The award winning documentary Searching For Sugarman really drove a point home. As a South Africans living in London and California respectively It was quite an experience for us to watch our new friends in the United Kingdom and the United States gushing over the ‘unique’ story of a singer who was ‘huge in South Africa – a rock icon” but virtually unknown anywhere else. While we were thrilled that the world finally discovered how brilliant Rodriguez was – something we had known all our lives – we also knew that this seemingly remarkable story was far from unique: It was the story of thousands of South African musicians and bands – legends in their own country, but unknown to our new friends and neighbours.
We knew we just had to do something to remedy the situation, and since the technology of the 21st century allowed – indeed, encouraged – it, we did the obvious thing: we resurrected our ‘radio show partnership’ from 25 years ago.
It all started in 1986. We were both first year Politics students at Rhodes University. We met when the local record library closed down and sold off all its stock. We were the ones carrying out albums by the armful while others made sedate purchases. Brett had a turntable in his dorm room and Leon had just landed a gig presenting a show on Campus Radio. Forces were joined, as they say. That’s us in the photo above presenting our show “The Hallucinogenic Wasteland” on Rhodes Music Radio in the late 1980s.
Two or three years later, when the Voëlvry Tour hit town we knew we had to start a band. We did. Our musical dreams were global but the reality was we were constrained by a time and a place. We learned firsthand how hard it is to break out.
It’s hard to say why even today most South African music is still a well-kept secret and why so few SA bands gain international attention. We have many theories why this is the case, but the one thing it certainly is not is a lack of quality, creativity and talent. We’re sure you’ll agree with us when you join us in listening to the great many records that have come out of our home country.
The sheer diversity is staggering: from joyous pop to deeply moving documents of the country’s bloody history, from rock, rave and disco to some serious jazz, from the a musical melting pot in eleven official languages and as many cultures to the urban noise of the city and the harmonies of rural homes, the beat goes on and the South African song is endless.
So, almost 25 years later, we’re back, dusting off the vinyl and spinning up the decks. It’s going to be one hell of a journey!
Whether you’re a South African at home or living abroad and want to enjoy a mixture of nostalgia and news, or even if you have no connection with the country but want to explore some new musical styles and sounds, we hope you will be intrigued and entertained by Tune Me What?!
Leon Lazarus & Brett Lock