Slashing their way out of the Nationalist Party ideology, the Gereformeerde Blues Band charted the wide open spaces of a new Afrikaner rebellion.
This time the insurrection was a musical one, with the Gereformeerde Blues Band as rock & roll outlaws slinging guitars and stinging criticism against the laager mentality of volks kultuur and the apartheid way of life.
Moving conventional rock into the realm of political theatre and satire as successfully as they did prove that if the Gereformeerde Blues Band were to be seen as cultural upstarts, they were upstarts with a vision both innovative and lucidity that could not be ignored.
Johannes Kerkorrel – vocals, keyboards
Willem “Meneer Volume” Möller – guitar
Gary “Piet Pers” Herselman – bass
Jannie “Hanepoot” van Tonder – drums, trombone
Tonia “Karla Krimpelien” Shelley – Vocals, backing vocals
Johannes Kerkorrel (27 March 1960 – 12 November 2002), born Ralph John Rabie, was a South African singer-songwriter, journalist and playwright.
Rabie, who was born in Johannesburg, worked as a journalist for the Afrikaans newspapers Die Burger and Rapport. In 1986, Rabie started performing politically themed cabaret at arts festivals under his new stage name (kerkorrel meaning church organ in Afrikaans). At that time, apartheid was at its nadir under State President P.W. Botha’s National Party-led government.
In 1987, Rabie was fired by Rapport for using quotes from Botha’s speeches in his music; he then became a full-time musician and performer under the name Johannes Kerkorrel en die Gereformeerde Blues Band (Johannes Kerkorrel and the Reformed Blues Band), a deliberate reference to the Reformed Church. The band also included the Afrikaans singer-songwriter Koos Kombuis. Their brand of new Afrikaans music was dubbed alternatiewe Afrikaans (alternative Afrikaans) and exposed divergent political views to a new generation of Afrikaners.
In 1985, they released the album Eet Kreef (Eat Crayfish) on the now-defunct Shifty Records label, which was a commercial success despite its tracks being banned from radio airplay by the state-controlled South African Broadcasting Corporation, which was the government mouthpiece. Colloquially, ‘Eet Kreef’ is ambiguous, meaning either ‘Enjoy!’ or ‘Get lost!’.
The subsequent regional tour of college campuses and art festivals was called Voëlvry (literally free as a bird but here meaning outlawed), and Rabie’s controversial reinvention of Afrikaans popular music became known as the Voëlvry movement.
In 1990, Rabie visited Amsterdam, and almost simultaneously the track Hillbrow from the Eet Kreef album became a hit in Belgium, and Rabie followed its success with a solo tour. In subsequent years he enjoyed substantial artistic success in Belgium and the Netherlands, and spent much of his time in Belgium. Here he also befriended Stef Bos, a Dutch cabaret artist, with whom he would share a number of concerts.
Rabie hanged himself on 12 November 2002 in Kleinmond, near Hermanus on the Western Cape coast. He was survived by his long-term partner, and by his ex-wife and son.