‘Dylan’ of Afrikaans rock dies

13 November 2002

Many South Africans are mourning the death of Johannes Kerkorrel, a prominent icon of the alternative Afrikaans music scene.

Kerkorrel, whose real name is Ralph Rabie, apparently committed suicide by hanging himself in the garden of his holiday home in Kleinmond, Western Cape. Police said that no foul play was suspected, but added that a full investigation and post mortem would be completed before any more details were disclosed.

Kerkorrel, 42, was one of several talented rock musicians who rose to prominence in the late 1980s. He was a significant player in the vibrant cultural movement that sprung up during that decade as popular resistance to apartheid gathered momentum.

Rebellious Afrikaans musicians
Formerly a journalist on the Afrikaans newspaper Rapport, Kerkorrel transformed himself into a successful stage musician after being fired because of his resistance to apartheid. He first hit the entertainment world when he starred in a satirical political cabaret in 1986 in Cape Town. He then took up a singing career and played with the Gereformeerde Blues Band.

Together with Koos Kombuis (Andre Letoit) and the late James Phillips, Kerkorrel was part of a group of rebellious Afrikaans musicians who used the stage as a platform to voice their anarchic opposition to apartheid and the status quo.

They performed in “Die Eerste Alternatiewe Afrikaans Rock Concert” (The First Alternative Afrikaans Rock Concert) Johannesburg in 1988 and the highly controversial but successful “Voelvry” (free as a bird) tour.

Kerkorrel’s rock style, strong lyrics and powerful vocal ability led many to label him the Bob Dylan of alternative Afrikaans music. He recorded several albums, including his debut album “Eet Kreef” (Eat Crayfish), with the Gereformeerde Blues Band and two solo albums, “Bloudruk” (Blueprint) and “Cyanide in the Beef Cake”.

He performed in many European countries too, where he collaborated with other musicians including Dutch star Stef Bos and South African musician Thandi Klaasen. His album “Bloudruk” was a hit in Belgium and Luxembourg. He won the First National Bank music award in 1995 for best rock music performance.

Kerkorrel, who was divorced, leaves behind a teenage son.

SouthAfrica.info reporter