February 26, 2013

rustum kozain: Fuck Colouredness and the Coloured Voice

Filed under: chimurenga library,politics — ABRAXAS @ 11:58 am

(appeared in slightly-edited version in Chimurenga #1, 2002, pp.45-47)


ALLOW ME some biographical indulgence, editor and reader, black, white, ‘coloured’, or any of the other million identities for sale.

I spent 10 months in the USA, on a scholarship and just after I had voted in 1994. There were moments in that country where I longed for SA racism, more visible, less sinister. So I was happy to return to my own backyard of racism in 1995. Since then I have been following the buildup to our present, often hysterical discoursing on race and racism. And here I am: hysterical, tired of the even tones of reason, angry. An angry black man.

With regards to race, South Africa has changed: race and racism is no longer the preserve of National Party policy wonks, anti-apartheid activists and intellectuals, or dinner discussion and argument. It is public, mainstream, consciously in the national conscious; it is on everyone’s tongue, in the media, in our dreams, in our nightmares. Which means that South Africa has not changed, that racism remains ingrained, if not embedding itself deeper and deeper in our psyches. Here may follow the necessary, self-aware acknowledgement: no one expects such a founding aspect of our modern national history to disappear in the space of a decade or two.

But I have followed the public discoursing on race with a sense of exhaustion: a tug of war, accusation and counter-accusation, a white viewpoint, a black viewpoint. Or a rehearsal of old arguments.

Sometimes I have found an enlivening anger. But always, at the moment of committing to the page a response or my two cents, paralysis. Racism, like any area of human life, is complicated; and to acknowledge this complexity in the way one writes about it may lessen the anger, the motivation, the reason for wanting, in the first place, to write it out of the psyche.

It is also often too easy to shout ‘Racism!’ and exploit existing prejudices and habits of thought that are so visible in our lives and media. And no writer wants to be accused of cheap shots, of lazy habits of thought.

It is difficult to write about racism also because the dismissal or counter-argument follows easily. The racially significant encounter in the shop or cinema is easily dismissed as the fabrication of an ‘over-sensitive’ mind, of someone who has a chip on his or her shoulder. This is certainly the most powerful of dismissals — throughout history, anywhere — because it casts the writer who describes, complains, who accuses, who fingers this national sore, as abnormal, as someone with mental problems, as someone whose thought lacks adequate logic, that shibboleth that guarantees the voice its authority. And which writer wants to be accused of being disturbed? But here I am, completely fucking mental.

Among the many pieces that have accumulated in the print media around this issue was Njabulo Ndebele’s piece (M&G, 15 September 2000). Complaining about racism submits, he says, to ‘whiteness’ in that it grants the latter ‘power of relief’. The real analysis he leaves in the form of a question:

Is the fore-grounding of race and racism a veiled admission that perhaps there is as yet no material basis for the black majority to contain this scourge through the imposition of it (sic) own versions of the future? Does this speak to the black majority’s perception that perhaps they are not yet agents of history?

Certainly this is fundamental. Racism does not cause but exacerbates an economic problem. Racism is a powerful reminder that one remains a non-agent of history. In an individual sense, it also undermines one’s agency because it obliterates the individual’s self-description, perhaps the primal site of agency. Racism elevates a visible aspect of one’s being, and denies even the possibility of other aspects that may be, to the particular individual, more central to their identity.

Again, anecdote. I teach at the University of Cape Town. Like any institution that has a colonial history, it will, not surprisingly, have its implicit, institutionalised, age-old and persistent legacy that demands a generous amount of deracination. Deracination: the other side of the race coin, but not yet in our national conversation. I leave the complexities of this for another occasion.

Since I believe that the process of my own more interesting education and empowerment started with the shock of alienation and disempowerment that went along with enrollment at that university in the 1980s, I think a dose of deracination is always healthy (a pity, though, that it does not allow deracination away from whiteness for those who subscribe to that epithet). Almost certainly without fail, on walking home, I am, have been, will be, re-racinated, so to speak. I will encounter someone who will – excuse my over-sensitivity – privilege the visible aspect of my body, my skin, and behave accordingly. Most hurtful and angering, the clutch at a bag or the wide berth that white women will give me.

For most of my day, I am a decently educated person who teaches 18 year-olds and older about literature, English literature. It is not entirely preposterous to think that I may have the son or daughter of the white woman I encounter on the sidewalk in my class. When she clutches her bag though, I am no longer a teacher to her son or daughter. With the aid of that powerful tool we call national crime statistics, she has been able to reduce me to a cipher of criminality: the black man. I am no longer an agent in how the world sees me.

I do not expect, nor want, to be greeted with a vigorous nod and smile by strangers. I understand the caution of women in a society which is riddled by crime, a society which, by measure of its rape statistics, is terrifyingly close to losing its humanity. But this understanding, this attempt to grant my encountered white woman some measure of sympathy, this little step of the imagination – what is it like for her? – this attempt to humanise her rests on my dehumanisation, and I am complicit with her.

How does one respond? Remain silent and so allow the hurt and anger to fester? Is it any surprise that an ordinary little burglary turns instantaneously into brutality? How can we not see the connection between, not crime per se, but between the often brutal turns it takes, and racism in South Africa. Yes, crime too is complex, and I do not intend to explain it away and blame it on racism. But it seems that ‘ordinary’ crime – the crime that poor individuals commit in order to survive, like housebreaking (in South Africa, yes, mainly by black people) may contain in the surprise encounter with the homeowner (yes, often white) a moment of recognition, a moment which South Africa at large still needs to experience.

I am sure that to the white homeowner the suspicion of black criminality is confirmed. But the black criminal? What goes through his mind? What triggers the swift move from housebreaker to murderer? Is that not perhaps the catharsis Fanon speaks about?

Since I am educated, I may be less prone to criminality and will not lash out at my fellow citizen. And, since I have intellectual pretensions, I hurry home to husband the anger and write it out of me. But then, the demons of paralysis: everyone’s writing about it, what new things can I add? And, am I oversensitive? Will I, in Ndebele’s words, ‘reduce [myself] to the status of complainant’? Will I be admitting to a psychological weakness? And what about making public an almost physical hurt that goes to the very core of one’s sense of self? Is that the weakness? That I, often described as confident to the point of arrogance, can in the instant it takes someone to clutch at a bag, feel like I have been bludgeoned? Is there indeed not something wrong with me? And so doubt creeps in, and the moment of writing paralyses. But here I am, writing.

I admire writers who remain calm: Njabulo Ndebele, Xolela Mangcu, John Matshikiza. I marvel (or am puzzled?) by my friends who shrug their shoulders at these little encounters they also experience. One of my friends even has the perfect counter to the ‘chip on the shoulder’ remark: ‘I make sure I have a chip on both shoulders, so I remain well-balanced.’ How, in short, do they maintain power, agency, sanity? Is there, indeed, something wrong with me?

By its frequency and by its nature, my encounters with white women are emblematic of a central aspect in racism. It is race that allows it: the construction and continuing use of race as an explanatory concept prevents us from understanding our world in other ways; prevents us from allowing even the possibility of explaining the world differently and, possibly, more accurately.

If I am walking briskly, in Rondebosch, with a bag of groceries in each hand and what is clearly a bag of books on my back, one can make certain assumptions about me. Rondebosch – UCT; books – student or teacher; groceries – can satisfy basic needs; together with brisk walk – in a hurry to get home and eat after a day at university. Rondebosch is full of such figures. There goes a student. There goes a university teacher.

In his basic activities and needs, how is a black student or teacher different from this figure? (The male pronoun is deliberate since I am concerned with the black man read as criminal threat.) Certainly there can be no difference: both are in a hurry to get home and eat, irrespective of what personal histories and tragedies may lie behind any stranger we encounter. Indeed, it is a stranger, and we cannot know. It is what we add in our ignorance – the domain of assumption – that is my concern. If we allow this racial qualifier, if we submit to a desire for the racial qualifier, if we submit to the need to describe the world by using such qualifiers, we open the door to a range of assumptions.

This is an old story. The neutral is of course not neutral, but white; the black nevertheless signifies a deviation from the neutral. So, still, the white is often described in neutral terms and only the black is racialised. Racialising the white does not resolve the issue, it simply provides balance. I am not interested in balance.

It is the actual use of racial categories that should be scrutinised, still, again, against especially the world’s love affair with asserting ethnic and racial identities. From the need to see the student as black it is an instantaneous switch to seeing only the black and to a blindness regarding groceries, book bag, brisk walk. Seeing the black man gives way to the non-rational and the looker sees only blackman, the category, no human, nothing but a cipher of criminality. Nothing, and she clutches at her bag.

Where does this power of the white woman over me lie? When did I concede it to her? Did I concede it to her? And if the criminal is an unwanted presence, which it is, then I am again the unwanted presence in a white suburb, no matter how many black people populate it. And what about guilt? The exhaustion of white guilt is well known. But what about the black man who now feels guilty for causing the encountered white woman such visible anxiety? What is it in that brief moment – she sees me, she cluthes at her bag? How do I maintain agency? Shout a quick, sharp ‘Boo!’ at her?


I am, also, what is called ‘coloured’, a term that still rankles, and it is finally the Mike Nicol piece (‘The trouble with Cape Town’, M&G, 3 August 2001) that drove me to the page in an anger that I feel, now, as I write this, dissipate, because I have attempted again to unpick something in me, something of which I think South Africa is far from resolving. A national sore which will not heal; something both public and thus open to intellectual scrutiny; something which can cause private agony, the confession of which, in turn, is an admission of vulnerability and cause for paralysis.

I found Bryan Rostron’s piece about Cape Town (M&G, 20 July 2001) worthwhile because it certainly described my experiences of public Cape Town. Some of the encounters he describes or quotes are too familiar: people quizzically quoting you the price of an item, assuming that you cannot possibly afford it, and so on and so forth.

The accusations of ‘coloured’ racism, quoted by Rostron, and said by a black person. Another thing that rings true. Since I pass as ‘coloured’, I am often privy to such racism, on a parallel to what Rostron described several months ago in another article about his encounters, as a white person, with white racism at dinner parties. An interesting footnote to this is how some white people, complete strangers, will make assumptions about my racial politics because I am ‘coloured’ and freely espouse racist views about black people.

All in all, the Rostron article about Cape Town puts in writing, in a newspaper, experiences and perceptions of Cape Town that I share, that I have heard in conversation, and so on.

But certainly it cannot be simply a matter of perception, as Mike Nicol suggests in his response: ‘this is true if you see the city as colonial redoubt’ (my emphasis). If it is a matter of perception, then the response or counter to that can only be another perception, as indeed Mike Nicol goes on to do: he uses the figure of the teenager to explain how he sees Cape Town. His depiction of Cape Town as made up of so many things, from the beautiful to the ugly, while more complex, more balanced, does not give to me what is my dominant experience of the place. No matter how hard I try to see the mountain, to wonder at a pair of pied crows cajoling in the air not more than 50 metres up, I will be walking along a sidewalk where certainly I will be reminded of the ugly.

Certainly perception plays a large role in how we describe the world, and certainly some things can be perceived in many different ways. But by casting the Rostron article as true depending on how you see Cape Town, what is then true is again dependent, in a way, on a state of mind. I see some of my experiences in the Rostron article; those experiences are experiences of racism; my experiences of racism are often easily dismissed as perceiving something which is not there. An article which confirms some of my experiences is countered by the same argument: the incidence of racism is a matter of perception. If you experience Cape Town as overwhelmingly racist, you walk around with half-closed eyes. We end up with competing perceptions, one true for X, the other true for Y. Equal truths, another site of paralysis. What do my descriptions of racism matter if they are one-sided, my perception of a small piece of a wider reality?

It is towards the end that the Nicol piece exasperated me though: ‘I’ve heard the coloured voice declare off record: this is our city, what do blacks want here? What is needed now are coloured voices to articulate publicly the deeper issues behind these sentiments’ (my emphasis).

My exasperation is partly caused by the writer, and partly caused by whomever the ‘coloured’ voice or voices are which he quotes. Nicol is, after all, merely relaying what he has heard and what many other people have relayed and what many other people have said.

My contention with the writer surrounds that definite article: ‘the coloured voice’. By suggesting a singular ‘coloured’ voice which is racist towards black people, the ‘coloured’, all ‘coloureds’ are swiftly, by virtue of a definite article, cast as resistant to the presence of black fellow Capetonians.

