By Stefan Piek
Guilt, blame shifting, religion, … When Fokofpolisiekar joined the music scene in 2003, they found themselves speaking on behalf of an entire generation. With relatable lyrics, a unique sound and a hell-bent attitude, it’s easy to understand how they are still idolised ten years down the road.
Venturing into the industry as the first Afrikaans punk band with a name few companies are willing to publish, does not seem like a likely recipe for success, but somehow it seemed just right for these four Bellville lads. After recording their first album in a single week’s time and an array of advertising tactics, with the help of graphic designer Matt Edwards, they had people singing along by their first gig.
Their debut album,As Jy met Vuur Speel sal jy Brand,did not leave it up to the imagination to figure out what they were about: Fucking a stereotypical system that left them without an identity. Every element spoke for itself. The self-titled song Fokofpolisiekar said it all: “Al my verskonings is al klaar uitgebruik en my verstand is al klaar uitgesuip, en ek wil beter verstaan. Wat is die oorsprong van my haat?” (All my excuses have been used up and my mind has been drunken to depletion and I want to understand better. What is the origin of my hate.). The band was like a new brand of heroine that got teenage Afrikaners hooked after the first taste. The album inevitably reflected the Afrikaans teenager with an accuracy that started scaring parents.
(For the complete lyrics of Fokofpolisiekar, visit Fokofpolisiekar – Fokofpolisiekar.)
Technically, the album should have been a bigger flop than a Motorola revival project. If you listened carefully, you could immediately tell that the whole process was rushed; but within that chaos a voice stood out. Just like their fans, the album had a lot of things to say, but refused to do it in any conventional way. What the album did have, however, was that pure fuck-you-we’re-fed- attitude that is almost as famous than the band’s music itself. A general feeling of hate towards a generation who lied about knowing the answers, when it actually had none.
What makes this band truly stand out, however, is their ability to mature at the same pace as their fans. In the following single, Brand Suid-Afrika, the band was able to tackle the true origin of their hate: The prejudices that Apartheid smeared on them. Suddenly, they found a structure in their sound, filling in open areas with the guitar talents of Jonny de Ridder and fine-tuning their lyrics to borderline poetry. The band’s attitude was still apparent, if not more so, but their musical growth was jut as evident.
Their last full-length album before a three-year hiatus, appropriately named Swanesang, took a turn that no one thought they would ever see the band take. Suddenly these hard-core idols, gods to the lost Afrikaners, opened up to the world. The music was no longer predominantly hard in nature and the rest of the world was no longer the subject of their lyrics. A true rock album containing ballads full of the band’s thoughts about themselves and what would be said when they die. Gods made mortals by their own hands.
In 2008, after two years of absolute silence, Fokofpolisiekar released the album Antibiotika. Having survived harassment by Christian groups, being banned from festivals and the damage of excessive touring for four years straight, they disposed of any presumptions that the band was gone for good. Gone were lyrics about death, judgement and burdens of the past. Gone was any morbid residue from the previous album. Fokofpolisiekar pushed their amps to the limit and threw their middle fingers up in the air. The time for apologising and mourning had passed. Francois van Coke belted on the title song: “Wil jy stil staan as ek voortgaan? Hoe kan mens dink as jou hande altyd vasgebind is?” (Do you want to stand still as I am moving forward? How can you think if your hands are always tied?) Finally, the band seemed completely confident in who they are and they were ready to slam it in the face of anyone who dares look their way.
It has been five years since Fokofpolisiekar released an album, yet they are still the most anticipated live act in Afrikaans rock. The fact that that has not lost them any fans, with an ever-growing fan base, should speak for itself. A devastating rush of pure power and talent leaving widely known bands, such as Van Coke Kartel and aKing, and thousands of fans willing to sell their organs to see another gig behind, Fokofpolisiekar is arguably one of the most influential entities in the South African rock industry.
To keep up to date, follow Fokofpolisiekar on Twitter: @Fokofband