock music reverberating on this hallowed ground than boring speeches by old Nationalist ministers, the way they did in the old days.
RC: After so many years in the game, you’re still publishing new material in music and literature. Where do you find the energy and time? More importantly, most artists fall out after a couple of years because they no longer matter. What’s your trick to staying relevant?
KK: I have tried to hard to stop writing songs. After all these years, and keeping in mind the limited amount of chords I can play, I should have stopped long ago. I’m perhaps the Victor Matfield of local music. Maybe, after this next album, I will manage to persuade the Muse to let me go?