When I walk the streets, in other words, I am a cipher of criminality and a cipher of racism, irrespective of whether I engage in criminal behaviour or not, irrespective of whether I espouse racist views or not. I am both a target and an agent of racism.

Nicol’s definite article is simply a galvanising moment for me. I have been following with despair, since 1994, the rise of the ‘coloured’, in the context of a world captivated by the assertions and celebrations of ethnic identities. And it is this that is bothersome. We still give to ethnic and racial categories so much explanatory power and by so doing fall into easy thought. So it was the ‘coloured’ vote that left the Cape ‘unliberated’, one more addition to our politics that remain race-driven. Thanks to the media’s political analysis, I was also a National Party supporter. Criminal, racist, NP supporter: is this what is meant with multiple identities?

The ‘coloured’ is exactly that category which subverts our reliance on race as an explanatory category; the ‘coloured’ confounds racial thinking and should be read as emblematic of the non-existence of race. It is an old story, but one that bears repeating. How do you know someone is ‘coloured’? Skin colour? Good luck. Accent? Music? Again, good luck.

Unfortunately, the ‘coloured’ is now a race and the individual who can be described as such easily stands in for the race, the group. Then, whatever we have constructed to believe about the group can help us to interpret, in an instant, the individual. The line between racial thinking and racism is thin thin thin.

Here, now, I no longer care how many people assert and celebrate a ‘coloured’ identity. And here I turn to Nicol’s ‘informants’. I am sick and tired of ‘colouredness’. Fuck ‘colouredness’! And fuck bobotie! It is parochial, limiting; and it feeds racism. This city is not yours, in the same way as it still does not belong to black Capetonians. You are again simply a buffer, the bodygaurd of white capital. Here I am, a ‘coloured’ voice, on record.

rustum kozain

first published on the web here: http://groundwork.wordpress.com/2006/07/03/fuck-colouredness-and-the-coloured-voice/

February 19, 2013

assagai – hey jude

Filed under: music,music and exile symposium — ABRAXAS @ 9:09 pm

From ” Assagai ”
Label: Vertigo — 6360 030
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album
Country: UK
Released: 1971

A1 Telephone Girl
A2 Akasa
A3 Hey Jude
A4 Cocoa
B1 Irin Ajolawa
B2 Ayieo
B3 Beka
B4 I’ll Wait For You

Guitar — Fred Coker
Tenor Saxophone — Bizo Mngqikana (Bizo Mngqikana, Bizo Mnggikana)
Alto Saxophone — Dudu Pukwana
Bass Guitar — Charles Ononogbo
Cornet — Mongezi Feza
Drums — Louis Moholo


“Hey Jude” is a song by the English rock band The Beatles, written by Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon–McCartney.
The ballad evolved from “Hey Jules”, a song widely accepted as being written to comfort John Lennon’s son, Julian, during his parents’ divorce – although this explanation is not universally accepted and even McCartney has given conflicting accounts over the years.

“Hey Jude” was released in August 1968 as the first single from The Beatles’ record label Apple Records.
More than seven minutes in length, “Hey Jude” was, at the time, the longest single ever to top the British charts.
It also spent nine weeks as number one in the United States—the longest run at the top of the American charts for a Beatles’ single, and tied the record for longest stay at #1.
The single has sold approximately eight million copies and is frequently included on professional lists of the all-time best songs.

Single release

“Hey Jude” was released on 26 August 1968, in the United States and 30 August in the United Kingdom, backed with “Revolution” on the B-side of a 7″ single.
The single was the debut release of The Beatles’ record label Apple Records; in the US, it was also the first Beatles’ single to be issued in a company sleeve rather than a picture sleeve.

“Hey Jude” began its sixteen-week run on the British charts on 7 September 1968, claiming the top spot a week later. It only lasted two weeks on top before being knocked off by another single from Apple, Mary Hopkin’s “Those Were the Days” (a song which, incidentally, if not penned was actually produced by McCartney).
The single was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America on 13 September; that same week NME reported that two million copies of the single had been sold.
The song entered the US charts on 14 September 1968, where it stayed for nineteen weeks.
Two weeks later, “Hey Jude” was number one in the charts, and held that position for nine weeks, the longest time spent by a Beatles’ single at number one, as well as being the longest-playing single to reach number one.

On 30 November 1968 NME reported that sales had reached nearly six million copies worldwide.
“Hey Jude” became the biggest-selling debut release for a record label ever, selling an estimated eight million copies worldwide and topping the charts in eleven countries.
“Hey Jude” was the top Billboard Hot 100 single for 1968, according to year-end charts.
Less than three weeks after its release, the record was certified gold for sales of one million copies.
In 1999, it was certified 4x platinum, representing four million units shipped.

Critical reception

Upon the release of the “Hey Jude” single, Time contrasted it with its B-side “Revolution.” Time wrote, “The other side of the new disk urges activism of a different sort” as McCartney “liltingly exhorts a friend to overcome his fears and commit himself in love.”
Music analyst Alan Pollack praised “Hey Jude,” saying, “it’s such a good illustration of two compositional lessons—how to fill a large canvas with simple means, and how to use diverse elements such as harmony, bassline, and orchestration to articulate form and contrast.”
He also said it is unusual for a long song because it uses a “binary form that combines a fully developed, hymn-like song together with an extended, mantra-like jam on a simple chord progression.”
Pollack described the song’s long coda and fadeout as “an astonishingly transcendental effect,” while Unterberger observed, “What could have very easily been boring is instead hypnotic”.
John Lennon said “Hey Jude” was “one of his [Paul’s] masterpieces.”

“Hey Jude” was nominated for the Grammy Awards of 1969 in the Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal categories, but failed to win any of them.
It did win the 1968 Ivor Novello Award for “A-Side With the Highest Sales”.
In the 1968 NME Readers’ Poll, “Hey Jude” was named the best single of the year.
In 2001, “Hey Jude” was inducted into the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Grammy Hall of Fame.
In 2004, it was ranked number 8 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
In 2010, Rolling Stone ranked it #7 on The Beatles’ 100 Greatest Songs.
It came in third on Channel 4’s list of 100 Greatest Singles.
The Amusement & Music Operators Association ranked “Hey Jude” the 11th-best jukebox single of all time.

February 11, 2013

professor eugenie brinkema: Aryan Kaganof and Formalism After Presence


I’d like to begin today by proposing a difference between a “fragment” and a “segment.” Segment derives from the Latin secare, to cut; it suggests the division or subdivision of some thing X; implies a part that is bounded by a line, whether real or imaginary; and in this division, this notion of some strip, piece or part divided, it suggests how those divisions remain sworn and bound to the whole unified thing from which they were originally cut off and which they now, in their present form of being a segment, remain a segment of X, or a subsection or subdivision of X, where X may be a circle, but X may also be a bowel. It is thus fitting that Eisenstein, the great stylist of the cut, would admonish that “With such organically thought-out and photographed parts of one large significant and general conception, these must be segments of some whole, and by no means […] stray, strolling études” (Film Form 92). Every segment holds out the seductive lure of every ideology of recombination and totality.

A fragment is an entirely different thing. Frangere, to break, as in bread, or a glass—but also a neck or a skull—but also to breach (as in to breach a contract); the fragment involves a mutilation, a broken piece of an undiscoverable something; a remnant; a scrap; a fracture; but also sharing the root frag- with fragilis, fragile, what is, in fact, easily breakable. (And as in George Crabb’s early-19th century dictionary entry on the term, what is ultimately most subject to fragmentation is what is also subject to finitude: “Man, corporeally considered, is a fragile creature, his frame is composed of fragile materials.”) A fragment is a part broken away, and this broken piece contains within itself the dimension of what is broken, what is incomplete, what is interrupted in its continuity. While a segment is acted upon by the cut, the fragment contains within itself the pure dimension of already being broken without making recourse to its origin; or, rather, the fragment is broken from an always imaginary and impossible to recover origin. If that break constitutes something painful, the source of that pain is not rediscoverable; the pain is born out in the very ontology of the fragment. Any fragment bears each fragment’s fragile mutilation, which is to say the very form of mutilation, in itself. I suspect this is a fairly uncontroversial distinction.

I am beginning with this division because it would seem that there are theorists and artists who hold to the unity-cut logic of the segment, and those who bond themselves to the episteme of the break in the fragment. As this panel is broadly about the role of the critique of metaphysics in film theory, it should go without saying that I am putting the fragment on the side of the affirmation of the play enabled by the noncenter which is not a loss of the center that the Derrida of “Structure, Sign, and Play” associates with the Nietzschean turn. And again, I suspect it is fairly uncontroversial to link the fragment to a broader poststructuralist affection for the particular, the contingent, the detail, from Barthes’s work on the punctum to Derrida’s attention to paratextual and parergonal textual effluvia.


The underground filmmaker Aryan Kaganof, about whom I will speak today, makes films constituted around an aesthetic and an ethic of the fragment. His films feel like constant restatements or reappropriations or accumulations of perversities; these schemas of enumeration paradoxically destroy the eidos of enumeration, which is a relation based on hierarchization. Indeed, Kaganof insists on this fractured dimension of his work, writing in a manifesto that “the atomic unit of the RE:MIX is not the shot, but the fragment—which is a clump, a volatile conglomerate. Granular, dense, and stuck together” (Nostalgia for the Future).

But if Kaganof emphasizes the remixed collection of fragments at the risk of reinstating an assembled totality, I am more interested in one of the consequences of organizing one’s corpus around the fractured fragile piece of the fragment as such. Specifically, that in its remnant dimension, the fragment as a form holds out the pure notion of the break. Kaganof’s films thus are decomposed as much as composed; the privileged atom of his work is a 2-to-6-minute long mutilated piece of film marked by a kind of violence, not one that explicitly takes place in the otherwise unbroken image, but a force bound up with the fragment as its formal condition of possibility.

Kaganof was born in South Africa, but fled to Amsterdam when he was 19 to escape conscription into the Apartheid army; in his early years, he made films under the name Ian Kerkhof. His work is influenced by Debord, Bataille, Rilke, and Burroughs; by porn and by extreme performance art; and as much by contemporary South African jazz musicians and poets as by the British avant-garde filmmaker Peter Whitehead. (Whitehead, if originally best known for his 1960s pop music promos with the Rolling Stones, is perhaps better known these days for his assertion that Osama Bin Laden made the most significant film of the 21st century.) This assemblage is mutually concerned with the transformative possibilities of radical aesthetics, each working through, mutatis mutandis by field, the expressive dimension of modes of bodily and formal strain, discomfort, disintegration, degradation, and extremity.

These titles of a few of Kaganof’s many films betray, despite his stylistic heterogeneity, his enduring conceptual interests: Nice to Meet You, Please Don’t Rape Me! (a satirical musical about violence in South Africa; one ad for the film reads “From the Country that Gave You Apartheid, Now the World’s First Rape Musical”); another is Beyond Ultra-Violence: Uneasy Listening by Merzbow (a documentary about the experimental Japanese noise musician Masami Akita, whose otological excesses have also appeared as scores for several of Kaganof’s films); the Bataille-citing and bodily-fluid gushing The Dead Man 2: Return of the Dead Man; and the fairly self-explanatory The Boy Who Masturbated Himself to a Climax. Kaganof works in numerous media formats, often shooting on digital video that is blown up to 35mm, and is best known outside underground circles for one such experiment: the 2007 SMS Sugar Man, a feature-length film shot entirely on cellphones. He curates and churns out work; and his website, kagablog, functions as a manic archive of assembled writings, images and meditations. His work, replete with vomit, shit, urine, cum, is also, it must be said, oddly playful.

The 1994 film I’m focusing on today, 10 Monologues From the Lives of the Serial Killers is, in some ways, exactly what it claims to be—except in so far as the title lies (more on that later).

