April 15, 2016


Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues — ABRAXAS @ 7:55 am

Screen shot 2016-04-15 at 7.56.17 AMScreen shot 2016-04-15 at 7.53.52 AM

December 14, 2015

g-string blues

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues — ABRAXAS @ 10:35 am

Syd was steaming as usual, blind roaring drunk. He kept on exposing his knees to the cellist while they were waiting backstage in the change room for the Tuba solo piece to end. Boy that composition went on forever. Plus it sounded like farting. A 42 minute new music composition called Breaking Wind For Solo Tuba And Douche Bag. The “douche bag” part of the title referring of course to the clown prepared to get up in front of a crowd and make all those awful noises for three quarters of an hour. You might as well have been playing the vuvuzela.

March 24, 2015

ieva jansone on g-string blues

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues,Ieva Jansone — ABRAXAS @ 8:54 am

Screen shot 2015-03-24 at 8.53.09 AM

December 26, 2012

syd kitchen introducing “g-string blues”

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues — ABRAXAS @ 9:10 am

stellenbosch, friday 11 march 2011

March 23, 2012

a message from dawie malan

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues — ABRAXAS @ 9:26 am

December 24, 2011

syd kitchen covers up

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues — ABRAXAS @ 4:07 pm

idea i had for an album of cover versions
syd and i spoke about it that night he spent at my place after the premier of g-string blues
the photograph was taken the next morning, the last time i ever saw syd
at the airport
chain smoking all the way out

(in swedish “syd afrika” means south africa)

a message from syd kitchen

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues — ABRAXAS @ 9:25 am

December 22, 2011

a message from syd kitchen

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues — ABRAXAS @ 10:58 pm

June 22, 2011

jean-pierre de la porte on “the legendary syd kitchen in g-string blues”


syd is like franz kafka in bataille’s description – a man who refuses to grow up into the adult world around him (= apartheid manhood) and so becomes its image from within an eternal, very intelligent, teenhood.

his takes on the gruesome second hand trombone and musical saw numbers are worth the price of admission.

the great harry partch was like him except in a frenzied, gay version. your film is a rehearsal with so many asides that everything becomes an aside – including the performance. here is keith richards, stripped of his johnny depp guise and now a bare legend stalwart medusa’s head to gross-out white hip sensibility. he is the perfect kinderschrek to white pseuds – close to death several times, immortal as a cat, a nihilist filled with wholesome advice, a cyclops for whom only music is sacred.

defiant, hazed in his suicidal cloud of smoke he goes on about the innocence of childhood and the evils of society (including dire warning about emphysema) as if he were channeling rousseau to the sounds of leo kottke.

the crazy, temperamental, hybrid guitar is exactly like its owner. he is the great durban pleb – the wozzeck of blues or maybe the nosferatu of the guitar – the klaus kinski of the lowered third.

musical britain re-invented rock from the remaindered bins of black american vinyl. it also invented itself and then invented monsters like dylan via the posey rolling stones. amazing how the UK-sanitised black american music became available to woody guthrie /kerouac/ intellectual wannabes – the common thread? wildmen, noble savages all except of course the original blues inventors who were utterly sophisticated and civically nuanced (blues is a black urban culture but a white gauguin’s tahiti)

when syd performs all this above becomes a detail. he is a fantastic, total inhabiter of musical time.

you reinvent all this perfectly on tape, the coughing punctuations are a masterstroke. your piece is one more cigarette in the lungs of the hunger artist of cool durban: long live the sages of the g string.

jean-pierre de la porte

helgé janssen reviews “the legendary syd kitchen in g-string blues”

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues,helgé janssen,reviews — ABRAXAS @ 8:24 pm

this review first published on helgé’s blog

June 1, 2011

a message to syd kitchen

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues — ABRAXAS @ 7:32 pm

May 7, 2011

a message from syd kitchen

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues — ABRAXAS @ 4:42 pm

May 3, 2011

a late message from syd kitchen

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues — ABRAXAS @ 7:59 pm

April 21, 2011

ss kitchen’s penultimate trip

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues — ABRAXAS @ 12:05 pm

April 13, 2011

richard haslop on syd kitchen

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues,richard haslop — ABRAXAS @ 9:35 am

