Johannes Kerkorrel

Last updated

Johannes Kerkorrel
Birth nameRalph John Rabie
Born27 March 1960
Johannesburg, South Africa
Died12 November 2002(2002-11-12) (aged 42)
Kleinmond, near Cape Town,
South Africa
Years active1986–2002

Johannes Kerkorrel (27 March 1960 – 12 November 2002), born Ralph John Rabie, was a South African singer-songwriter, journalist and playwright. [1] [2]



Rabie, who was born in Johannesburg, worked as a journalist for the Afrikaans newspapers Die Burger and Rapport . [3] In 1986, Rabie started performing politically themed cabaret at arts festivals under his new stage name (kerkorrel meaning church organ in Afrikaans). At that time, apartheid was at its nadir under State President P.W. Botha's National Party-led government.

In 1987, Rabie was fired by Rapport for using quotes from Botha's speeches in his music; he then became a full-time musician and performer under the name Johannes Kerkorrel en die Gereformeerde Blues Band (Johannes Kerkorrel and the Reformed Blues Band), a deliberate reference to the Reformed Church. The band also included the Afrikaans singer-songwriter Koos Kombuis. Their brand of new Afrikaans music was dubbed alternatiewe Afrikaans (alternative Afrikaans) and exposed divergent political views to a new generation of Afrikaners. [1] [2]

In 1985, they released the album Eet Kreef (Eat Crayfish) on the now-defunct Shifty Records label, which was a commercial success despite its tracks being banned from radio airplay by the state-controlled South African Broadcasting Corporation, which was the government mouthpiece. Colloquially, 'Eet Kreef' is ambiguous, meaning either 'Enjoy!' or 'Get lost!'. The subsequent regional tour of college campuses and art festivals was called Voëlvry (literally free as a bird but here meaning outlawed), and Rabie's controversial reinvention of Afrikaans popular music became known as the Voëlvry movement . [1] [2]

In 1990, Rabie visited Amsterdam, and almost simultaneously the track "Hillbrow" from the Eet Kreef album became a hit in Belgium, and Rabie followed its success with a solo tour. In subsequent years he enjoyed substantial artistic success in Belgium and the Netherlands, and spent much of his time in Belgium. Here he also befriended Stef Bos, a Dutch cabaret artist, with whom he would share a number of concerts. [1] [2]


Rabie hanged himself on 12 November 2002 in Kleinmond, near Hermanus on the Western Cape coast on a tree that is alien to South Africa. He was survived by his long-term partner, and by his ex-wife and son. [4] [5] [6] [7]

The South African singer songwriter Valiant Swart wrote the song "Sonvanger" dedicated to the artist with Kerkorrel's mother Anne in mind, longing for her lost son.




After Rabie's death, several artists recorded tribute songs to his life and work. An incomplete list follows:


Rabie is a much covered artist. Among the cover versions that exist are:


The film Johnny is nie dood nie portrays a fictional group of friends meeting up after his suicide, looking back to the events leading up to the Voëlvry movement, and how his music inspired and influenced them. [13] [14]

See also

Related Research Articles

Music of South Africa Overview of music traditions in South Africa

The South African music scene includes both popular (jive) and folk forms like Zulu isicathamiya singing and harmonic mbaqanga. South Africa has a global music industry.

Hillbrow Place in Gauteng, South Africa

Hillbrow is an inner city residential neighbourhood of Johannesburg, Gauteng Province, South Africa. It is known for its high levels of population density, unemployment, poverty, prostitution and crime.

Zef South African counter-culture

Zef is a South African counter-culture movement. Kyle Hans Brockmann has compared zef counter-culture to many similar anarchic sub-cultures in the northern hemisphere.

Hartenbos Place in Western Cape, South Africa

Hartenbos is a town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. It is located some 45 kilometres outside George, South Africa. It belongs, together with 20 other settlements, to the Mossel Bay Local Municipality. Originally a farm, the South African Railways and Harbours turned it into a holiday resort for their lower-rung employees in 1933.

Shifty Records

Founded by Lloyd Ross and Ivan Kadey, Shifty Records was a South African anti-apartheid record label which existed for over a decade beginning in 1982. In 1986 Kadey left South Africa and became partner with the Waterland Design Group in Hollywood, designing studios at Capitol Records, Virgin Tokyo, Sony/Epic Santa Monica, and many other recording venues. At this time Warrick Sony bought in as partner with the purchase of recording equipment.

Riku Lätti, is a South African singer, songwriter and writer. After Riku matriculated in 1991 at Hoërskool Florida, Johannesburg, Gauteng Province, he studied philosophy at University of the Witwatersrand where he finished his honours degree. He changed his name to Victor S. Wolf and claimed that Riku Latti is "dead". Since then he composed the complete film score for Jans Rautenbach's film "Abraham" on which he was credited as Riku Lätti, thereby being effectively resurrected.

Koos Kombuis South African musician

Koos Kombuis is a South African musician, singer, songwriter and writer who became famous as part of a group of anti-establishment maverick Afrikaans musicians, who, under the collective name of Voëlvry, toured campuses across South Africa in the 1980s, to "liberate Afrikaans from the shackles of its past". Fellow musicians of this movement were Johannes Kerkorrel and Bernoldus Niemand.

Afrikaner nationalism Political ideology in South Africa

Afrikaner nationalism is a political ideology that was born in the late nineteenth century among Afrikaners in South Africa. It was immensely influenced by anti-British sentiment which grew strong among the Afrikaners, especially because of systematic British war crimes during the Second Boer War.

James Phillips (South African musician) Musical artist

James Phillips was a South African rock vocalist, songwriter, and performer.

Dan Roodt

Daniel Francois Roodt is an Afrikaner author, publisher, and commentator.

