“Allegaarkie vir ’n Askeet” – Neil Sandilands
Before you point out the obvious, the deliberate spelling of “Allegaarkie” instead of “Allegaartjie” in the album title “Allegaarkie vir ’n Askeet” has to do only with the “A” and “k” that appear in this renewed spelling. It gives you a visual “A k” in both words. I am also turning 47 and this offering is my second full-length album in two years. Hence the repetition. AK47. Interpret it as you like. After all, it’s an album – a creative offering – not a spelling test. If it makes purists and/or fundamentalists hot under the collar, we are in the right place. Come sit at the table. We are serving a bit of everything.
Why record an album? This question has led to hours of thinking, rethinking, deconstruction and self-examination. It wasn’t always pleasant or self-satisfying. I’m not sure what knowledge has been distilled into the cup. In my opinion, it is obviously an existential issue. One of those “why the hell am I here?” type of questions. Perhaps it’s like a black and white snapshot from the past. The photographer travelled long distances, the anticipation for the man with the magical technology was great, the preparation took a long time, people had to sit still in wonder, and in the blink of an eye, with a smoke explosion, the picture was taken. Over time, it becomes proof that that moment, those people, the hairstyles, the clothing existed. More or less just like that. An artifact. History.
I fell in love with music long before mastering the art of interpretation (acting). I was still very young, maybe a year old or younger. It was possibly the first joy in abstraction that I could experience as a human being. “Acting”, I suspect, developed out of a survival instinct and as a protective mechanism, but the pure joy of existence certainly registered first in music. In the body. In the heart. It is, therefore, understandable that it took me about half a lifetime, up to my middle years, to act on this passion. The reverence. The honour. It doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it for many years and secretly kept the thought or dream alive.
You would be wrong to assume that there is a perfect moment when all the elements come together to make the creative process painless. It doesn’t happen, at least not for me. It’s a bit like a pregnant mother. You can make all the necessary preparations to make the birth easier, but that doesn’t stop the natural progression of life. The patina of existence sticks. This album happened in between. In between all of the other things. You write in between, sometimes compose at the airport or bus stop, edit and rewrite on the way somewhere. And then the moment comes. Somewhere the child is born, the snapshot is taken. Somewhere you have considered fourteen cuts, brought people together, made recordings, and then when you look again, it’s there.
“Allegaarkie vir ’n Askeet” happened somewhere between my last full-length album, “Sangoma Sandilands & Jou Pa se Posse – Maanskyn” (May 2021), and now. It was Covid. There is still loadshedding, theft, and corruption. There is still war somewhere. Tomorrow the SAPD will go on strike. During this time, I flew around the planet twice. I was mostly in a type of self-imposed quarantine in New Zealand and Australia where I worked on “Sweet Tooth 2” as well as “Planet of The Apes”. I was also working on projects in Mexico, Namibia and the USA. Therefore, this album is a snapshot of myself during a series of extraordinary experiences. Please know that I am fully aware of how extremely privileged I was to have had these adventures. The album is an attempt to distil these thoughts of an atomic existence into knowledge. In troubling times. AK47.
You will notice that the album is covered in a wide cosmic net. It is almost like the planet we live on, or the cosmos itself. There are also personal, specific, small references. You can pinpoint on Google Maps the road between De Rust and Willowmore. Vast and insignificant in the same instance. At the same time vulnerable and resilient. It lends credit to influences such as CJ Langenhoven, NP Van Wyk Louw, Ingrid Jonker, Koos Kombuis, Anton Goosen, Bob Dylan, Gert Vlok Nel, Jan Blohm, Johnnie Cope & Tennessee Whiskey. There’s protest, odes, passion, doubt, metaphysics, history, peeved-ness, preservation, transience, friendship, and humanity. A mixture of everything. It is the most inclusive, universal album that I could have possibly made and at the same time an unmistakable acceptance of how I have changed over time. It is for man, woman, child, and dog, and it simply says: “Here we are. What now?”. I don’t have all the answers, but I think I have lived long enough to know a snake when I see one.
Making an album is no easy task. Usually, many people are involved, and the listener will immediately hear that there were many contributors. Albums like this don’t happen every day in Afrikaans. There are guitars, string instruments, wind instruments, keyboards, drums, a vuvuzela, electronics, and even a musical saw! This also means that I owe quite a few Thank-yous to everyone who helped me during this process.
