Twisting by the Pool – Eerste Afrikaanse Alternatiewe Rockfees

In March 1988 an event which would later be recognized as the start of the alternative Afrikaans music movement, took place at the Pool Club in Johannesburg.

The concert was organised by Dagga-Dirk Uys, who was the manager of Koos Kombuis and the Gereformeerde Blues Band at the time. Uys planned the concert in an attempt to showcase all the new afrikaans rock bands at one event.

The show was initially going to take place at the Yeoville Community Centre, however the local Council refused to give permission for this and so another venue had to be found.

Eventually the Pool Club in Johannesburg was booked to host “Die Eerste Alternative Rockfees” on the 25th March 1988. Uys was determined that most of the artists who would appear on the bill that day should be Afrikaans.

He was however faced with a problem – there were not enough Afrikaans rock bands to fill the bill! Gary Herselman’s band was asked to perform as Die Kêrels instead of their ‘real’ name The Kêrels. This gave the impression that the band members were Afrikaans-speaking.

Gary Herselman Piet Pers J&B Whiskey Voëlvry

The next challenge was that the only real alternative Afrikaans rock star at that time was Bernoldus Niemand, which was the nom de plume of English-speaking James Phillips! To make matters worse, Phillips had until that point refused to perform as his Afrikaans alter ego. Phillips would play selected Bernoldus Niemand songs such as Hou my vas Korporaal and Reggae Vibes is Cool with his band the Cherry Faced Lurchers, but had at that stage never performed a concert as Bernoldus Niemand.

All Phillips’s close friends were convinced that he would never perform a concert as Bernoldus Niemand. The task of trying to convince Phillips to appear as Bernoldus Niemand at the concert fell to Dirk Uys, who set off to visit Phillips armed with some Black Label beers.
Johannes Kerkorrel James Phillips Ralph Rabie Voëlvry

When Uys brought up the subject of the upcoming concert and his wish that Phillips would make an appearance as the enigmatic Bernoldus Niemand, Phillips refused point blank. Phillips said that he was concerned that the Afrikaners in the audience would not get the irony of his songs and that they would “fuck him up”.

Uys convinced Phillips that he and the other musicians would protect him from the crowd. Eventually Phillips agreed to perform, but he had two conditions, he insisted on a new cowboy shirt and that Lloyd Ross re-issue the Bernoldus Niemand album.

Artists who ended up performing at the concert included Bernoldus Niemand, Koos Kombuis, Die Gereformeerde Blues Band, The Genuines, Koos, die Kêrels and Wat is die Nuus?. Casper de Vries was the MC. Around 800 people paid the ten Rand entry fee.

The concert was a huge success and attracted a who’s who of South African celebrities. Many in the audience had actually never been to a rock show before. Uys has described how people were going crazy and many were, in his view experiencing freedom for the first time. It was the beginning of Afrikaans rock.

The show attracted a lot of media attention and afterwards the press dubbed the Gereformeerde Blues Band, Koos Kombuis and the others, the “Alternative Afrikaners”, this label annoyed many of the musicians. In an interview Koos Kombuis asked a journalist why they (the musicians) were being referred to as the “Alternative Afrikaners”, when actually they were the only normal Afrikaners.

William Welwyn has posted two very interesting interviews that he did with Dirk Ace, link to them here Willim Welsyn