By Richard Haslop

It’s hardly a unique phenomenon. Every country, and probably every region, has similar tales to tell about its unsung local heroes. But the fact that South African songwriter Syd Kitchen is not better known, not least among his own countrymen, seems particularly unfortunate, not only for Kitchen and his prospects of a comfortable retirement one day, but for the general musical well-being of those under whose radar he constantly flies as well.

The South Africa of the ‘60s and ‘70s was a strange place to grow up, musically or otherwise. Quite how strange was perhaps only really revealed to those who grew up there once the country had taken those first steps towards political normality in 1994. At a musical level, its long years of semi-isolation from the rest of the cultural world meant that, while a young musician like Kitchen would have had vicarious access, via records and the radio, to what was going on elsewhere, he would have had almost no direct contact with it, nor any realistic aspirations of his own music being heard beyond the confines of his immediate audience. Anyone choosing a musical life outside of the mainstream automatically restricts the size of that audience. In South Africa that kind of election marginalized the musician more than most.

The early ‘70s explosion of acoustic singer-songwriting didn’t go unnoticed down here, though, and the Kitchen Brothers – Syd, his garage band dreams of pop stardom forgotten, and brother Pete, a finger style guitarist of considerable skill and taste – were leading lights in a small but vibrant folk club scene where paying gigs were few and recording opportunities virtually non-existent, but whose gifts were plain to all who could be bothered to check and whose memories are treasured among those who encountered it.

In those days Syd, who grew up and still lives in Durban, an East Coast holiday destination of sun, surf and the best winter weather anywhere – but where artistic recognition has always seemed harder won than in other leading South African cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town – strummed more enthusiastically than expertly behind his already striking songwriting, while Pete provided the colour and texture. Bob Dylan and the Incredible String Band, with Pentangling guitar accompaniment, and the sardonic songwriting of Ray Davies in the Kinks were touchstones.

By the late ‘70s, Pete had moved on to a life outside of music, while Syd was working in a guitar shop and assiduously honing his chops across a bewildering array of musical styles. He had, in the meantime, also published Scars That Shine, a volume of his poetry that was a staple of hip local bookshelves.

The radical overhaul of his guitar skills that would eventually find him a place in the Aquarian Quartet, an occasional instrumental four piece comprising some of South Africa’s finest acoustic musicians, was reflected in the steady stylistic growth of his writing, as he began to feed rock, country, jazz, blues and African music into his now trademark lyrical quirks and musical detours. His technical prowess can be measured by the ease with which he has fitted in with a wide variety of collaborators, right up to his recent duo, Bafo Bafo. The other member of Bafo Bafo is Zulu musician Madala Kunene, whose haunting, trance-like take on the neo-traditional maskanda form has resulted in a number of internationally released albums of his own.

Kitchen, who had meanwhile closed his own guitar shop, spent the second half of the ‘80s leading a band named, in typical fashion, Syd Kitchen & the Utensils, with (male) backing singers known as the Kitchenettes. Their self released 1987 album, Waiting For The Heave, Kitchen’s first commercial recording aside from tracks on a few hopelessly rare ‘70s folk festival compilations, echoed his increasingly politicized writing under an ever more repressive regime.

An association with South African psychedelic guitar hero Kenny Henson, whose previous bands had included the now highly collectible Freedom’s Children and Abstract Truth, produced a single, but unreleased, album recording. So, live performance, low key and relatively infrequent though it was, was still the only reliable way to hear Kitchen, and David Marks, a local music veteran who had, more than 25 years earlier, written Master Jack, the first South African recorded song to reach the US Top 20, released the live cassette, Warts ‘n All, on his Third Ear label in 1992. Despite the album’s production values well and truly matching its title, it was a thoroughly engaging demonstration of the attraction of a Syd Kitchen gig, and probably would still be if anyone could find a copy. But, in South Africa at least, peddling your highly original but hardly massively commercial music from one low key gig to the next is not the most reliable way to earn a living, so Kitchen, who has taught guitar privately for years, went back to school. Well, to university, actually, from which he emerged with BA (Music) and BA Honours degrees, both of which were awarded cum laude.

