For this series I based my information mainly on the thesis of South African born and Durbanite Lindy van der Meulen, in fulfillment of the degree of Master of Music at the University of Natal. Lindy van der Meulen was also the only woman in a Durban rock band (The Remnant) for a four year period (1989-1992). She currently lives in Durban.
I have also used parts of previously published articles. A lot of information came from the liner notes of records and collected magazines and news papers as well. See the sources and notes
All music files come from my own collection of the original released vinyl.
Apartheid was a system of racial segregation that operated in South Africa between 1948 and 1990. The goal was to separate the whites, who were in the minority, from the local population, the large black and coloured population.
In fact, as early as 1950, the main pillars of apartheid law had been established. These included the Population Registration Act of 1950, the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act of 1949, the 1950 Immorality Act, the Group Areas Act of 1950 and the 1954 Natives Resettlement Act! By the mid-1980s. The liberation movement had spread to all parts of the country, and the international community was pressurizing the South African government to end its undemocratic rule that officially ended in 1990.
The population Registration Act (1950) ‘required that every South African be classified into one of four racial groups, viz; ‘Native’ (later changed to ‘Bantu’), ‘European’ (later ‘White’), ‘Coloured’, or ‘Indian” (later ‘Asian’).
The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (1949) prohibited mixed marriages between whites and members of other groups. The 1950 Immorality Act forbade all extra-marital sexual contact between whites and blacks, and contravention of this act was punishable by up to seven years imprisonment.
The Group Areas Act (1950) designated specific urban areas for occupation by particular race groups. This forced hundreds of thousands of people to move against their will.
The segregation of the South African population imposed by Apartheid made conditions unbearable for musicians used to working in multi-racial bands. Clubs which permitted inter-racial mingling were closed down, and people were forcibly removed to different locations. This broke up existing music communities and removed their source of income, and inevitably led to many of South Africa’s best musicians going into exile. In Johannesburg and Cape Town, the famous Sophiatown and District Six were evacuated, destroying the vibrant cultural life that had once existed in these areas. District 6 was the neighborhood known for the tragic forced removals, the forced relocations of more than 60,000 residents in the 1970s, the heyday of Apartheid.
Discrimination and racial separation effectively meant discrimination and musical separation.
Apartheid within the country and isolation from the world provide the framework within which cultural life in South Africa took place. These factors affected the day-to-day lives of rock bands and rock culture in the city of Durban. It was a difficult period for local music: sanctions imposed on South Africa were wide-ranging, and embraced the music industry, preventing the usual exchange of music and bands to a large extent. Thus South African musicians were isolated from the world stage and prevented from the opportunities of experiencing first-hand the rock revolution as it developed.
source; 2 D. Martin, ‘Music Beyond Apartheid?’ (transl. V. Morrison) in Rockin’ the Boat, Mass Music and Mass Movements, ed. R. Garofalo, Boston. South End Press, 1992
few Durban bands -1963 to 1973
Although the original members came from the UK Freedom’s Children is considered as a band from Durban. Their progressive/psychedelic rock music based on Frank Zappa a.o. was revolutionary in South Africa and set the tone for a non-commercial rock scene. The band split up in 1971.
The term ‘rock’ is used here to refer to that style of popular music which developed out of the rock’n’roll era, and which embodies the tradition of that style. Not referring to musical specifics, but rather to a general field of music which was spawned by the rock’n’roll era. This includes 1960s rock, as well as its later developments into punk rock and metal. It does not include disco, which developed out of the soul tradition. As far as the Durban rock scene is concerned, it also includes the experimental ethnic-rock music which became popular in the 1970s.
The Flames aka The Flame
One of the most influential bands to form in Durban was The Flames, a ‘coloured’ band based in Sydenham (a ‘coloured’ community close to the city centre). The Flames, formed in 1963. The original members included the Fataar brothers (Steve, Brother and Ricky) on guitar (and vocals), bass (and vocals) and drums respectively. Other band members included Eugene Champion (guitar and vocals) and Blondie Chaplin (guitar and vocals). Eugene Champion was later replaced by Edries Fredericks, with Fredericks being replaced by Baby Duval when he left the band in 1966. The Flames recorded their first single in 1964 (‘Nobody Tells Me [What To Do] ‘), and another twelve singles by 1969. They also recorded three albums, and appeared on two other compilation albums during this time. Initially The Flames only played rock’n’roll covers of such songs as those by The Rallies, The Beatles, and Elvis Presley.
In 1968, The Flames were so popular that they went to England where they appeared on television shows (e.g. The Donovan Show) and live shows in London’s Blaises and Revelation rock clubs. Carl Wilson (of the Beach Boys) saw the band at one of these shows, and was so impressed that he invited them to Los Angeles to record at their studio. The Flames spent two and a half years under his wing, and produced the album Flame in 1971 on The Beach Boys’ record label, Brother Records.
The album was produced by Carl Wilson, and ‘See the Light’ (a song from the album), reached the American charts. A Flames fan in England gave The Flames full credit as a professional band after seeing them in a concert in England. He had the following to add to a review in the press: the full, well-balanced sound that they produced was as good as any top group I have seen since coming to England. It was at this moment that I began to realize why Mick Jagger was raving about them, and Paul McCartney has been quoted more than once as saying that they were one of his favorite groups.
After a delightful mixture of rock, blues and good old-fashioned pop, The Flames closed their act with their first British single, ‘I See the Light’ which has been released only in the last few days yet is already getting the rave write-ups it so richly deserves. With just enough plays on the radio it could easily become a hit and just imagine the boost that it would give to South African pop music. Meanwhile, in South Africa their fine cover of ‘For Your Precious Love’, written and performed originally in 1958 by American soul group The Impressions with Jerry Butler, became an anthem nationwide and internationally as well.
Between 1970 and 1971, The Flames, now known as The Flame, did a concert tour of South Africa, and then toured The United States as a support act for the Beach Boys. It was during their concert tour of South Africa, that The Flame received a high profile in the South African press, and their Durban concerts at Westridge stadium were sell-outs, albeit marred by a high police presence during their performances: The Flame have something which is absent in many local groups. They get through to their audiences. Their communication is incredible. Seldom have I seen a pop group get the audience to their feet and dancing. The only blemish on the Durban concerts was the unfortunate fact that in terms of the government permit to play before White audiences, as a Non-White group, they had to appear on stage first and then leave immediately after playing.
THE BREAK UP
In 1972, The Flame broke up and Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar were invited to join The Beach Boys. The two did so, and remained members until 1973 (as bassist and drummer respectively) when they left to pursue successful individual careers as session musicians in the United States. Of all the members of The Flame, it is perhaps Steve Fataar that has the most prominent place in Durban rock. When The Flame dissolved in 1972, he returned to Durban where he has played with various combinations of local musicians such as Kenny Henson, Roger Lucey and Richard Ellis. In 1978, he formed his own group with his younger brother Issy Fataar, and they later formed the group Smack.
In part 3 of this series I will focus on more bands and ROCK MUSIC IN DURBAN 1963-1985.