In Allegaarkie vir ‘n Askeet Neil Sandilands, once again, dares to be theatrical. His stories, cosmic and microcosmic, of love and politics and the absurdity of it all are irrevocable in character and distinctly South African in sound.
The album introduces us to larger-than-life characters like Frikkie Hermes Duvenhage – whose all too serious and lifelong national pride has the piss taken out of it by a carnival-esque soundtrack counter-pointed by commanding, devilish vocals.
Then there’s Harry Wolhuter whose story thunders along like a convoy through the Karoo. This is Sandilands at his story-telling best, flipping between the god-like protagonist and a narrator awestruck by the legend of a Kruger Park ranger who survived a lion attack with consummate control and ease.
Aside from epic tales of interesting men there are softer, moodier numbers that fall gladly into the sticky-sweet arms of love. “Lammergeier” is almost sickeningly romantic with acoustic and electric guitars meandering around each other as Sandilands gives in to inevitable desire.
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“Kommosediese”, tinged by flamenco guitar and a chorus of Zulu voices, travels the seven seas in search of love and a safe space to rest a weary head. Ultimately this duet, accompanied by Tarryn Lamb, speaks to homesickness of both heart and soul.
A thread that runs through the album is a deep, deep love of South Africa and to that end we have songs like “Uhuru” that grieves for a country whose identity is being swallowed by petty politics and suffocated by load-shedding, while “Sit Dit Aan!!!” tries to light a fire under national pride’s arse with sing-along drinking-song choruses and glibly gatvol verses.
Throw in a cover of Bob Dylan’s ever-green “The Times They Are A-Changin’” that easily rivals the original with earnest vocals, both English and Zulu, and a contemplative arrangement and you have an album that’s ultimately hopeful and loving in its dissection of modern-day South Africa.
Feature pic supplied by artist