Blues From The Deep South (Of Africa)

by Brian Currin, February 2007

Introduction

I was born in South Africa 4 days after “The Day The Music Died” according to Don McLean (you work it out!). I was born and bred in a home filled with music (mainly Church Hymns and Showtunes) but soon discovered in my pre-teen years that I had absolutely no talent for singing or playing an instrument. I do play a mean air guitar solo though – I usually play a Black Fender Stratocaster Original Air Guitar. I also play Air Organ – a Hammond B3 of course – and recently I’ve started learning to play Air Harmonica.

Since I had this overwhelming passion for music, but not the skills to perform it, I started collecting music as well as information about music and also statistics and lists. Finding musical information in Apartheid-era South Africa was difficult to say the least, but my passion knew no bounds and I persevered.

In 1973 I heard the ‘Made in Japan’ version of ‘Smoke Of The Water’ by Deep Purple and my fate as a Rock Fan was sealed. I always thought that when I grew up I would lose my love of Rock and get into Classical and Jazz as “older” people did. Never happened! What did happen is that I just added and added more styles, types and genres to my musical tastes, though Classic Rock is still my first love and Deep Purple is still my favourite group. After listening to Purple and Zeppelin and Tull and Clapton and such-like I wanted to hear the original blues that inspired them … and a whole new world of discovering the Blues masters opened up for me.

A true music critic, in my opinion, is someone who has been impressed enough by an artist, song or album to actually spend money on adding them to their collection. So my ramblings on this website will be based on my personal experiences and budget limitations. So if an artist or song is not mentioned, it’s probably because I don’t have it in my collection. I remember once in 1977 having to choose between the first Boston album and Rainbow On Stage because I couldn’t afford both. Being a huge Deep Purple fan, Ritchie Blackmore’s offshoot won that Battle Of The Budget!

In recent years I’ve been very fortunate to able to generate income from my passion and love of music and to sometimes even receive music and concert tickets that I didn’t have to pay for.

South African Blues

Because of South Africa’s unique geographical position and cosmopolitan population, there is really no such thing as a single defining style of “South African Music”. We seem to have everything here on the Southern Tip of Africa including African Tribal music, Zulu Township Jazz, Country and Western, Death Metal, Electronica and so much more, all with their own clearly-defined (and sometimes overlapping) niche markets. However the blues seems to be very popular in South Africa amongst most population groups, though I’ve never seen any research to support this theory of mine.

Blues in South Africa includes a wide variety of genres including Jazz Blues, Folk Blues, Traditional Blues, Blues Rock, Acoustic Blues and even blues sung in the language of Afrikaans which for want of a better name we will call Afrikaans Blues. So really South African Blues is just a term to mean Blues played by South African musicians. Cover versions of old blues classics abound, but there are also a large number of original compositions written in a variety of blues styles. Very few South African Blues musicians actually concentrate on playing the Blues exclusively, but rather play a mix of Blues, Rock, Blues-Rock and Country Rock.

One of my favourite artists and in my opinion one of South Africa’s greatest guitarists, is Albert Frost.

Albert Frost

Albert Frost is master guitarist who started playing as a teenager in the 90’s with The Blues Broers. “Broer” (pronounced “brew”) is Afrikaans for “brother”. Albert’s late father Frank Frost was the original drummer of the Blues Broers, so Albert was both Frank’s son and his ‘broer’. Frost is a brilliant blues and rock guitarist and an in-demand session musician, and has played alongside many famous South African names including Koos Kombuis, Valiant Swart, Arno Carstens and Anton Goosen.

He is adept at playing acoustic blues, wah-wah rock guitar, psychedelic voodoo blues and even the sophisticated pop-rock of ex-Springbok Nude Girls singer Arno Carstens solo albums.

I have had the privilege of seeing Albert Frost play live a number of times. I’ve seen him play blues with the Blues Broers and the Albert Frost Trio and also rock out with Arno Carstens. He loves to jam and is often seen on stage with other bands or inviting other guitarists to jam with him.

A highlight of the STRAB Festival in Mozambique in May 2006 was the Albert Frost Trio featuring Lanie van der Walt on bass and Jorik Pienaar on drums. This powerhouse band rocked their way through Albert’s blues and rock songbook and really impressed the crowd.

Albert obviously loves playing his music, possibly almost as much as us fans love hearing him play.

 

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