The film is organized around the rhythm of fragmentation, the cadence of wrecked, degraded things—broken bodies, genitals, histories, voices. It opens with a voice intoning one of Kaganof’s poems over a painfully white screen: “In the beginning was the mountain, Then the cloud, Then the radar station, Then the helicopter, Then the cancer…”; Fragment 1 turns on the real voice of serial killer Ed Kemper (aka “The Co-Ed Killer”) over the grainy blue-tinted image of a man framed in a cell, smoking a cigarette, rendered less object than cause of the making-exquisite of disrupted light. The opening lines of the film abdicate the privilege of speaking monologically: the pronoun “I” is first posited in a state of pronounced refusal: “Well, I’m not an expert, I’m not an authority; I’m someone who has been a murderer for almost 20 years.” Fragment 2 reverberates to “Murder Avenue” from the Geto Boys; in 3, a black man nearly invisible in the far left corner of a dank space speaks the 1968 “The Generations of America” litany from J.G. Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition in a clipped preacher’s cadence that rises to a crest of guttural bluesy exhalations of “Sirhan Sirhan shot Robert F. Kennedy. And Ethel M. Kennedy shot Judith Birnbaum. And Judith Birnbaum shot Elizabeth Bochnak…” Fragment 4 sets grainy and degraded home movie footage to Roberta Lannes’ short story, “Goodbye, Dark Love,” a farewell to the abuses of a lover who has shot himself: as the meat of the decaying film fades, we hear of the post-mortem hillside that it is all “hair and skin and blood and flesh and him and him and him.”

Fragment 5 wilds to Charles Manson’s meditations on freedom, while 6 turns to a recorded dialogue between Ted Bundy and James Dobson on the dangers of pornography, recorded the day before Bundy’s execution, and set to the image of Kaganof masturbating while double exposures project pornographic images onto his body (so he is screen and surface, cause and effect of his own arousal). Says the actor speaking Manson’s words, in modulating sound sync that devastates the immediacy of the performance: “My head is empty; I have no opinion.” (One cannot help but note, given the title of the film and the conceit of its fragments, that Derrida says of the specificity of the interior monologue that it is a form of auto-affection—here, Kaganof literalizes and pornographizes this notion.)

Fragment 7 returns to Ballard, a voice recounting an anal sex scene from Crash. Over a mostly black screen with flashes of indeterminate peach and pink, this image is reduced to tones, the nervous spasms of a textual body in cut-up forms, like reopened wounds, like bits, even, of lovely skin. After returning to the dark crimson of the Geto Boys, Fragment 8 sets a grainily whispered diary entry from Henry Rollins over surveillance imagery trailing a woman, violence always about to arrive without arrival. Monologue 9 places a 1979 voice recording of Kenneth Bianci over a long shot of a body bound to a chair—each mode of violence opening up a formal modification in the arrangement of limbs. Fragment 10 returns to the Ballard Atrocity Exhibition, and at the end, an off-screen voice commands, “Stop,” and so the film does.

So those are the monologues that comprise Kaganof’s Ten Monologues from the Lives of the Serial Killers.

But the title of this film, as I mentioned, lies. Or, rather, there is a curious and pronounced carelessness to its choice of words. Monologos, we all know, means “speaking alone, speaking singly” (from monos: single, singular, one, alone, only; logos, of course: word). Several of the fragments, however, involve multiple speakers. Furthermore, despite the titular insistence, not every mode of speech, whether monological or dialogical, is associated with a serial killer. But once the monologue is no longer the definitive mark of each fragment, then the epigraphical and epilogical voice droning “In the beginning” should properly count towards the final tally; or, if the title seems to hold out the promise of unique or singular monologues, then the two repeated sections should count as two, not four, units of monological discourse: so the film either contains 8 monologues or 12, but it does not contain 10.

The monologues promised in the title, we might say, appear in the opening credits, appear under the sign of the title, only to disappear, to erase themselves with each non- monological, non-serial killing performance. This film more generally is comprised of many such forms of erasure, fading, retreat. Each narrative focuses on some dimension of the past, bearing out a nostalgia for what is lost and gone. What has passed on in the film is multiple: bodies, now corpses; corpses, now decayed; unity, now fragmented; the past, now obliterated; but also more ephemeral things, like memory (as in Kenneth Bianci’s uncanny monotone: “This one I killed; this one I don’t know about; I remember that cunt”). In the midst of this film of disappearances, the text also troubles its own visual presence, constantly retreating into illegible images and the failure of speech to manifest as something seeable. And, of course, each fragment in turn passes—each is there in so far as it comes to not be there, comes to be replaced with yet another.

How is one to read these disappearances, this dimension of where things are not in the text? My claim is that this is fundamentally a film that frustrates any language of formal analysis that would rely on accounting for what is present in the film.
When Derrida aimed to “shake metaphysics,” one of his central targets was the displacement of presence as the center and foundation of Western philosophy. One of the most pernicious effects of the obsession with presence, argues Derrida, was that the history of philosophy becomes a photology, “a history of, or treatise on, light” (“Force and Signification,” 27). This emphasis on the seeable and the visible has produced formalisms (neo- and otherwise) in film theory that, even when they claim not to, turn ultimately on discourses of presence. They are therefore ill-equipped to read the ephemeral traces, non- appearances, self-erasure and the violent disappearances that structure Kaganof’s destructured film.

My argument is that a revitalized non-metaphysical formalism in film studies would need to trouble mise-en-scène as a logic of presence. Freud taught us how to take grammar seriously; in his theorization of the unheimlich, he writes, “the prefix ‘un’ [‘un-’] is the token of repression.” In a similar fashion, in order to interrupt formal analysis as photology, I want to insert the sign of negation into the building block of cinematic analysis: a little n. Formal analysis after presence requires reading for what I call in my forthcoming book mise-n’en-scène. This phrase is a grammatical impossibility; it is an error in French. It is useful less for what it represents than for the possibilities it sets loose. Mise-n’en-scene suggests that in addition to reading for what is put-into-the-scene, one must also read for all of its permutations: what is not put into the scene; what is put into the non-scene; and what is not enough put into the scene.

The genealogy of non-unities written by an attention to the mise-n’en-scène is a fitting anti-narrative for Kaganof’s fragments about disappearances. Reading for form after the critique of metaphysics requires beginning with the premise that form has a force, that it is not reducible to any duality between form and content, that it is not to be put to work for the cognitive processes of spectators. Taking seriously a form organized around form’s waning and absence, for its traces and formlessness, suggests that violence in a film such as Kaganof’s is not in the text, in what is visible, audible, speakable or comprehensible, but is an unstable process bound up with the act of reading for its formal charge. Mise-n’en-scene suggests a critical practice that reads with the fragmentation of the fragment without attempting to piece the fragment back together—or, rather, tarries with the fragment, without attempting to turn each fragment into any segment.

Is there a way for the title of this film not to be lying? If we emphasize the logos of monologos, we are back to a metaphysical privileging of presence, and of the imagined immediacies of speech. What I’d like to suggest is that any analytical mode that ultimately takes the title at its (spoken) word, and looks for the presence of what is in the scene, will ultimately reduce this film to an articulation of its themes and fall for the metaphysical lure of logos’ purported bond to self-presence, immediacy or what is as a pure conveyance of meaning.

Put another way, I’d like to engage in a thought experiment and see what kind of critical possibilities are opened up if we begin with the premise that presence and speech are not where we want to focus our critical energies.

So, once again, does the title of this film lie? There is a tradition of the theatrical monologue in which a person is made to declare or put on trial their own attributes, such that it might be the case that the speaker plays the parts of multiple advocates and of a judge. This forced declaration of attributes might be more what is at stake here. In the classical requirements for the monologue, the speaker must not be the poet; the speaker must address himself in the form of self-prompting (we see this in Fragment One, posed as a series of questions and provocations to Kemper from himself); and, crucially, the speaker must address his soliloquy to a silent interlocutor. Indeed, the non-response of the listener is what makes for the anti-dialogical dimension of the monological. On the one hand, if the other is the spectator, then we should recall Christian Metz’s point in The Imaginary Signifier about the difference between the theater and the cinema—the actor is always present at our absence, and our presence requires their corresponding absence—in which case every film is monological. If, on the other hand, the silent interlocutor is within the text, then we might at least consider whether there are formal manifestations of this required non-responsiveness.

Dead response form suggests a rather different intertextual source for Kaganof’s monological mode: I am thinking here of Beckett’s A Piece of Monologue, which begins: “Birth was the death of him. Again. Words are few. Dying too. Birth was the death of him. Ghastly grinning ever since.” Speaker, the single protagonist of Beckett’s play, insists that this matter is the alpha and omega of what matters: “Never but the one matter. The dead and gone. The dying and the going.” If the non-response of the other is not only the formal requirement of the monologue, it is more so the refusal of a response that Speaker names and performs for some absent him. In other words, “the dying and the going” speaks without response but also in the wake of a non-response, defers response, and declares the impossibility of response.

This same form is at stake in the privileged fragment of Kaganof’s film, which is to say one of the two that are doubled, and the one that concludes the film: the formula of deferral from Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition—“X shot Y and Y shot Z, and Z shot A, and A shot B,” and so forth. This repetition empties the meaning of any one name to the rhythm of repetition; to the violence of the formula; to all manner of formalized violence. The man speaks alone and says everything but “I”. The litany becomes eulogy becomes cadence becomes death count becomes – what, exactly? Just the deferral so that the duration of the formula can exert its pressure on the text. So the title lies a third time, not for the numerical or the falsely monological, but because speech is not what speaks here: the film is something more like a formologue, which deploys form and the formula, makes present the force of the formal.

Although the entire film involves stories about the past, marked by forms of obsession, repetition and rumination, the explicit chain of names in the Atrocity Exhibition bits takes this broader logic and literalizes, or radicalizes, it. As though pressing on what Nancy calls “the threshold of community,” the voiced deferral puts on display the form of the deaths of others. If this is unrecognizable in its mode of address, if the semiotics of the death count become pure cadence and rhythm to which no response is possible or adequate (the truest sense of the monological), this is not the case of form obliterating sense, but of the sense of deferral functioning as the impossible assimilation of these deaths. It is thus the form of deferral that enacts the double sense of Ballard’s use of the word “generation”: what is made to go on, and what has already, definitively, passed on. That double sense cannot be in the text—it is neither present, nor bound up with presence—it is, rather, where the scene defers and what is constituted by this form of deferral, this disappearance without reference to what at any point appeared.

Ballard’s chain as Kaganof stages it involves a mutual deferral of origin and end. The rhythm of the formula repeats until the arbitrary, contingent and off-screen, which is to say external to the monological, voice declares “Stop”—deferring any final or last victim. And, likewise, the rhythm of repetition brackets any notion of the origin that might begin and thus promise coherence to such a list through its linking algebraic terms. Not least because Ballard starts with 1968 and Sirhan Sirhan, he leaves at minimum before the list the assassination of John F. Kennedy; 1968 arrives too late, which suggests that it is not the beginning in the sense of an origin at all. If we go back to the literal founding text of meta-physics, there, Aristotle proposes the kinoumenon kinei, the unchanging, primary substance of the “Unmoved Mover.” Kaganof’s film defers not only a telos for the list, it also refuses the fantasy of the “Unshot Shooter” who would ground or center the fragment. This mathematical transitivity is founded on grammatical transitivity, and the mise-en- abîme of transitivities extends so long as the voice has not yet declared “Stop” to this expanded field of relations.

This scene is built on ruins; it is constituted around the devastation of origin or end. If we analyze the presence of what is “in the scene,” including the presence of the speaker—the body, the voice, the dripping water, the dankness of the space—we reassert the primacy of a vocal and visual presence, a photology, a photophilia, a logophilia. If, instead, we take seriously fragmentation and the formula, then it is transitivity as such that exerts force in this cinematic bit. No image in the film, least of all this part of it, contains explicit acts of violence—rather, the juxtaposition of word and image deploys violence in and for the form of the film. Violence at the end of the work involves this suspension of origin and end, involves the force of deferral such that it is impossible to say that it is ever there in the film.

If the fragment includes its break, then the fragment is not reducible to any formalist logic organized around simple presence (i.e., the content of the fragment). Mise- n’en-scene suggests these are not monologues, but formalogues; but if formologue still holds too tightly to the logos (it is almost impossible to do away with), then I propose yet another revolution in the title of this film in order to make it not lie: 10 Formalgias, recalling that algon, as in nostalgia, really means a mode of aching pain. For it is formal material in deferred broken pieces and not pieces of flesh or the past that suffers, that bears out a chain of transitive suffering in the film.
Kaganof’s work is no less violent for that.

