SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT? Was the Voëlvry Movement South Africa’s Generation X?

Whilst it is clear that punk rock had an impact on a number of mainly English-speaking bands who then went on via the influence of James Phillips to inspire Koos Kombuis and Johannes Kerkorrel, some have also drawn parallels between Generation X and the Voëlvry movement.

Generation X was the term first coined by Douglas Coupland in 1991 to describe the generation of mainly white, North American youth who were at that time characterised by aimlessness, disillusion and cynicism. Many of the attributes of Coupland’s Generation X can be observed in those who were involved in and influenced by the Voëlvry movement.

For example, both groups were disillusioned with their social origins, suburbia and the status symbols that were preferred by their parents. Many of the lyrics of Johannes Kerkorrel, Kombuis and others dealt with the constraints and depression associated with lives lived in suburbia.

Paranoia, a song by Koos Kombuis acerbically captured the lives of suburban Afrikaners in the mid 1980s. The lyrics reflect the boredom of suburbia, but hint at a dark underbelly in which the protagonist dreams of “screwing the maid and family murder”.

The use of irony in the Voëlvry songs to express the disdain that the musicians felt for everything that their parents held dear, is another feature shared by North American Generation X and the their local counterparts. However the Voëlvryers differed from their overseas counterparts in that they did not share their nihilism and that they were highly politicised.

The suggestion that Voëlvry might have been SA’s Generation X was first made by Jan Schenk and Jeremy Seekings in their 2010 publication.

Gary Herselman Koos Kombuis Dirk Ace Uys James Phillips Jannie van Tonder Johannes Kerkorrel Ralph Rabie Voëlvry Tonia Selley