Johannes Kerkorrel: The wise fool who left the fray

Posted: Mail & Guardian | 10 May 2013 | Charles Leonard

Source: http://mg.co.za/article/2013-05-10-00-johannes-kerkorrel-the-wise-fool-who-left-the-fray

Johannes Kerkorrel

Ralph Rabie, better known as Johannes Kerkorrel, was my generation’s Joe Strummer. Like the Clash’s front man he provided the soundtrack to our late 1980s rebellion against the teacher, the dominee, the sergeant, the system. His provocative songs embodied the middle finger we gave in response to PW Botha’s wagging finger.

Calling himself Kerkorrel (church organ) and referencing the biggest Afrikaner church in the name of his band the Gereformeerde Blues Band — satirising the Afrikaner’s immense respect for anything linked to the church — he invited the ruling establishment’s ire.

The band’s 1989 album Eet Kreef (eat crayfish) opened many young minds. Their subsequent Voëlvry concert tour of mainly Afrikaans varsity campuses turned into a movement of sorts — turning the Afrikaner establishment’s children against them.

“The shit came raining down,’’ Kerkorrel told me in a retrospective interview not long before his suicide in 2002, “when we plugged in the first electric guitar’’.

Singing along to Kerkorrel’s satirical songs at their riotous concerts made you feel less scared of the cantankerous Botha and his brutal security establishment. Okay, all the beer and other rock ’n roll accoutrements helped, giving us Dutch courage to stare down those intimidating security branch Dutchmen who attended the Voëlvry concerts.

The blond Kerkorrel, in his favourite zebra motif T-shirt and with a sarcastic sneer on his face, would bang away on his piano, telling us about PW’s miserable face on our TV screens and exhorting us to “sit dit af! [switch it off]”. Campuses swarmed with students who concurred: “Sit dit af!” … Read the rest here