Afrikaans literature is literature written in Afrikaans. Afrikaans is the daughter language of 17th-century Dutch and is spoken by the majority of people in the Western Cape of South Africa and among Afrikaners and Coloured South Africans in other parts of South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini. Afrikaans was historically one of the two official languages of South Africa, the other being English, but it currently shares the status of an "official language" with ten other languages.

Huguenots in South Africa Wikimedia list article

Many people of European heritage in South Africa are descended from Huguenots. Most of these originally settled in the Cape Colony, but were absorbed into the Afrikaner and Afrikaans-speaking population, because they had religious similarities to the Dutch colonists.

Valiant Swart South African musician

Valiant Swart, is a South African musician, Afrikaans folk rock singer-songwriter, and actor from Wellington.

Afrikaners Southern African ethnic group descended from predominantly Dutch settlers

Afrikaners are a South African ethnic group descended from predominantly Dutch settlers first arriving at the Cape of Good Hope in the 17th and 18th centuries. They traditionally dominated South Africa's politics and commercial agricultural sector prior to 1994. Afrikaans, South Africa's third most widely spoken home language, evolved as the mother tongue of Afrikaners and most Cape Coloureds. It originated from the Dutch vernacular of South Holland, incorporating words brought from the Dutch East Indies and Madagascar by slaves. Afrikaners make up approximately 5.2% of the total South African population, based upon the number of White South Africans who speak Afrikaans as a first language in the South African National Census of 2011.

<i>Eet Kreef</i> 1989 studio album by Johannes Kerkorrel

Eet Kreef is the first studio album by Johannes Kerkorrel and the Gereformeerde Blues Band. Released in 1989 on the now-defunct Shifty Records label, the album was a commercial success despite its tracks being banned from radio airplay by the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

The Voëlvry movement in South Africa was genre of anti-apartheid music sung in Afrikaans. The term Voëlvry meant "free as a bird". This movement has been said to have started on April 4, 1989 in Johannesburg in a packed club. This marked the beginning of what some have called a rock and roll uprising. The Voëlvry movement used music in the Afrikaans language to show pride. The movement focused on Afrikaner youth. The main goal of the movement was to get Afrikaner youth to see the changes that had to occur in the “authoritarian, patriarchal culture”.

Bittereinder (band) South African Rap band

Bittereinder is a South African rap/electro band from Pretoria who perform in Afrikaans. Jaco van der Merwe, Peach van Pletzen, and Louis Minnaar founded the three-man band in 2009, and have since performed at major South African festivals such as Oppikoppi, across southern Africa, and the Netherlands. They are known for their high-energy performances.

Music in the movement against apartheid One of the methods of opposition used against the apartheid regime

The apartheid regime in South Africa began in 1948 and lasted until 1994. It involved a system of institutionalized racial segregation and white supremacy, and placed all political power in the hands of a white minority. Opposition to apartheid manifested in a variety of ways, including boycotts, non-violent protests, and armed resistance. Music played a large role in the movement against apartheid within South Africa, as well as in international opposition to apartheid. The impacts of songs opposing apartheid included raising awareness, generating support for the movement against apartheid, building unity within this movement, and "presenting an alternative vision of culture in a future democratic South Africa."

The Eerste Alternatiewe Afrikaanse Rockkonsert was a concert held on March 25, 1988, in the Johannesburg Pool Club. The concert was organized by Dagga-Dirk Uys and Boogie Gottschalk of Shifty Records, and was known as the beginning of the Voëlvry Movement.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "'Dylan' of Afrikaans rock dies". 13 November 2002. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Sassen, Robyn (15 January 2003). "Just Another Day in Africa: In no-man's land I got lost". . Retrieved 13 November 2007.
  3. Allan, Jani. Afrikaner pride and passion mix with fun and laughter Sunday Times (South Africa). 9 July 1989
  4. Redelinghuys, Pieter (12 November 2002). "Kerkorrel commits suicide". News24. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  5. "Remembering Kerkorrel". Mail & Guardian. 13 November 2012. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  6. Rooi, Jacob (17 November 2002). "'I'm sorry mom'". Rapport. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  7. "'Who killed Kerkorrel?'". News24. 25 August 2005. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  8. "The long road ahead". Mail & Guardian. 2 May 1997. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  9. Malan, Mariana (6 November 2001). "First Geraas award ceremony". Die Burger Wes. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  10. "Music veterans to be honoured at SA Music Awards". Mail & Guardian. 3 April 2013. Retrieved 21 April 2013. Kerkorrel was a prominent icon of the alternative Afrikaans music scene and a significant player in the vibrant 'Voëlvry' cultural movement. The Voëlvry movement was the 'Boere Beatlemania' of the late 1980s, whose main proponents sported undeniably kitsch names like Koos Kombuis and Johannes Kerkorrel. But far from being incidental, this eccentric bunch of young Afrikaans artists became the voice of their generation when South Africa was pushed to the brink of collapse by apartheid. Under the Voëlvry banner, their goal was the emancipation of Afrikaner youth from the strictures of their authoritarian, patriarchal culture – to make it cool to be Afrikaans. Kerkorrel's life has been celebrated in a wave of tributes following his untimely death at the age of 42 in 2002.
  11. Leonard, Charles (10 May 2013). "Johannes Kerkorrel: The wise fool who left the fray". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  12. "Die 10-jaar herdenking van Johannes Kerkorrel se dood". 8 November 2012. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  13. SMITH, THERESA (4 May 2017). "Review: 'Johnny is nie dood nie'". WeekendSpecial. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  14. Zietsman, Gabi (5 May 2017). "Johnny is nie dood nie". Channel24. Retrieved 23 October 2017.

Further reading