Eugenie Brinkema Massachusetts Institute of Technology Paper Presented March 23, 2012 in Boston, MA Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference

January 25, 2013

mick raubenheimer interviews felix laband

Filed under: felix laband,mick raubenheimer,music — ABRAXAS @ 3:33 pm

Felix Laband and the Impossible Day.

When I call Felix Laband up I have no idea what to expect. It’s been six wide years since ‘Dark Days Exit’, Laband’s high watermark following on cult favourites ‘Thin shoes in June’ and ‘4/4 Down the stairs’, the latter two albums having already re-sculpted dance-floor soundtracks throughout Cape Town, and brought him to the attention of hip German Electronica and Acid-Jazz label Compost.
‘Dark Days Exit’, widely and wildly lauded by critics throughout the hipper corners of the globe, introduced a more pensive aspect of Laband’s musicality. Its moods shifted from prettily haunted to vaguely ominous – its beauty was carved in twilight spaces, its beats shuffling in shadow. It was a great record, and – by his own admission – was created in a period of inspired productivity.
Following the clamor of praise and applause, Laband opted to withdraw from the adoring crowds. Then seemed to fall away from the earth itself.. leaving, in his stead, the usual proliferation of whispers and rumours that tend to accompany such sudden and sustained disappearances.
I’m surprised at the relaxed voice on the other side of the phone, inviting me to his studio in Rosebank. When my editor asked me to interview Laband at his new spot in Jo’burg, I calmly assured him that Laband was very much Cape-centric, and that his ‘new spot in Jo’burg’ was probably just another snippet of ficticious rumour. Several days later – more than a little disbelievingly – I found myself driving up a typically pretty, leaf-twirling Rosebank street.
Stepping into Laband’s home is like stepping into a living Felix Laband album cover, in 3D. The cozy, calm space of trees and geriatric-friendly gardens outside are replaced by Laband’s signature cheeky, unsettling manipulations of found images –
Here’s Barack Obama’s face blooming Ziggy Stardust tattoos; there’s Mugabe poking his newly mandible-fanged head through an ANC poster; here’s a cute huddle of Pornettes being penetrated by lucky skeletons; there a sweaty babe being ruptured by weird technologies.
Some of the collisions/collages bear the legend ‘Deaf Safari’..

‘And that shit’s happening right now..’

Laband and longstanding girlfriend Lauren have to pop out to a friend’s place (I’m a tad early), and instead of asking me to take a drive and come back later, or wait outside, Felix says I can chill in their lounge, “We’ll just be 15 minutes..”
From whichever perspective you view it, this is a very prettily ribboned gift for any journo or fan to receive – 15 minutes of unselfconscious exploration.. of inspecting the periphera, the creative traces of an artist’s living space. I flip through two boxes of records, which, along with the room-lining cd collection (hopping from book-shelves to cardboard box to cardboard boxes to crates and back) is mostly, and surprisingly, generic. No Steve Hofmeyr though. A handful of dvd’s scattered about are more intriguing – some dark and experimental titles wink at me.

When they return (“Feel free to read some books..” Laband mentioned before leaving) I’m paging through an occult pulp novel by Ira Levin (author of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’.) “You should check these out; insane stuff. Important,” he says while scooping up a selection. Then he pops off to make some coffee (“Do you take milk?”)
Felix Laband has been reading. A lot. The tumble of books he hands me are mostly non-fiction, “this guy missioned right into Sierra Leone, amazing shit.” Rwanda’s RPF; psychopathic child gangs in Sierra Leone; political analyses of corrupt regimes; the behind-the-hush cesspool of what SA troops did and experienced at the border in those sinister Eighties; ANC rebels being taught the primal power of necklacing in Angola. “These kids (in Sierra Leone) basically waltzed into the capital and hacked off everybody’s limbs. Everybody’s.”
Heavy stuff, and one can see it in Felix’s eyes, in his gait, the heaviness. It takes something out of you exploring the dark – it claims its pound of flesh. Africa, that is Laband’s new mission – the Africa behind the scenes, behind the screens, behind the vaulted walls of fearful rich white/black folk soothing Africa’s reality away with the salve of money. Money has become the ultimate security system – the metaphorical distance that turns tragedy into comedy, or at least into something inoffensive. Whatever’s been in his veins before, Laband is mainlining harsh reality, “It just freaks me out that this shit (the Rwandan genocide and ongoing nightmares in Sierra Leone) went down while we were teens. It makes you realize that some people exist in a living hell, while others party next door.”
Laband is tired of the hip crowds, the self-congratulatory throngs of Capetonian Hipsters, with their jaded wit – with their comforting distance from hacked-off limbs and prepubescent children torturing people for kicks. “It makes you realize we’re all flesh,” he says, in reference to some deeply disturbing Sierra Leone footage he’d seen.
Laband is meaning to inject some reality into his music too. That, and some Jozi. I ask him about his move to Johannesburg. The answer is simple – he wants to mix with new artists, new rhythms; he wants to move new crowds.
One of the tracks he plays me off the long-pending new album ‘Deaf Safari’, is neck-deep in Kwaito.. but a tweaked Kwaito – bounce-heavy, yet Alien.. Another track snakes ingeniously around the rhythmic rants of some North African evangelist. Said track freshly reveals the inherent musicality of African sermons – music is Everywhere, in prayer and damnation alike.
It’s an interesting approach, ‘Deaf Safari’: Get people boogying to get them thinking. Listening to the ‘Deaf Safari’ tunes I sense Laband’s got his approach down.. The familiar motifs still pop up here and there – tinkling vibraphones, prettily looped acoustic guitars – but there’s a new edge here: Dark Funk – Phosphorescent beauty which can only be appreciated in shadow..
“People can talk all they want, and I guess I’ve kinda lived up to all the rumours… but when ‘Deaf Safari’ drops I want it to hit. I want it to mean something.”
Laband started off as a teen punk – ‘Incurable’ when he was in Standard 7, later ‘Fingerhead’. It was listening to electro-Goth and Industrial groups (Alien Sex Fiend, Skinny Puppy) that got Laband interested in programming (their latter outfit utilized a drum machine).
That spirit – adolescent, hungry – is still there, waiting to pounce.

Hungry Futures.

Felix Laband is revisiting his live band days – ‘Deaf Safari’ will be the first Laband album to feature his own vocals, own lyrics. “I’m at a place where I have something to say..” From what I’ve heard, it’s going to be something of an onslaught.

Check one. Check 1-2-3.

First published in BPM Magazine.


January 22, 2013

Forest of a thousand tongues – Kate Bush and the kick inside

Filed under: mick raubenheimer,music,reviews — ABRAXAS @ 3:42 pm

When Catherine Bush was thirteen years old she was already versed in the language of piano, and in the old pump organ kept in the shed of the family’s sprawling, East Wickham farm.

By fifteen she had authored dozens of songs, some of which – including hit ‘The Man with the Child in his eyes’– would appear on her debut album four years later.

Intrinsically English, Kate Bush’s highly romantic musical world was rooted in the older British Isles which still hummed with legend and lore – whose fields and forests were still home to mysterious creatures of neighboring Gaelic and Celtic descent. Worlds whose secrets were magickal, rather than magical.

Of Royal line come.

Kate’s journey into the world of Pop music was more than a little charmed. She was born into a musical family – her dad was a doctor who was also a talented pianist, and all of her siblings became musicians. Much of the material for her first albums was conceived in the rambling idyll of the Bush farmstead. Discovered at age sixteen by Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, who subsequently championed her – even producing her first professional demos – by nineteen she was topping the British charts with the delicious histrionics of ‘Wuthering Heights’.

Bush’s first album, ‘The Kick Inside’, was an auspicious debut. Her already sophisticated musicality and gymnastic vocals aside, its songs referenced literature, philosophy, and more obscure fields, and wasn’t shy of courting the dark and outre’ – the title track tells the story of an incest-sprung pregnancy by way of the sister’s romantic suicide note.

Bush was also unabashedly sensual, but rendered sex and sexuality elegantly – poetically – compared to the coy vulgarity of most Pop and Rock trends. Her infectious celebration of feminine self was manifest in the gloriously un-checked twists and leaps of her shining vox.

More so than any female artist before her, even Patti Smith, Bush was a potently independent artist. Still a teenager when ‘The Kick Inside’ was released, she stood her ground against her record label, EMI, insisting that the idiosyncratic ‘Wuthering Heights’ be the lead single, rather than their pick – the more Rock oriented, accessible, ‘James and The Cold Gun’.

By the release of her third album, Bush had asserted near total control of her music. By 1985, with the release of masterpiece ‘Hounds of Love’, she controlled every aspect of recording; operating from her stable-turned-cutting edge- studio.

Bush’s unflinching independence would inspire a legion of subsequent female artists, perhaps even more so than her brilliant musical flair. The likes of Tori Amos, Aimee Mann, Florence & The Machine and Joanna Newsom seem unthinkable without her precedence.

Beneath the shimmering surfaces.

That Bush’s 5th LP, ‘Hounds of Love’, following on a string of commercial hits from previous albums, would be her highest charter yet, is testament to her uncanny gift for marrying commercial success with eccentric originality.

If one takes into account that the second half of the record is essentially a Prog- Rock concept album about a woman drowning – now humming, now booming with technological experimentalism and Jazz undercurrents – its success beggars belief. The single (and four of the first five songs on ‘Hounds of Love’ would become high-charting singles) ‘Cloudbusting’ even knocked Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ off the number one slot in the charts..

As a whole, ‘Hounds of Love’ is a strange creature: It was sonically sculpted to have two halves. The first consists of ‘The Pop World According to Kate Bush’ – a sonically delightful space which houses ‘Running up that hill’ and ‘Cloudbusting’. Its second half is more demanding: An aural suite exploring the hallucinatory experiences of a drowning woman, it flows and ebbs, never becoming prosaic. The ‘Ninth Wave’ suite contains in its depths even more layered beauty than is to be found in the glinting genius of songs that precede it.
A phenomenon of an album.

mick raubenheimer

[First published in Muse magazine]

January 21, 2013

helgé janssen reviews The Trees spin – Amsterdam Bar, Glenwood.

Filed under: helgé janssen,music,reviews — ABRAXAS @ 2:20 pm

During December, the Trees launched out on a wild spontaneous escapade to the City of Gold, tearing through the streets, borrowing instruments along the way and causing mayhem wherever they appeared! Strangely, yet to their eternal credit, their exuberance met with some opposition up north.

Cutting to the chase @ Amsterdam Bar on Friday night, dressed in white shirts, black trousers and braces, The Trees launched into their short set with a determination to make the most of a sound system that was not co-operating. That they pulled it off has much to do with their drive, their infectious songs and the fact that they are tapping into (and spearheading) a new musical genre: blue-grass punk-funk rockabilly (organised) chaos. This definitely is a cutting edge of musical exploration in SA today. Forces this night collaborated to have them produce a rock-ribbed set – to get it all to work no matter what obstacles stood in their way! One had a sense that that whirlwind whizz up to Gauteng has stood them in good stead.

The new line up consisted of Matthew Ilbury on guitar (sometimes lead, sometimes rhythm) and Guy Mitchell on drums. Matthew (from Black Math) with red-aflame-hair, made a striking visual impression and slotted into the mix as if born to it. Guy, tall naked legs exposed to maximum effect, (in grey shorts and braces!) drove the rhythm, beating out the demons with expert aplomb! He created an interesting crazed dramatic visual: as tall as he is, the miniature drums obscured at the back and he, crouched at floor level. Up front, founding member Daryn Higginson (guitar, vocals) kept the focus well centered and whose cool grounded approach was impressive. James Cross (Banjo/vocals) supplied the necessary sparks to the Catherine wheel set, while Hezron Chetty (Violin) wove through, around and between the tempo keeping the presentation tidy. I certainly missed the dynamism of Bobby Cross (Bass) who has moved to Cape Town – and who was to be replaced by Tyla Burnett (according to their FB page) who was unavailable for this gig.

The rise of The Trees on the Durban music scene has been somewhat meteoric and one hopes that they don’t get a speed wobble and fall a part!

Their statement is certainly spreading irresistibly, for I cannot remember ever seeing Amsterdam Bar that packed.