He found the time, too, to release a second studio album, City Child, in 1995 and to form, in 1999, arguably his most musically interesting band to date, Amakool, whose embrace of indigenous South African music was striking even though all of the old Kitchen influences still filtered through. Regrettably, that band made only one EP, the excellent Amakoologik. Fortunately, though, tracks from that and the other earlier records can be found on the Quintessentially Syd Kitchen compilation, released in 2004.

Kitchen’s first album of the current decade is probably the one that has earned him most plaudits. Africa’s Not For Sissies, from 2001, is a trenchant, if inimitably humorous and often moving reflection on his own status as a white South African committed to living in a country that so many of his compatriots were leaving. It was followed by Bafo Bafo’s What Kind? in 2005. It’s ironic, though, that perhaps his finest album so far, 2007’s Across, consists of four long, solo acoustic guitar instrumentals named after the four elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water, each of which references, if sometimes obliquely, the musical elements that have got him to this point.

It may be due to the fact that he simply keeps working against all odds – odds that have included a couple of quite serious health scares – without ever losing his enthusiasm for performing or allowing his belief in the worth of what he does to be shaken, but recent years have seen a noticeable increase in Kitchen’s profile, both inside and outside of South Africa, even if that remains determinedly cultish. Despite the fact that they are not exactly flocking to his gigs, and despite the usual difficulty in persuading record stores to stock his albums, many more people seem to know who he is than before. Some of this can be attributed to South Africa’s own increased profile, and, no doubt, to the ever increasing numbers of South African émigrés who attend gigs in their new, foreign domiciles desperately hoping to hear the sounds of home. Some can obviously be attributed to the fact that he is accessible via his website, www.sydkitchen.com, and a few others specializing in South African music, and that physical attendance at gigs or space on record store shelves are no longer critical to musical survival, even for a cultish South African. But this kind of thing mainly spreads through word of mouth, so the more mouths spreading the word, the better.

Kitchen has now played several gigs in the USA and Europe, including one at the legendary McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California, and there will surely be more. But all musicians need a stroke of good fortune at some point, even one who celebrated his 58th birthday this Valentine’s Day by getting married. Kitchen’s may have come when he met independent New York film maker Josh Sternlicht, who is currently making a documentary about him that ought to be released during the course of this year, along with Kitchen’s next album. That’s being recorded and produced in New York by former South African rock guitarist Keith Lentin and a coterie of Lentin’s buddies, who include, from his short lived expatriate South African rock band Skollie, session ace and Letterman drummer Anton Fig, along with a couple of Paul Simon’s fellow travelers via the Graceland connection.

Now, there’s no suggestion that this album will revive the Graceland effect, even if, quite coincidentally, it’s slated to include a song entitled Fool In A Bubble, and even though the rough mixes sound terrific, but it would be a shame if, despite his stroke of good fortune, Syd Kitchen remained a hardly known cult figure from an exotic location. Yet, if this was to be his lot, Kitchen would probably accept it in good heart and humour, and write a couple of worthwhile songs about it, too

April 12, 2011

a message from anton krueger about syd kitchen

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues,anton krueger — ABRAXAS @ 10:45 am

April 11, 2011

henry cloete on the legendary syd kitchen in “g-string blues”

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues — ABRAXAS @ 9:00 pm

helgé janssen on the legendary syd kitchen in “g-string blues”

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues,helgé janssen,reviews — ABRAXAS @ 2:24 pm

this review previously published here: http://www.artlink.co.za/news_article.htm?contentID=26793

March 30, 2011

richard haslop on syd kitchen

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues,richard haslop — ABRAXAS @ 7:19 am

At Syd’s funeral on Saturday a friend gave me something called “Random Notes On Kicking The Shin”, programme notes that I had written about the local music business sometime in the ‘80s – I think quite shortly post-Graceland – for a Syd Kitchen & the Utensils concert at the Durban Playhouse, and that I had completely forgotten about. Syd had just release Waiting For The Heave on vinyl. I was not surprised to note that, at least from my perspective, the local music business had not improved, or even changed, in the slightest, and that, sadly, I still agreed with everything the younger me had written.

