Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



Studio group playing the music of Warrick Sony (b Swinney, 12 Sep. '58, Port Elizabeth, South Africa), who began at the U. of Capetown, continued in Durban; created his tapes at Shifty Studios in Johannesburg. Early collaborators included Hamish 'McDub' Davidson, drummer Brian Rath and bassist Mhlanga Roxx; he also worked with drummer Ian Herman from Tananas. First release was the double vinyl single 'Burning Tractors Keeps Us Warm' on the West German Pure Freud label, then cassette Gross National Products on Shifty. First LP Own Affairs '84 on UK's Recommended label included 'Prayer For Civilisation', also included in Recommended's quarterly magazine/sampler LP: tapes of chaplains and politicians asking divine help (e.g. as the Enola Gay took off in August '45) were backed by an inexorable (but not overbearing) rock beat, interspersed with vocal chorus 'In the name of God we kill' which sounded like something from Kurt Weill, fine saxophone provided by Rick Van Heerdon, whose friend Ann helped in the chorus. Still on Recommended, this lineup made Living In The Heart Of The Beast '85; on Sleep Armed '86, concerned with life in S.A. suburbia, Rath and McDub rejoined Sony on various tracks.

Sony toured Europe '87 using tapes and local backing musicians (e.g. Chris Cutler and Tim Hodgkinson from Henry Cow/ Art Bears and Alig and Mick Hobbs of the Work). Rounder in the USA issued an LP from the End Conscription Campaign called Forces Favorites which featured 'Don't Dance' by the Surfers, licensed from Shifty. A fourth album Bigger Than Jesus '89 was banned in S.A. but unbanned after an appeal, and the title changed to Beachbomb; the fifth album was End Beginnings '90, a collaboration with Sowetan beat poet Lesego Rampolokeng, through Recommended. A tour of Brazil included Lesego. A CD compilation The Eighties Vol. 1 came out on RéR in UK and USA. The mid-'90s saw a sixth album get mixed in with work by Brendan Jury (of Urban Creep) and a new duo called TranSky launched (dub with a triphop feel); a single 'Heaven To Touch' was released and the album Killing Time followed on the tic tic Bang label.

Most of this work was completed in a relocated Shifty Studio in Cape Town after Sony was gunned down in front of his Johannesburg home by hijackers. TranSky opened for Massive Attack on that group's S.A. tour; Brendan relocated to Durban and Sony picked up the Kalahari Surfers name again and released Akasic Record 2001 on African Dope Records. A new album Muti Media was released in 2003, as well as a commission for dance label Microdot called 'Conspiracy of Silence'. A ragga album Paralyser was composed and produced for the township duo GhettoMuffin, and a kwaito album for Marekta. Since then Kalahari Surfers have done music for Tall Horse, a multi-media show for the Handspring Puppet Company with the Coulibaly Family (puppeteers from Mali, West Africa). Warrick teamed up with Murray Anderson working together at Milestone Studios in Cape Town and collaborated on the music for the movie In My Country, directed by John Boorman and starring Juliet Binoche and Samuel Jackson. A new Kalahari Surfers album Straight To the Hips was imminent in early 2005, as well as a second album for Microdot, a compilation of dub remixes titled Echo System.