(There is a gaping hole in the wall behind the stage where there is a foosball table….which always encounters raucous players. The simplest solution (and its not even going to cost a cent – a pull-down blind would be a touch of genius!) would be to hang a temporary sheet over this hole and allow the artists performing to be given due focus. With a single person on stage, the competition is daunting. I am surprised Durban muso’s themselves haven’t done anything about it…or perhaps they have? Too much to ask?)

January 5, 2013

Self-Portrait With Hair Down

Filed under: kagapoems — ABRAXAS @ 4:29 pm

It’s 2:33am on the Saturday morning
(the one That used to be Friday
night) The music playing is
Oskido’s Church Grooves.
Everybody is Drunk.
Except me. I am
only An aspi-
rant drunk.
But by all
that is
Holy I
to drink
My way there
Before 3

All I want is you
Nothing else is true
Life without you is a fraud

Once again
My thoughts edge
towards the forbidden
Once again Darkness Envelopes
my laughter As I kneel down
At the river’s edge In
order to drink From
the bleeding moon

Once again
I sip her forbidden
streams. Pierced, bleeding,
frantic, Wanting nothing less
Than the impossible

then The lights
came on in the
Sasas Bar. I
was still
sober. I
In all
the unemptied
glasses But it wasn’t
enough To redeem me. Life

without you is a fraud
Nothing else is true
And all I want is

December 29, 2012

Grahamstown – 1985 to 1989

Filed under: derek davey — ABRAXAS @ 12:21 am

There’s something completely warped about Grahamstown. Every time I drove into the valley the town nestles and stews in my sense of direction would shift about 90 degrees and north just wasn’t where it used to be. I heard rumours that it was built on where a number of ley lines meet and cross, but I never managed to dig up any more on this.
Grahamstown was a huge chunk of my life, as I went to do my “national service” there for two years, before attending Rhodes University for five years straight after that. The town is made up of the army base on one side, the university on another, Fort England mental hospital on the third and the township, which overlooks the town on the fourth side.

The town was the bastion where the anxious1820 settlers gathered, after they were dumped there by the English to fight the surly Xhosas, who weren’t taking too well to the concept of being colonised.

The tiny dorp also has the dubious distinction of having once had the highest rate of alcoholism in the world, apparently holding the Guinness Book of Records title at some stage for its abnormal prevalence of drunkards.

It’s the also educational and cultural centre of the Eastern Cape, with a disproportionate amount of schools, Rhodes University and the Settlers Monument, which forms the home base for the annual festival of the arts. Last but not least, Grahamstown has 52 churches, which dominate practically every quaint little street, where people still often live in old, converted army barracks or horse stables.

I began my seven-year sojourn of Grahamstown as a very naïve, reluctant “troep” who was bought in by train from Cape Town to fight for white South Africa before I was able to fully reason for myself what that actually entailed or meant. It was a vicious awakening for my 18-year-old being; the six months of training I received before being shipped off — first by truck to Port Elizabeth, then by “flossie” transport plane to Namibia, to fight on the border – was characterised by baking summer days and freezing winter nights. The bush was scrubby and filled with thorn bushes, and as the new recruits panted and sweated their way through the Eastern Cape dust, I kept my thoughts to myself, being urban and English, and surrounded by Afrikaners from mostly rural backgrounds, or towns much like Grahamstown itself.

My pass times, when we were allowed to go home, consisted mostly of hitch-hiking back to the Cape to where my buddies and parents lived, but I did get to see some of Grahamstown, as my parents knew a lecturer and his wife there, and I stayed with them at times. I even got to recite some of my anguished teen poetry in the Journ department recording studio, complete with reverb and delays. Hopefully this has long been deleted or lost! I was not a happy camper; I resolved to never return to any institution filled with males, like prison, or army camps, and cycled through Rhodes on a bicycle, drooling over what appeared to be thousands of young, nubile female students lounging by the pool and strolling past in flimsy, revealing clothes to lectures.

Unsurprisingly, when I did get to study at Rhodes, I was obsessed with women and making up for what I regarded as years of lost time of not having had sex with them; I wanted as much sex as I could get with as many as possible of them, and all of it immediately, thank you. I was terribly inexperienced and painfully shy but I did manage to seduce a fair number of willing lasses nevertheless. Nuff said.

I initially took my studies very seriously, as the prospect of doing “camps” if I was to fail impressed itself upon my mind constantly. In my first year, I attended every lecture, took notes, and typed them out; spent hours in the library, and swotted diligantly for each and every exam. I even took up karate and smoked very little dope.
I do recall one evening going up the koppie beneath the monument, above my res, for what I thought would be a quiet toke just before the exams started. I had left a wonderfully carved and wire-wrapped chillum up on the hill, and the cops had evidently found it and were waiting for its owner to reappear. As I took the first hit, a cop van suddenly switched on its headlights, and began to race towards me. I reacted immediately, sprinting down the hill towards campus. Miraculously, I cleared a tall, barbed wire topped fence in one leap and raced across campus, into a toilet, where I waited, panting, for 15 minutes, before changing my jacket inside out and heading back to my res.

Things started to fall apart a bit in my second year, when I moved into my own digs and began playing in a band called Vader Jakob. We wore black and shades and long coats and listened to Nick Cave and Joy Division and drank as much beer and took as many drugs as we could find and caused as much ‘kak’ wherever we could.

I’ve got some pretty vivid memories of our gigs: we were invited by the Women’s Movement to play at an End Conscription Campaign gig; we all took downers; the clarinet player started playing figaros, while the singer was trying to plug in his guitar; the clarinet player, an immense chap even then, passed out and fell onto my amp, and both fell off the back of the stage. The women ended up screaming for us to leave. “Fuck off! Fuck off!” We had discredited their movement.

At another gig we managed to convince a new club’s owner that we would open for the national festival at his venue, and chased all his patrons away. He kept unplugging our amps, and we kept plugging them back in; eventually he was physically strangling the lead singer and yelling at him to shut up.

There were also some memorable lines; while practicing at a digs, an old hotel, the landlady entered the room and found us bashing on old car suspension springs and on the walls with firewood. “Raak julle mal?” (are you going mad?) she asked. While practicing in a sports room on a Sunday morning, a priest crossed the field opposite and addressed us politely with: “It’s impossible to worship with this going on.”

The third memorable line was when Tony Gush, the narcotics agent who had made it his holy mission to save the drug-gobbling students from themselves, raided our practice room just after most of us had consumed a huge dagga pipe. I had not take part, being on a bit of a “cleanup” and I smiled at a huge police sergeant who was trying to put the fear of God into us. “Ek gaan jou kry, pappie!” (I’m going to get you, upstart!) became part of our lore and legend.

Rhodes was basically divided into two separate “camps” – there were the guys studying for BSCs who played rugby and drank beer, known as the “buggers”, short for “rugger-buggers”; and then there were the BA and art students who smoked dope and listened to alternative music, known as the “bungies”. There were a few surfers who crossed the line – they were sporty but also smoked weed – known as the “rugger-bungies” but they were a rare breed indeed.

Our little gothic group sometimes ran afoul of the buggers, as we, unlike many bungies, also drank. One of our group also used to take these much larger guys on, and got beaten up several times. Once, outside a club, he was held by his hair and his face mashed to pulp on a bugger’s knee. I was held back from stopping this by the bugger’s burly mate. His cousin was called from the club and dashed down the road and kicked the bugger full in the balls. When this produced no discernible response he took out his flick-knife and slashed the bugger a neat, perfect cross on his forehead, which drew sufficient blood and shock to deter the face-pulping and allowed us to make our escape.
I also used to hang out with a lesbian woman who would cause shit with men in bars, who would then turn on me and want to beat me up! Apparently I beat some buggers up once who caused shit with my friends, but for some reason I have no recollection of this, which is a damn shame …

I found a steady partner in my third year, and stuck with her for about five years, my first long-term relationship. I consider myself lucky to have been able to do this, as, for my psychology honours, I wrote about how conscripts who returned from the border war often had difficulties in forming and maintaining lasting relationships, and expressing or allowing intimacy in them.

I kept studying after doing my honours, because the longer I was able to do that, the longer the army camps were kept at bay. My Masters degree in psychology was initially focused on difficulties exiles experienced on returning to South Africa, but I eventually wound up doing it on battered women leaving their husbands, as I had a friend who worked at the POWA shelter, and was able to obtain access to women who were stepping out on their own after abusive relationships. Basically I found that it could be any catalyst that sparked off their leaving their abusive partners – it was more the point that they had reached by that stage in their lives, the straw that broke the camel’s back.

In the end though I came back to journalism as a means of making a living, after trying unsuccessfully to make a career out of music, and then out of photography. I’ve always been able to write, and these days I correct other people’s stories and seldom write my own.

More than two decades after leaving Rhodes, most of the friends I hang out with still are the people I either met then, or are friends of those whom I knew at university. What made the experience of being in Grahamstown, at Rhodes, so special? What is the bond that still unites us?

The eighties were a time of massive social upheaval, with states of emergency peaking the whole apartheid regime paranoia, ultimately culminating in Mandela’s release just after I left university.

The Eastern Cape was especially hectic; I arrived in 1985, the year that anti-apartheid activists Fort Calata, Matthew Goniwe, Sparrow Mkhonto and Sicelo Mhlawuli, also known as the Cradock Four – were abducted, assaulted and killed by the apartheid police while returning from a meeting in Port Elizabeth.

Our personal contributions to the ‘struggle’ were petty compared to these guys’, limited to playing at End Conscription Campaign gigs, taking part in and photographing marches on campus where students were sjambokked by the police and the like, but our circle, which was leaning very much towards the left, was nevertheless riven with internal conflicts, fear and paranoia about police spies. The leader of Nusas (the National Union of South African Students) in Grahamstown, was a hero to many of us, as she was so often imprisoned, but turned out later to be a spy, who was probably sucking the cops’ cocks and sipping champagne while supposedly being ‘detained’.

Combined with this huge social upheaveal stuff, as the country writhed like a snake and finally shook off the skin of apartheid, was our own personal upheavals, which involved equally huge changes. I was exposed to Marxism and the UDF just after coming out of the border war and had to reconcile the massive guilt this engendered. I came to realise through my relationships that women were human beings, not the fuckbags we were told they were by the misogynists of the military; I had to reconcile the lust and fear they evoked in me, which had taken temporary root through their enforced absence from my immediate world.

I guess me and my varsity friends were spoilt white brats – most of us were there on our parents’ wishes and purse-strings, and we had half a decade to find out who we were and what the world was about, free from the usual grind of having to make a living. We learned about art and culture and experimented with how to express ourselves through our art and music and dress and debate. Actually we were exposed to and explored some really good art. I was watching Bergman and Fellini and Fassbinder and the like and listening to artists who I still admire today.

We were all passably intelligent and shared a love of bohemian decadence, which extended beyond drugs and partying to several other excesses – I mean, Grahamstown was a fuckfest of note – sometimes at a party one would realise that you had slept with half the people there. Hugely incestuous, we were just damn lucky that no-one bought Aids into the picture, because few of us used any protection and we would have all caught it, and in those pre-anti-retroviral days it was like, a real death sentence.

There was also the fact that Grahamstown is situated just an hour from the coast, and is close to what used to called the Transkei. Holidays in that still unspoilt paradise just defy description, and of course the weed that made its way from there to our university town – often via students themselves – was at times comparable to acid, capable of imparting huge insight or numbing, mindless terror.

We were happily able to maintain our own little bubble in Grahamstown, with its own hierarchies and cool and cliques, and while most of us have largely grown up and had kids and moved on and changed, I think we went through something unique that still holds us together, through social media, no matter where we are on the globe.

Well, you never know what you are going to dig up when you start shovelling though the past; I’ve gone through a whole gamut of emotions writing this piece. It reminds me of something I read recently about the building of the Grahamstown highway. The apartheid power-that-be insisted the freeway ran past the town, not through it, because the old road traversed the township. When the engineers dug through the mountainside a massive cache of unique dinosaur bones was unearthed, which might have otherwise lain undisturbed for another few millenia. Perhaps this piece will dislodge dusty matter for my alma mater chinas; and perhaps some old ghosts will come to life, or, better still, be laid to rest.