Syd Kitchen

Syd Kitchen tends to be referred to these days as a local music institution. Though possibly factually correct, the description does him scant justice. Institutions are generally old and musty, conservative and dedicated to the preservation of the past; Syd is anything but. Indeed his unremitting willingness to keep moving forward and embracing the musically new are astonishing.

I first encountered him in the early ‘70s when he was the more extroverted half of an impressively original acoustic duo with his brother Pete. Syd wrote, sang and strummed – and played a little percussion and recorder – while Pete’s guitar provided the flourishes and filigree fills. They became favourites of a folk music scene that harboured some of South Africa’s most notable ever songwriting, and Syd – soon a published poet, with his book, Scars That Shine, a crucial addition to every hip local library – was among the best.

Over the last thirty years or so – say it quickly and it doesn’t seem that long – that songwriting has matured and, more importantly, progressed to a point where, while you might think you can always recognise the quirks and detours of a Syd Kitchen song, the stylistic spread encompassed by that simple phrase is vast indeed. Like his playing, it takes in rock, folk, jazz, blues and African music in almost equal measure – often at once.

Virtually without the assistance of the formal record industry he has built up an admirable body of recorded work, and his musical CV is wider ranging than most musicians could even imagine. He’s always seemed and sounded completely at home, whether solo or with a bewildering array of ensembles, from jazz-rock fusioneers Equinox and the wonderfully named Harry Was A Snake to the category defying virtuosity of the Aquarian Quartet … and I once saw him lead an electric band through a convincing set of blues standards.

Syd’s musical passage from enthusiastically strumming folkie to one of the country’s genuine acoustic guitar virtuosi has been relentless and yet somehow natural. He continues to study all aspects of music rigorously – its theory and practice, its history and sociology. Nobody would blame him if he showed signs of resting on his laurels – something one might expect from an institution, in fact – but his enthusiasm for new ventures is undiminished and Bafo Bafo, his current collaboration with maskanda hero Madala Kunene, sees him headed in yet another direction.

I have had the privilege of playing with Syd from time to time and have been fortunate to experience at first hand the way he enriches the musical scene by his sheer zest for performing. If he instils in his students just a fraction of his passion for music, it will be enough.

Everybody recognises Syd by his trademarks – the hat and the handshake – but those who know him better love him for his humility, his unfailing good humour, and the disarming frankness that shows in his songs. Institution be damned! Let’s rather start describing Syd Kitchen as a South African music treasure.

March 28, 2011

SYD KITCHEN Quintessentially

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues,richard haslop — ABRAXAS @ 9:23 am

syd kitchen in aryan kaganof’s “g-string blues”

By Richard Haslop

It hasn’t been a good week. I had just written the intro to this latest
column, about a criminally overlooked South African musician who had
recently died, when another followed him. This time, though, it was
personal. I had met Shiyani Ngcobo a few times but largely admired his
artistry from a distance. Syd Kitchen, on the other hand, was my friend
for almost forty years and, despite car crashes, collapsed lungs and a
general approach to living that might have been dangerous if it hadn’t
been quite so full of life, seemed destined to be so for another forty,
as long as I could last the distance. But the cancer that he had
announced with typically Kitchenesque sardonicism such a brutally short
while previously got him almost before we’d had the chance to catch our

In Durban, where Kitchen lived all his life, he’s often called a local
legend, but in fact not enough people took his music seriously enough so
that you can walk into a Durban record store and buy his albums, or so
that the local commercial radio station would play his songs, or even so
that most of those who loved him for the title of Africa’s Not For
Sissies ever heard him sing it live.

