Last week I bravely attempted a cover version of Valiant Swart’;s “In die Transvaal”. After far too many attempts I gave up. There’s nothing that I can say with “In die Transvaal” that isn’t in the original, Valiant’s version is perfect (obviously). Subsequently I went for “Buitenkant”. I’d always felt there was potential meaning in that song that could be lifted by slowing things down. Mostly through my own interpretation of the meaning of the words and I hope Valiant can bear with this fan’s hallucinations.
Valiant remains my favourite South African lyricist. Matthew van der Want might top him sometimes but there’s more earth, more simplicity in Valiant and his imagery is sublime. In Buitenkant alone there is enough brilliance The bridge, for example:
Koeëlvas is ‘n derduiwel en Carlos het ‘n slang
en Jimi Hendrix kom verby soos ‘n boeing
Geelbakkie bendes maak die bergies bang
en iemand vra “Hey, where yous ou’s going?”
Bulletproof is a rogue, Carlos has a snake
Jimi Hendrix comes past like a Boeing
Yellow pickup gangs scare the hobos
and someone asks “Hey, where yous guy’s going?”
– Translation will lose some of it and, if you didn’t live in SA when the police vans were yellow, the “Yellow pickup gangs” line will also be meaningless.
Valiant was part of a vanguard of Afrikaner youth that challenged the apartheid machinery with rock ‘n roll on the “Voëlvry” tour. While they certainly did not overthrow the government they definitely robbed the government of their young electorate. After Johannes had ridiculed PW Botha in “Sit dit af” and Koos had opened his heart all of us to see it became possible to speak your mind. Our fear evaporated and we had found our voice.
The Voëlvry movement struck a chord and it still rings.
Notes: Yes, the timing’s off, yes, the levels are nowhere near right, but this is a party on a Friday night…