Derek Davey

December 24, 2012

sms sugar man

Filed under: 2008 - sms sugar man,trevor steele-taylor — ABRAXAS @ 5:44 pm


South Africa 2008 – 81 minutes

Director/editor/Script: Aryan Kaganof
Photography: Eran Tahor
Music: Michael Blake
sound design: warrick sony
sound recordist: nico louw
Cast: Leigh Graves, Deja Bernhardt, Aryan Kaganof, Bill Curry, John Matshikiza, Samantha Rocca,Jerry Mofokeng, Norman Maake

Johannesburg – an evil, ugly city on Christmas Eve. This is the turf of the lonely and the damned and no more damned can they be than Sugar man (Kaganof) cruising the streets in his Valiant ’66, continually on his cell phone, peddling his girls, white and Asian, to wealthy black punters. This tongue in cheek inversion of the apartheid-years scenario of Afrikaans business men popping off to the “homelands” to sample black girls is delivered with ironic force. From hotel to hotel to palatial apartment, sugar man and his girls journey like Joseph and Mary looking for a manger. The process of the night will awaken something in Sugar man that will be born on Christmas Day, witnessed by no Wise Men nor sheep and cows but witnessed instead, by those who, like him, were lost.

Strangely romantic, consciously transgressive and aesthetically audacious – shot on a battery of cell phones – the film is in addition a homage to Jean Luc Godard’s Alphaville. A checkered production history, plagued by disagreements between director and producer, almost accepted for Cannes but rejected after Kaganof refused to institute alterations insisted on by the Cannes selectors, the film is destined to share the same floor as Citizen Kane and El Topo in the great Cinematheque Hotel of the Akashic Records.

trevor steele-taylor

December 20, 2012

a letter from luzuko

Filed under: luzuko elvis bekwa,poetry,politics — ABRAXAS @ 10:24 pm

grand master

where are instigators of peace?, the poets are dead dead dead in this country of ours and politicians are doing doggystyle at broad daylight , and you guys are just chilling as if everything is okay . death of arts , death of cultu—fuck man i hate the word culture for it is used as ticket to corruption now.

grand master i write this with the spirit of zim ngqawana haunting me , tormenting me about the case in marikana , the slaughter of the innocent , the wreched of the earth..
when i met zim i 2003 i was so upbeat thinking that i know the man and his music so as i was talking to him he almost reiterated what mongezi feza said in uk when he was admitted to hospital which led to him being electrotuded which was disguised as some kind of therapy and ultimately led to his death. he said to the personnel there and i quote him ‘you ain’t gonna know me cause you think you know me’
that was exactly what zim said to me but philosophycally. he said if i want to know and understand him i have to start from the beginning i.e his first notable album , san song

admitting though that i only bought san song , his first notable album 3 months before his passing and even then i did not take much interest in it as i was still blown away by the one you sent me , zimology live in bird’s eye switzerland

then 3 months before the marikana massacre i found my self very much in love with his 1st album san song and 2 songs in particular , ode and migrant workers .

but now i will talk of the song , migrant workers because there are 2 versions of the same song by

grandmaster zim himself., the san song version and vadzimu version. in vadzimu it is only one version , jovial non prophetic , just an easylistening version.
in san song it is this long solemn ‘ nail in the heart ‘ version .telling the story of a migrant worker at home , on a train to the mines leaving his family behind and at the mines with harsh working conditions at the mines . infact it accounts to the bleak testimonial of a migrant worker .

to me it seems as if brother zim has been fighting this battle for the redress of the conditions of migrant workers long before num and amcu and other unions that claim to be on the side of the migrant workers .

now grand master we and the whole world saw what happened in marikana , we and the whole world saw what culture has be demonised for the weak though it is kind of angelic for the powerful.though i wouldn’t like to enter into politics of a status quo for the fear of being ‘contaminated ‘ by this ill discipline and counter-revolutionary contagion we see ghosts and figures ascending onto positions of extreme power while we the masses are aplauding in loud cheers and roars . the question i then ask is what has become of this beloved country . this country of lesego rampolokeng , of lefifi tladi, of koos kombuis and other independant dissidant think tanks .

like zim ngqawana , may god rest his soul , i weep for the migrant workers who died mercilessly in marikana

i will sign out with this old xhosa saying ,, nangona inyoka ifile nje kodwa ithambo layo limhlaba umntu afe

i am tempted to say yingoma yabathwa.

December 11, 2012

sarah jane mary hills – child of ancestors

Filed under: helgé janssen,music,reviews — ABRAXAS @ 2:49 pm

keep reading this interview and article by helgé janssen here: http://nbtmusic.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/a-synergy-of-expansive-opposites/

December 1, 2012

flames of passion

Filed under: kaganof short films — ABRAXAS @ 2:51 pm

a radikal remix of david lean’s brief encounter
completed in greyton on 1 december 2012
with music by daniel eppel and handel (sarabande)
text by samuel beckett (rockaby performed by billie whitelaw)
30min 19sec

November 30, 2012

zaide’s 2nd dream of zim

Filed under: 2010 - the exhibition of vandalizim,Zaide Harneker — ABRAXAS @ 11:36 am

I dreamt of him last night – he was wearing his khaki clothes and was desperate to play and play and play – it was dark and he could not find his place where he had to play – he walked away agitated and told me I have to go there to play. Before I left I looked for him to say goodbye. He held me (his t-shirt was wet from the sweat) and just held me. My sister Merunisa turned to me and said: Zai i am sorry, i cannot manage to record the music on the memory stick.

This is the second time i dream of him in relation to music – the first time he was happy because he had his instruments and was playing – he wore white then

November 22, 2012

roger lucey – No Easy Walk to Freedom (Composed in 1984 Recorded 1986)

Filed under: Lizabé Lambrechts,music,music and exile symposium,politics — ABRAXAS @ 12:42 pm

THE HIDDEN YEARS MUSIC ARCHIVE presents – NO EASY WALK TO FREEDOM – composed by Roger Lucey in 1984 Crown Mines Johannesburg; a dedication to the leaders on ROBBEN ISLAND. This was the first of a few versions, performed & recorded here by TIGHTHEAD FOURIE & THE LOOSE FORWARDS with LOS BALLAS TRIOS at The Free Peoples Concert in 1986 & filmed by ROGER HARRIS; compiled & edited in November of 1986 by MIRANDA HARRIS & DAVID MARKS with borrowed ‘news’ events (go on… sue us!!) from the early to mid-1980’s, filmed for ‘foreign’ TV only, by news cameramen ROGER LUCEY, ROGER HARRIS, CRAIG MATHEWS & others… TV news footage that was banned from broadcasting or distribution in the RSA at the time. TIGHTHEAD FOURIE & THE LOOSE FORWARDS were a band of closet C&W fans, dressed to kill, as it were. ROGER LUCEY as TIGHTHEAD FOURIE – in the ANC Colours (Vocals & Guitar); The LOOSE FORWARDS: JONNY BLUNDELL as RAY STADIG – (Lead Guitar); DAVID MARKS was LOURENCO MARQUES in UDF garb; (WARWICK SONY aka BEN ZINE also played Bass guitar on an occasion or two); BRIAN ROTH was Gene Parkering the drumist; LOS BALLAS TRIOS were TERRI LYN COHEN as TERRALENE CONE; PETER DAVIDSON as SLIM GEDAGTE & WILLIAM VON WITT was TENNESSEE FERREIRA. Help 3rd Ear Music preserve our Hidden Years Archive & perhaps put a historic ‘perspective’ to this Hidden History? Given the levels of corruption, greed & racism today, those who served on The Island have clearly been betrayed; so, where are the revolting new-age musicians who sing and say as much today? If nothing else… let’s learn from history! (p)(c) 3rd Ear Music / Hidden Years Music Archive Project – visit www.3rdearmusic.com. ROGER LUCEY’S book BACK IN FROM THE ANGER now available (Jacana Press).

November 21, 2012

THE MENTAL MASK By Ramon dos Santos

Filed under: dick tuinder — ABRAXAS @ 3:47 pm


This is the age of Identities.
Of lifestyle, logo’s and intentions.
This is not the age of ideologies or a belief in something outside the Self.


In the past century Man has fought himself a way from the ideological to the conceptual. And from the conceptual into the virtual.
Now at the beginning of a new millennium, the only logical next step for man is to venture into the Mental.


Ever since the ape stopped being a reptile and stood up and became Us, man’s perception has always been the subject of fashion.


The notion of fashion is the only thing that really separates us from other creatures. We are subject to fashion because we can SEE time. No other creature can SEE time like us. They might sense it. Feel it. Even hear it subconsciencely in whispering winds, but it cannot see time like us. So no other creature but us can see the difference between this and last year’s fashion and thus has no need for it.


Fashion is next to many other things the result of boredom. Boredom is the result of being able to see time.


Fashion has also been the number one engine behind civilization and progress. On occasions, in history, it became fashionable to be smart. To think and act accordingly. We now live in a time though in which the fashion is to be stupid. To not think and act accordingly.


As the universe expanded through time, so did man’s brain. On scale, the human brain expanded with the speed of light.


During the last century, while the universe kept expanding at its steady pace, REALITY has exploded into multiple big-bangs of facts, images, recorded time and space.


Also. With every picture taken, with every sound recorded, reality doubles. For even if this picture is one of the smallest detail, the humblest grain of sand, we cannot think this grain free from its surroundings, and thus not free of the reality it represents.
So with every picture taken of a reality of which already pictures have been taken, reality quadruples. This gigantesque multiplication of realities has already long ago reached its perceptional limit. And so it became fashionable not to think.


The more we copy reality in art or thought, the less reliable she becomes.


Our immediate surroundings resemble the outskirts of the universe: neither can be comprehended without either a filter or a key. As we do not possess the key, and are not too keen on becoming mad, we adjust a filter, and thus we become stupid and insensitive. This is called maturing.


To block out the ever changing and ever brighter light of reality, man has adjusted many different filters in the last century. We have changed the ideological filter for the conceptual one. And exchanged the latter for a virtual sunblock.
But no filter is strong enough to block out entirely the burning light of exploding realities. So in order not to go collectively insane, as we are well busy trying to do, we have to search for the mental key.


To get hold of this mental key man has to develop a third half of the brain. A bridge between both sides of the brain. A bridge between the alpha and the omega of an infinite number of big-bangs.


The Big-Bang was not a moment in time, or the beginning of time. The Big-Bang is a continuous proces. It IS time.


Perception is a parasite of the senses.
As reality doubles, so does perception.


Perception defines who we are. Or who we think we are. Or who other people think we are. In any case: if perception doubles, so does our identity. We are no longer one. We have never been just One. “Being oneself” is either a technical, psychological and philosophical impossibility or just a plain lie.


A true philosopher questions the manifestations of reality. And thus, a true philosopher does not think with his mind.
For his mind is full of fixed ideas that do not reperesent reality, but a mental mask blocking the true philosopher’s view and thoughts.
A true philosopher therefore, like a true artist, thinks with his eyes and genitals.


You cannot think about writing and write at the same time. You cannot make music and think about making music at the same time.
The writing IS the thinking.
The music IS the thought.


All art is recorded thinking.


All art is pain, in search of its cause.


I can be anyone I choose to be. In fact I am many. I can say fart and kill and tender things on the side and see no conflict in their assembly.


As morality is tightly connected to the notion of identity and perception, it changes as the latter two change. The fact that we are more than one identity suggests that we also have more than one set of morals. This cannot be. For a moral is always on its own. Therefore, once we recognize our other identities and let them grow, we have to abandon every notion of morality.


This is how we will learn to understand the universe. For there are no conflicts in the universe. There are no opposites, and no ‘forces’ or counterforces. There is no morality in super-nova’s.
The true universe is what is Not. The vacuüm. The stuff we are, mainly, made of.
Only the tiniest percentage of the space we occupy with our bodies is not one hundred percent vacuüm.


Imagine two bottles. One is filled with wine. The other only carries the tiniest – actually invisible – drop of wine.
When the question is aked: “Which one of these two is a bottle of wine?” everyone will give the obvious and correct anwser.
Yet, when the same question concerns the so-called reality that surrounds us, we choose the empty bottle.


In making art, in searching for the lost bonds with the universe, we learn to recognize the vacuüm as the main substance of reality.


This leads to the inevitable conclusion that there has never been, nor ever will be, a big bang. We were never on our marks, ready and set to go. There is no beginning, for there is no time.