It’s fashionable and convenient to blame the mainstream music business
for this and, heaven knows, it can usually justifiably be blamed for
most things. But today a friend, reacting to news of Kitchen’s death,
called him one of a kind, and the stark truth is that the mainstream
music business is simply not set up to deal with one of a kind. Anyway,
it was the determinedly maverick musical road that Kitchen chose that
made him the songwriter, and the musician, that he was.

The best way in for neophytes is probably via the 2004 compilation,
Quintessentially, which draws from his first four studio albums,
released at sporadic intervals between 1987 and 2001. Here the
stylistic breadth and emotional depth of his writing, where irreverent
and often zany lyrical and musical humour is a constant companion, are
plain to hear, along with a casual virtuosity on the guitar that held
its own, and then some, in the company of several of South Africa’s
leading players. It adds a track from his early ’70s folk incarnation
as one half of the Kitchen Brothers and a live recording from the
Splashy Fen Music Festival, where his annual performances – he played
his evenhanded mix of rock, jazz, folk, blues, country and African music
at every single one – are the stuff of cultdom.

After that, Across, from 2007, consisting entirely of four long solo
instrumentals, is an intensely personal and beautifully realised album,
while the title song from his last record, Fool In A Bubble, recorded in
New York with an all star cast of mainly expat South Africans playing
their socks off, has “standard” written all over it.

About the last musical adventure of Kitchen’s life was travelling to the
UK to record a version of the John Martyn song, Fine Lines, for a Martyn
tribute album that seems destined to include a string of far better
known artists. Martyn himself was apparently well aware of, and taken
with, Kitchen’s output, and this was an important opportunity for Syd,
but, as Jim Dickinson, a truly mighty music man, once pointed out, life
ain’t fair; fare’s what you pay to ride the bus; fair’s where you go to
see the pigs dance.

So the internet is still likely to provide the most reliable access to
the Kitchen catalogue for some time. People, according to one of his
songs, get so lonesome when the boogie dies. Fortunately, despite the
combined efforts of the grim reaper and that mainstream music business,
it never does.

first published in business day

March 24, 2011

diane coetzer on syd kitchen

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues,music — ABRAXAS @ 1:36 pm

Rest in silence, Syd Kitchen, the legend

Old men with grey ponytails, who speak of Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris in reverential tones, who know all the lyrics to “The Times They Are a-Changin” and see it’s as relevant today as it was in 1963 – they know who Syd Kitchen was. The rest of you, read on in wonder.

For a fair number of South African music fans, the enduring memory of Syd Kitchen, who died in Durban from lung cancer on Tuesday, will be his performances at Splashy Fen each year since that music festival first surfaced in 1990.

For me, it’s of Syd and his brother Pete, along with whichever other musicians happened to make it out to Umhlanga Rocks, playing folk music in our lounge, a reel-to-reel recorder turning in the centre of the room.

Back-dropped by a wall of albums collected by my music journalist dad, Owen Coetzer, and surrounded by the low-slung, dark wood furniture of the era, Syd and Pete would perform the material that had earned them a reputation as songwriters to be envied, even at a time (the early 70s) when pretty terrific singer-songwriters spilled out of Durban and other cities at a steady rate.

If this sounds like a snapshot out of hippiedom, it was. At least sort of.

keep reading this article here: http://www.thedailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2011-03-24-rest-in-silence-syd-kitchen-the-legend

March 23, 2011

Syd Kitchen Interview March 2007

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues,music — ABRAXAS @ 11:50 am

r.i.p. syd

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues — ABRAXAS @ 1:14 am

March 12, 2011

syd kitchen, cape town, saturday 12 march, 9.33am

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues,kagaportraits — ABRAXAS @ 8:43 pm

syd kitchen, cape town international airport, saturday 12 march, 10:33am

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues,kagaportraits — ABRAXAS @ 12:59 pm

Next Page »