Theo Crous, my friend with whom I also worked on the previous album (“Sangoma Sandilands & Jou Pa se Posse – Maanskyn”) and EPs (“Die Groot 5” & “Die Groot Niks”), your humanity above all else is what this album was made on. Thank you for being willing to throw away prescriptions and apocrypha and allowing us to create in the moment. Thank you for your sense of humour, brother. We made this album to please our ears, not to serve an insatiable, exploitative monster. I’m betting that listeners will agree. Among other things, Theo was responsible for all the in-studio recordings and the mixing.
It might be necessary to mention here that the endeavour to realize this piece of work, like with the previous ones, was subject to factors that do not fall within the realm of normalcy. Theo’s specific sound has to do with analogue equipment, hardware. Old school. He especially focuses on how the musical content is recorded. Theo’s sound studio has many lights, switches, and things. It’s not a laptop. Recording the album during endless power outages was a hellish thing. Some days we sat and stared at each other, wondering if our reality could become any more absurd? We laughed through the madness. His spirit and perseverance are truly commendable.
This brings me to the incredibly gifted musicians. Some of the recordings took place in Bellville, but there were also many people who participated from a distance. Qadasi & Maqhinga recorded from KwaZulu-Natal, Mauritz Lotz and Magda de Vries from Johannesburg, Melissa van der Spuy from somewhere in Boland, Shannon Mowday from Norway. To all of the musicians who helped to create “Allegaarkie vir ’n Askeet” (and there were many): THANK YOU! I hope you can hear that the album was made specifically to let your talent shine and that my voice and words were interwoven with sensitivity and consideration in the notes by Theo. I am very proud of the musicality of the album, and I hope you are too. I list your names here, in sincere admiration:
Schalk Joubert (Bass guitar)
Kevin Gibson (Drums)
Albert Frost (Electric & Acoustic guitar)
Mauritz Lotz (Electric & Acoustic guitar)
Melissa van der Spuy (Keyboard)
Shannon Mowday (Saxophone)
Jacques du Plessis (Musical Saw & Lap Steel Guitar)
Louis Mhlanga (Electric guitar)
Qadasi & Maqhinga (Zulu Concertina & Voices)
Dave Ferguson (Jaw Harp) (Trompie)
Robin Auld (Accordion)
Magda de Vries (Marimba)
Lelethu Zulu & Sibongiseni Wani (Xhosa voices)
Ronan Skillen (Percussion)
Willy Haubrich & Lee Thompson (Wind instruments)
Hanna de Wet (Vocals)
Gian Groen (Vocals)
Tarryn Lamb (Vocals)
Nicolize Killian (Backing vocals)
Mari Nieuwoudt (Backing vocals)
Theo Crous (Electronic sounds)
Carina Bruwer (Flute)
Wynand Davel (Violin)
Male choir: Neil van Deventer, Ruan Kotzé, Lionel Smit, Conrad Jamneck, Francois Rautenbach, Pedro Camara, Jono Tait, Theo Crous, Ryno Velvet, Hannes Visser
Yet, this is not the end. There are still people to acknowledge: André Badenhorst for the photography of the album’s iconography. Rouleaux van der Merwe for the graphic design. Rogan Kelsey for the mastered tracks. Kobie Koen and the team at Vonk Music for the digital recording and distribution. Alishia van Deventer and the team at Starburst Promotions for their marketing and publicity efforts. It’s possible that I may have left someone out or forgotten someone; believe me, it’s not intentional.
Lastly, I would like to give special thanks to Mari Nieuwoudt for years of friendship, support, and faith. You’re a gem. Also, to Tarryn Lamb, Gian Groen, Qadasi & Maqhinga, Hanna de Wet, Lelethu Zulu & Sibongiseni Wani for lending your voices to this album. It definitely adds to the final product! To Anton Goosen, Mari Nieuwoudt, Deon Maas, Louis de Villiers, and Koos Kombuis, thank you for listening and giving me advice. It is complete.
This album is dedicated to the country and all its people, and to one person in particular, Ninnie. You are a woman, mother, and friend who lives the pure gesture!
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