All that I had to say about the artworks in this book, and the mental masks by which they were seen for the first time, I have said.
It should be noted though that, just as each person cages a million identities, each word is the prison of a million thoughts.

November 8, 2012

the corpse-grinders of berlin – episode 17

Filed under: acéphale — ABRAXAS @ 7:57 pm

He went into a bar and took a seat at the counter. Sitting there with a drink he thought about the differences between men and women again. Although men had the reputation to be monsters (Frankenstein monsters, to be precise) actually the women he had known turned out to be more cold-blooded than the men. The women he knew often used relationships in order get something else- a sense of security, a child, money, etc. The men tended to be naive and romantic. In any case, he felt that almost all women carried a disparity between their outward expression and their inner truth.

While sitting at the bar he started talking to a Latvian girl, whose name was Liana. She was pretty. When he found out that she was a student he hesitated to ask her what she was studying. He decided to go ahead and ask, what the hell, maybe he would be surprised. “Economics”, she replied. The same old answer. This instantly killed the spirit of the conversation. He was bewildered. How can such beauty succumb to the terminally boring world of finance? He metaphorically backed up. He studied her features a bit longer and tried to imagine her twenty years older. Yes, it fit. Youth, he knew, could be such a clever disguise.

When he finally got back to his bed and fell asleep it was like he had been hit on the head with a sledgehammer, merciless and forgiving.

The next morning he had coffee at a plastic white table at a cafeteria in the middle of a socialist housing block. The air stank and the people were rude. Somehow here, where there was absolutely nothing that he could identify with, there was more of a chance at defining a meaningful freedom than in the vast symbiosis of the west.

After breakfast he went to the open market by the train station, which was very primitive- almost Asian in its dusty wilderness. People selling vegetables and fruits and contraband caviar and cigarettes. He located the central bus station and bought a ticket for his final destination: a small village near the Baltic Sea called Edole. He bought cigarettes, beer and bread for the five hour bus ride.

As the bus rampaged at an insanely fast speed through the bumpy country roads, the sun finally broke through filling the bus with flickering shafts of light. The driver was blaring Latvian pop music on his portable radio which he had taped to the dashboard. Looking out at the blazing gold of the wheat fields the man thought to himself: people give up a lot to live in the city- they give up the stars, the air, the soul of things. This creates a huge void in their life, which they try to fill up with all kinds of shit. The seduction of mankind.

helgé janssen reviews rowan stuart’s debut album “light in cages”

Filed under: helgé janssen,music,reviews — ABRAXAS @ 5:04 pm

Light in Cages – album launch Zack’s, Wilson’s Wharf 28 October.

I first came across Rowan Stuart when he opened for a Jaspar Lepak gig @ St. Clements in Musgrave Road more than a year ago. He had already become well known via Cynosure a “quirky fun-pop-rock band” in the words of Rowan himself. At St. Clements, he had a way with creating guitar loops and backing beats that grew the sound beyond he and bassist Jared Collison’s stage presence. All the while Rowan’s eyes would dart around: audience to guitar, drum beat/loop to audience, microphone to foot pedals….as if he was looking for something unfathomable, seemingly out of reach. At the same time he was having fun experimenting before a highly appreciative audience. But quite clearly the glint in Rowan’s eye (a single eye peering through the curtain of his fringe) was searching for a greater challenge.

Light in Cages – Rowan’s solo project alias transmuting into a band for performances – literally burst onto the Durban rock scene @ Zack’s on a rainy Sunday night. Heading the line up was multitalented Rowan (lyricist, vocals, lead guitar, synth programming); Jared (bass); and Jude Kendrick (drums). I sensed immediately that there had been a shift in Rowan, a shedding, displaying a masterful command of his performance that was grounded, driving, inimitable. He has been hard at work, realigning his planets and taking stock of his life, allowing his lyrics and songs to speak for themselves. As such, this break-away venture bares all the courage of self-exploration within a context of philosophical portent. But I also sensed there is a lot more in dynamo Rowan – in perfect voice, a voice with a range of which great legends are made – that wants to kick ass. He certainly has rock star looks and style, wearing black shirt, black skinny-jeans and hipster black and white checked belt. Long time collaborator Jared was solid on bass, complimenting Rowan with confident ease. Newcomer Jude gave a vigorous and beat-perfect performance on drums.

There is certainly light – and darkness – with immense intelligence in the lyrics, which are most epic. The melodies are haunting and memorable. There is magnificence in the musical arrangements that are many-layered, which I see (given time) being performed with full orchestral accompaniment. Time will prove just how far ‘Light in Cages’ has raised the bar in this genre and as such this is indeed an exciting and much needed addition to South Africa’s rock scene.

The CD cover is a direct link to this projects name: a man in a state of ecstatic abandonment with light emanating from his chest cavity, and who is surrounded by a bleak landscape swathed in darkness. The immediate impact is of a soul trapped in a human body yet forever free. It is of note too, that while the rib cage is an ‘entrapment’ it is also a flexible protection.

The CD has been expertly produced and recorded by Rowan with Brent Quintin mixing and mastering. The talents of Sidney Rash were used on drums, with Rowan completing the range of backup musical instruments: bass, guitars, programming.
I have at least two best best favourite tracks: “Symphony” and “The Labyrinth”.

Here are the lyrics courtesy of Rowan:


They say that we were once beasts
Who rose from the ground
We were bound and displeased

They say our thirst never died
As we grew in our numbers
So we grew in our pride

I say that beasts we may be
But blessed with the ability to better are we

So come on, come on baby please
Won’t you close your box of vanities
Cause there’s a symphony
It’s called Humanity
And every note, every beat
Is an angel reborn

If we choose to live and let live
To create and to wonder
And take less than we give

We can break from these cages of skin
Becoming humane and not merely human

So come on, come on baby please
Won’t you close your box of vanities
Cause there’s a symphony
It’s called Humanity
And every note, every beat
Is an angel reborn

La la la la

There’s a symphony
There’s a symphony oh oh
It’s called humanity
Called humanity oh oh
There’s a symphony
There’s a symphony oh oh

So come on, come on baby please
Won’t you close your box of vanities
Cause there’s a symphony
It’s called Humanity
And every note, every beat
Is an angel reborn
Is an angel reborn

There’s a symphony
Called humanity
And every note, every beat
Every note, every beat
Every note, every beat
Is an angel reborn



Curse of birth or gift of the divine
Sworn to walk this trying maze of mine

I’d just watch the sky to stay strong
And dreaming between the stars
I’d forge on

Cause I could never stop this search, it is my fate
To walk the labyrinth

And every time you tear me down I’ll recreate
Myself inside of it
The labyrinth
It’s in my veins now

Whispers and stirring bones
Of those before
So few find the prize
We die for

But I could never stop this search, it is my fate
To walk the labyrinth

And every time you tear me down I’ll recreate
Myself inside of it
The labyrinth
It’s in my veins now

This is rock music at its fledging best! If Rowan were a fine artist, I would call this the world’s first rock instillation art piece!

It is going to be interesting to see if Rowan will succeed in enticing people to buy into his music rather than into his name or image, or whether there is a calling of which he himself is as yet unaware. After all rock music is very much about lifestyle and performance that marries and drives home its liberating message.

On its own, the CD is an astounding achievement. Get your copy now!

Visit Light in Cages web site at: http://www.lightincages.com/fr_music and get a free download of a track.
You can also visit the Facebook page at:

mick raubenheimer reviews Kyle Shepherd’s – South African History !X

Filed under: mick raubenheimer,music,reviews — ABRAXAS @ 2:22 pm

At once an interrogation of and meditation on the obscure roots of South Africana, Shepherd’s third studio album, helmed for the most part by his quartet (with Shane Cooper on bass duties, Jonno Sweetman on drums and Buddy Wells on tenor sax), is dynamic and hugely evocative. Although consisting for the most part of original compositions, the album predominantly evokes shards and strokes of traditional (South) African musics – from San trance music, to Boeremusiek and Vastrap, to a gloriously fun reworking of Afrikaans folk song ‘Bobbejaan klim die berg’.

Acknowledged by Shepherd as being a kind of response to the hidden, or obscured, history of that curious beast, South Africa, ‘South African History !X’ has a strong presence of the San and Khoi-Khoi cultures – appropriately so, as these two peoples were the first inhabitants of this corner of the continent. Musically the album is rich, dense even, but also playful – a questing, inquisitive spirit tempered by impossible longing.

Shepherd and his cadre are becoming masters at reading one another’s musical moods and possibilities, making for texturally steeped beauty. Also features the late great Zim Ngqawana.

Powerful stuff.

November 6, 2012

landscape #9

Filed under: kaganof short films — ABRAXAS @ 8:30 pm

music – p.i.l.
vocal – Jana Smit
edited greyton, october 2012

October 23, 2012

the corpse-grinders of berlin – episode 20

Filed under: acéphale — ABRAXAS @ 9:42 am

The next day was grey. When it came to the time of departure everyone suddenly became concerned about his welfare. They gave him address and telephone numbers to call in Riga if things went bad. In fact he wasn’t feeling the best at this moment. The vodka ritual of the night before had given him the distinct feeling that his head had been pulled off and replaced incorrectly.

He got into the Mercedes with one Dutchman and the Russian driver. For the Dutchman the Slavic show of feelings and companionship was too much. He confessed to the stranger that he was afraid of all the emotions. He was almost shaking. It was unknown territory for the northern European pale-ass. At this moment he understood the irony, that in fact, those who build walls out of fear can function much better in this society than he ever could. In the end it was always the same conclusion though: he was a real shit.

As they approached Riga the driver decided that he wanted to go to a banya. They pulled up to a harbour where there was a black banya- which meant that it was one in the old Russian style. The air by the river was clear and fresh. Back to the shimmering cry of seagulls. Standing at the edge of the docks the seagulls swirled all around him.

The banya was an ancient exotic ritual which bordered on masochism. Red hot stones which carefully rip away the layers of the world. It was here that men of all different backgrounds could meet as equals, all of society and its laws are suspended temporarily in this sweat lodge. There was a mix of criminals (with their huge tattoos), businessmen (with their lack of charisma), workers (with their muscles) and Mafia types (with their big golden chains).

They said the ritual was developed to move the blood, and it included self-flagellation with birch and oak branches. They would all of a sudden start whipping themselves into a frenzy, the branches burning like flames in the ultra hot sauna.

When they were finished the three of them were totally broken, left in a kind of daze where it was even difficult to utter a single word. Of course they finished the entire ritual with a large glass of vodka.

Later that night he was walking down the Caka iela, past the prostitutes, and he felt his hunger grow. He needed to fuck again, to touch and be touched. But then suddenly it all became a weird mix, a kind of cultural nausea, as it always does in this fucked-up society. It happened when he came across an old woman in utter poverty living in the streets. Her face black with soot, she paced in circles trying to keep warm.

In the morning he went out to his favourite cafe, which could barely be called a cafe, lacking any of the charm necessary to function under the illusion of commerce. My God, how could anyone drag themselves here each morning and then go to work in some dreary shit-hole afterwards? There he had breakfast with an old woman who had lavender hair and a businessman who looked like a pig drained of all its blood.

It was a terrible day, raining endlessly. He walked through all of it. He went to the open market which was a swamp, he walked the streets alone. He especially liked the wooden houses, appearing as if they had suddenly come out of the set of some cowboy film. The Jugendstijl gates, the huge piercing faces mounted on the sides of buildings, staring down like guardians of the past. The hand painted cinema posters. The shops which were open all night. It rained all night long, through all of it. He walked until he couldn’t walk anymore, and then he had to walk back. He came back to his building around three in the morning, climbing the wet and rotting art-deco staircase with its distorted shadows thrown up against the walls like the mise-en-scene of some German expressionist film from the 20s.

While he was walking down the street the next day a Latvian grabbed him wildly and asked him, “Quick, do you have an aim in life?” It was a good question, because most people don’t. He answered instantly. “To write poetry and to find someone to love.”

During the nights he would walk the streets of the old town, listening to Latvian rock music. He was drinking bottles of beer on the street corners, but of course he would never meet a girl on the street. Girls want to meet guys with money, the guys in the bars.

