Formed in 1982, the Kalahari Surfers was essentially a string of studio projects realised by Warrick Sony at Shifty Studios during the ’80s. These involved various personnel from that environment whose names were altered or simply reduced to first names to safeguard against security dirty tricks persecution. The band itself was a fictional collective designed to dodge any flak that may have appeared from these forces.
The first release was inspired by the do-it-yourself punk ethic and was a cassette packaged in a silver spray painted box containing 60 minutes of music all recorded in a bedroom on a 4 track portastudio. It was titled ‘Gross National Product’.
The material was made up of early tape experiments, audio collage, songs, cyclic trance tracks accompanied by free verse and looping bass/drum ideas.
The Surfers second release was a double single package released on the Pure Freude label in Germany and consisted of 4 sides of heavy dub influenced songs. German group CAN were involved with this label and were an important influence on the Surfers sound at this time. Many of the English art Rock and Avant bands as well as 70’s Krautrock were influential on the surfers sound but mostly the work of Robert Wyatt and Henry Cow.
In 1984 the first full album ‘Own Affairs’ was completed at Shifty Studios and taken to EMI to press. On the grounds that it was too politically sensitive, EMI refused to press it thereby censoring the work before it was made. Radical far left British label Recommended Records pressed it and set up an alliance that continues to this day.
The mixture of dub rhythms and hard punk social comment made it a unique South African album, which pushed the barriers of local independent music. Musical styles ranged from the avant-garde,to reggae, 80’s rap and punk rock. Quite Zappa-ish in places with the use of tape splice edits and edledtic juxtaposing of diverse styles the album was a South African viewpoint that provided some relief from mainstream cmmercial pop. Like many other artists of the Shifty catalogue it inspired younger artists who are still working today. The need to tour was evident and Warrick moved to London to work on promoting the album. He toured with Chris Cutler and other friends from England.
The third album ‘Sleep Armed’ was completed before leaving and released in 1986. The Kalahari Surfers were seen as far a field as Holland, Germany, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Moscow, Leningrad, Riga, East Berlin and London.
Back in South Africa during the late 80’s the album ‘Bigger than Jesus’ (title from the famous John Lennon quote) was recorded and released locally and officially banned for distribution and possession. After an appeal to the publications control board, the ban was lifted and set a legal precedent.
The early ’90s saw various collaborations including one which lasts to this day with Sowetan rebel poet Lesego Rampolokeng resulting in the album ‘End Beginnings’. This took them on a tour of Brazil and France during the mid 90?s and an appearance at the Wiesen Festival in 2004. ‘End Beginnings’ was also released in London through ReR. Other collaborations include work with artist William Kentridge on his early short films as well as music and sound design for “Faustus in Afrika” and “Ubu and the Truth Commission”.
During mid 90’s Warrick hosted the Brian Eno workshops in Cape Town recording an artists orchestra for him. A collaborative project called Trans-Sky was launched with Brendan Jury and opened the Massive Attack tour of South Africa. A collaborative project with Greg Hunter and Kris Weston from the ORB was completed during this period for MELT 2000 to be released under the title “PLINC”
A love of electronic music meant love of music technologies and cutting edge software has always influenced the ability for the Surfers to operate.
With the advent of electro dub, drum&bass and lounge music the Surfers downtempo electro-world dub sound found a young audience in the clubs of Cape Town and during the late 90’s a small label called African Dope released the classic millennium album “Akasic Record” to great critical acclaim. The follow up “Muti-Media” and various DJ events and European tours solidified the new Surfers identity. Two albums through Microdot: “Conspiracy Of Silence” and “Panga Management” also saw an advancement of their electro sound.
Kalahari Surfers have been working at Milestone Studio in Cape Town since the start of the new millennium doing sound design, film music and various collaborative music and performance projects. Scores include John Boormans “In My Country” with Murray Anderson and the music for “Tall Horse” a multimedia theatrical performance for Handspring and Sogolon which toured the US during 2005 opening at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Composing music for the 2 hour Canadian Broadcasting Warrick and Murray received a Gemini award for best music composition. Recent concerts include the Wiesen Festival in Austria 2006 and the Unyasi Electronic Music symposium at Wits University – Johannesburg, Recent work includes the experimental sound design and final mix for the feature film “SMS Sugarman” and composing for 3 local TV series.
The first full length Kalahari Surfers album. Completed in summer of 1984 it was taken to EMI to press but rejected by the cutting engineer as being “political, pornographic and anti religious”. Chris Cutler at Recommended Records took up the challenge and released the album through his label (www.rermegacorp.com).
01. Free State Fence
02. The Surfer
03. Prayer For Civilisation
04. Hillbrow 1
05. Hillbrow 2
06. Hippo In Town
07. Independence Day
08. Don’t Dance
09. Crossed Cheques
10. September 84
Released December, 1984
Warrick Sony: concept guitars bass grooves, programmes, voice
Hamish Davidson: guitars , keyboards, odds and ends,
Rick Van Heerden: saxophone
Anne Botha: voice
Brian Rath: drums
LIVING IN THE HEART OF THE BEAST
“…it works because it is a formal success: cut up Botha speeches and Afrikaans-speak are set against hi-life and reggae rhythms, while viciously critical (and historically intelligent) lyrics are sung over ..settings that often recall early Zappa….it’s possible to underestimate the powerful symbolism of a record that mixes the rhetoric of white supremacy with black rhythms and thereby undercuts it.” Jon Savage – New Statesman
03. Safety Seat
05. Township Beat
06. Zola And The Budget
07. Song For Magnus
08. Reasonable Men
09. Play It Backwards
10. The Voice of Rage and Ruin (free)
Released December, 1985
Recorded throughout 1985 onto Fostex Bl6.
thanks Chris Cutler and Recommended Records
Cover: Martine Delaharp
Back Cover Photograph: Henion Hahn
Labels : Chris Cutler
Booklet Paintings : Gary V Wyk
Album notes: Ian Kerkhof
Booklet Layout & Deslgn: Chris Gibbons except
Front Booklet Cover Collage :Warrick Sony
Vinyl Record Cut by Tim Young
02. Houghton Parents
03. Potential Aggressor #1
04. Golden Rendezvous
06. This Land
07. Fraud City
08. Hoe Ry Die Boere
09. Mafeking Road
10. The Maids Day Off
11. Maids Day Off #2
12. Greatest Hits
14. Another Potential Aggressor
15. Brighter Future
16. Healthy Way of Life
Released in November 1988
composed & produced by- Warrick Sony except
Houghton Parents and
Fraud City which was written by
Warrick Sony and Hamish Davidson
Performed by the
Kalahari Surfers :
Warrick Sony, Brain Rath & Hamish Davidson
Artwork: Umhlanga Roxx
Drums: Brain Rath
Guitar, Saxophone, Brass: Hamish Davidson
BIGGER THAN JESUS aka BEACHBOMB
This was the most controversial of the Surfers albums: it was banned (deemed undesirable) by the South African publications control board.
01. Plan For Peace
02. Good Advice
03. Running Out Of Time
04. Limpet Mine
05. Interrupted Service
07. Let’s Go Shopping
08. The Last Kick (One Verwoerd in the Grave)
09. Goldreef City
11. Bigger Than Jesus
12. Gutted With the Glory
13. National Party
14. Xmas In Krugersdorp
Released in November 1989
02. End Beginnings
03. Sebokeng Siege
06. Dark Explode The Blues
08. The Desk