Once in the middle of the night he found a guy, blind drunk, laying in the street. Someone went up and slapped him hard to see if he was still alive. The guy responded with a very faint moan. People just left him. The guy was wearing a designer‘s suit, and the stranger was surprised that nobody went for his wallet.

Here there was no history as it is known in the west. Here history was always entangled with mystery and inexplicable events. Stories of astrological clock-makers going blind, monks that were bricked up alive behind church walls, black cats and so forth were blended in with historical data. This was the case to such an extent that a so-called factual history of causes and effects would now be impossible to reconstruct.

The toilet in his apartment was the most brutal he had ever witnessed. The pipes were all held together with wet scotch tape and the walls seemed like they had been painted with shit.

In the morning he put on his vest and parted his hair, like some dinosaur.

October 22, 2012

helge janssen reviews ” Anarchy in KZN – the Far Canal – the Winston 17 October “

Filed under: helgé janssen,music,reviews — ABRAXAS @ 1:04 pm

Event: Acoustic Wednesday @ the Winnie.

Ten years ago I decided that I had had enough of films that presented yet another boy-meets-girl permutation in an endless attempt to reinvent heterosexual relevance. Not that I am *heterophobic or anything like that, its just that it has all become so very boring. For some strange reason last night, at the revamped under-new-management-Winston, I found myself thinking the same thing with regards to topics bands love to sing about.

Emerging bands in the subculture need to catch a wake-up…out there is a revolution…..a revolution of the working classes. Leaders lead by doing nothing while getting huge salaries……then dodging accountability, and the last thing we need to hear about is the luxury of a yet another failed heterosexual relationship in any one of its myriad of angst-driven rigmaroles – unless of course that relationship is reflective of the politico/social context at large. Mainstream media is full of it….and they don’t need any encouragement. So get with the plot. It is now. And if you don’t know it yet, you simply do not have the right friends on Facebook! (Lol)

Enter the Far Canal, an anarchic antidote – the name-reference to stagnant toxic backwater! From clipping a stapler to tinking a tin can dynamic front-man Bill Harsia (Justin Lagesse – vocals/percussion, previously of The Kiff, with Ty Phoid, Jon van den Berg – acoustic guitarist of the La Els and the Wilderness Act) grabbed whatever bit of disorder he could salvage and used it to pry open a few minds! From then on it was pure freefall as innovation and cutting edge prose gripped the rapt audience. The drive and spiritedness emitting from Bill Harsia, emphasized no doubt by the fact that this was Ty Phoid’s final gig before leaving the country, underscored the urgency of this set. Not that I could always hear what was being said – pity…..that sound system needs a bit of tweaking when it comes to the spoken word – but caught enough of the poetry to realise that Far Canal were synchronistically reading my thoughts exactly! Or should that be the other way round? It is not easy to find the right chemistry required for this level of dynamic cutting edge performance so one hopes that Bill Harsia will succeed in finding a suitable conspirator/s…..he is 100% on the beat!

Here is some fascinating insight into the mind of Bill Harsia which I was delighted to have inboxed:

#1) Traffrica (The Robot Song)

I’ve got a robot
I’ve got a robot
I haven’t got a lot
but I’ve got a robot [x2]…and it

…gets me attention
gets me a mention
gets me less stress
and it gets me less tension

I’ve got a robot
It jams the flow
It calls the shot
It controls the show

Gets me a spot light
Under the red light
I’m the rotting tooth in realities bite

I’ve got a robot
It controls the rolls
I dish out the karma
I collect the tolls

…It goes go go, whoa whoa X3.. And it goes stop.

Change, change, change, change… I need your change of direction…at this intersection

Turn,turn, turn
Turn away from mass extinction, self extermination

Don’t bleat to the beat of the global elite
Don’t let them dictate the beat

I’ve got a robot and it…

…gets me attention
gets me a mention
Gets me less stress
and it gets me less tension

The penny has dropped,
I’ve made up my mind
I’m leaving my robot
robot behind

Out of the cold
into the light
Out of the hold
of industrial might

I’ve got a robot
I’ve got a robot
I haven’t got a lot
but I’ve got a robot

…and it goes go go, whoa, whoa X8…and it goes stop.

#2) Belly of the Beast

You are the poison in the belly of the beast

…and in the uprising
you are the yeast
…and we rise up above the breadline to the feast

And we rise up

You can kiss me upon the apocalypse
And you can kiss the apocalypse goodbye
You can kiss me when the epoch clips
You can kiss me when the power tips
Cause you can rise up X3

Your are a fist fill of catalyst

…and you shake shake shake at the capitalist.

…and you open up
open up minds

And we open up…OPEN UP!



Bang on the starter gun

This rats not gonna run

Cause in the mind the race is won
It’s all in the mind hey

Give me 1 day and I’ll take Monday
Monday is my Number 1 day

Give me 1 day and I’ll take Monday
Monday is my fun day

It’s all in the mind hey, that’s why…

When I’m in a spin
I Spin an inner revolution

forgive the sin mop up mental pollution…and I

Bang on the hum drum
With a little hum
Helps me overcome the system

Bang on the hum drum
With a little hum
Get’s me at peace with the outcome

Giving it stick when I’m stuck in the grind,
Cause that’s when I break it down all refined


Break it down, break it down
Flip it upside-down

Flip it up, flip it around, flip it upside down.
Can’t fault any of that! Sheer inspiration! Yay!

At the end of the evening Lucia Nomafu Nokonwabisa Gcingca took over the DJ dex: a computer with a selectable play-list. I first encountered Lucia (Loopy) some 5 years ago as she walked into the frame while I was making a spur of the moment documentary of the 16th June 2007 gig called Killing for the Kids at the Winston. She spontaneously began spouting thoughts on the function of poetry and meanings of lyrics. I was astounded as she was as drunk as the lord! She has since become the infamous bass player for Fruit and Veggies. At the dex she proved to have a real feel for the music she selected, and gave us an amazing sample of her taste.

The Winston has undergone a revamp and have new owners Mathew and Luke Olivier! These brothers have the right attitude and the changeover has been handled most deftly, with a youthful collaboration to keep the legacy of the venue very much alive.
* homophobic – my iMac computer registered this word as a spelling error. On doing a spell check I discovered that this word does not exist in the generic Oxford Dictionary installed on this computer!

October 19, 2012

harvey stapleton: the gaucho amigo

Filed under: kaganof — ABRAXAS @ 2:32 pm

I met Harvey Stapleton in 1979 when he was working at a shop called Keogh Coins in Durban. I used to work there in the stamp department. Harvey worked mainly buying and selling gold coins, Krugerrands etc. He rode a motorbike and always had wild long hair. He had a great sense of humour and we shared music tastes. He loved jazzy, sophisticated sounds and I remember very clearly when Steely Dan’s GAUCHO album was released Harvey came into the shop with immense delight brandishing the album. We used to argue a lot about the value of lyrics in music – he was a great believer in the idea that lyrics did not mean a thing and the words only had value because they held the melody line together.

He was very verbally gifted and we would enjoy playing with people’s names, making acronyms out of sentences etc. He always used to call a beer a reeb and so forth.

When I left South Africa to avoid being conscripted into the apartheid army Harvey drove me to the airport. He was a very supportive friend. The photo you see on the blog was taken at the airport, I was flying from Durban to Joburg and from there out the country into exile. I did not see Harvey again until 1993, a full ten years later. At that time he had opened a gold coin business of his own and was operating out of the first floor of a building in Smith street, Durban. I visited him then and we talked a lot about the condition of the country, he said to me “This country is going down the tubes.”

That was the last time I saw Harvey. I remember him as an extremely supportive friend. He did not have to agree with you in order to support you. That’s real friendship. I had no idea that he had passed away. I would appreciate knowing more about that.

I remember him so well singing this verse from Gaucho, he really loved that album and this song in particular:

Who is the gaucho amigo
Why is he standing
In your spangled leather poncho
And your elevator shoes
Bodacious cowboys
Such as your friend
Will never be welcome here

christine lucia on joshua pulumo mohapeloa and the heritage of african song

Filed under: music — ABRAXAS @ 2:21 pm

the full text of this essay was published in the journal of international library of african music, 2011

October 18, 2012

mick raubenheimer reviews wrong-eyed jesus

Filed under: mick raubenheimer,music,reviews — ABRAXAS @ 6:05 pm

Classic Albums: Jim White – ‘Wrong-eyed Jesus! (The mysterious tale of how I shouted)’

‘Way down South I know a girl who is blind/ She walks alone along a lonely highway each day/ She dreams that one day a man will pull up in a car/
He’ll open up the door; she’ll climb in and he will say:/ “Hey babe, whatcha know? I hope you’re ready to go./ Coz today is a perfect day, for chasing tornadoes.”

Swampland gospel.

Country music has always had a wayward heart. Lonely, a little deranged. Tremblingly hunkered down in the pew to atone for the previous night’s ‘incident’. It is possibly this thorny truth – the hungry, desperate heart of the genre – that has led to it turning up the floodlights roundabout the late Seventies, reinventing itself as the grotesquely sweet and earnest Country Cabaret strummed by the likes of Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Billy Ray Cyrus and all those other bright-mouthed, Can-Canning gals and okes, effectively turning the genre into a Honky Tonk Disneyland.

Said floodlights might have cast the shadows off stage, but it also amplified them; occasioned them to multiply in fertile periphera.

The Man in Black, Johnny Cash, had of course always been around, to keep the dark and broken flame afire, but since the onslaught of mainstream candy-coated Country most people are forgiven for thinking the genre begins and ends with airbrushed barn dances beneath a winking moon.
Nestled in an unlikely Country music section – sticking out like a sore thumb between the smile-strained faces of Mister and Missus Country – Jim White’s quietly auspicious debut, 1997’s ‘Wrong-eyed Jesus!,’ weirdly glows. The cover and booklet are strewn with offbeat and sinister biblical references; inside, the songs are disheveled by beauty.

Born in 1957 in Pensecola Florida, White grew up in the deep American South, enduring a childhood he acknowledges as having been wildly hypocritical, even schizophrenic . Bloody bar brawls and bible verses and wife beatings and gospel choirs and hurricanes and drought and lung-belching alcoholics and molested children and Revelations and drugs and lynchings and crimson faced, Bible-thumping preachers all cluttered together in the same space, vying for breath.

The impact of this grotesquary on White’s sensitive consciousness seems to have been profound, bruising him into a roaming loner who toyed with, then dropped, several unrelated fates (White is said to have been, at various times, homeless, a fashion model, a professional surfer, a preacher, a boxer and a NY City cab driver), before David Byrne’s funky indie label Luaka Bop offered him a friendly record deal.

And the Sun went down on the Moon.

“Long about an hour before sunrise/ 
she drags his body down to the edge of the swollen river/ 
wrapped in a red velvet curtain/ 
stolen from the movie theatre where she works.”

White’s debut arrived fully formed. Like his wild, mythologized childhood (the liner notes also contain a shocking, illuminating 12-page account of a string of brutishly dazzling and disturbing co-incidences from a season of his youth) the album entertains unlikely bedfellows – suggestions of Jazz; glinting, broken plucks of guitar; unexpected flashes of Soul; majestic flourishes; funky drum backdrops; ghosted vocals echoing themselves out of rhythm… melancholy and a collection of devils, and occasional, thrilling choruses from divine entities. The songs contain scatterlings and outcasts, beggars and rapists and innocents and killers and dreamers in its narrative menagerie. It is a world to get lost in, and, thankfully, White somehow succeeds in coating these often terrible scenes with a gorgeous musical sheen, so that one feels safe even whilst bathing in darkness and moonshine.

At its essence, its array of stylistic influences aside, ‘(The mysterious tale of how I shouted) Wrong-eyed Jesus!” ‘ is country music. Honest, original, un-glossed Country. Music from a haunted, broken Americana soil. Perverse and gifted and otherworldly.
Get it, like, yesterday.

[first published in Muse magazine]

October 17, 2012

herman hesse on what is worthwhile in art

Filed under: art — ABRAXAS @ 3:06 pm

Where art is concerned, I know that, just as in any time in the past, every true poem or painting, every measure of true music is paid for in equal measure with life, with suffering, with blood. Nothing has changed in the world except that which has always been on the surface and easily mutable: public opinion and moral standards. Fortunately, the serious worker can protect himself against these completely: it takes a little denial and asceticism, but it is very worthwhile.


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