Art knows no borders


There haven’t been any immigration issues for South African artists and musicians who have landed in Argentina this week because The President is involved. The South African one. In fact, that’s the name of an award-winning design company which recently opened a Buenos Aires office and is responsible for an artistic exchange that has brought over a group of South Africans for several days and will result in Argentines being reciprocated in early 2010.

Although principally here for the Trimarchi design conference in Mar del Plata, an Argentina-organised event in its eighth year, tonight’s Trimarchi Buenos Aires offering is an extra little taster. Rock band Van Coke Kartel will play a single date this evening with fellow South African and one-man band Yesterday’s Pupil (photo), who has already tested out his own unique brand of synthesizers, rock and percussion on the local audience. “I’m not a DJ, though,” insists the solo artist.

The President gave some lectures and Yesterday’s Pupil played at the three-day design conference which attracted around 6,000 people, but the Kartel have been using their time in Argentina wisely to relax and are here without laptops or mobile phones. “I played 13 shows in five days before coming here,” says singer and lead guitarist Francois van Coke, who is sporting a bandage on his right hand as well as two rock ‘n roll-looking scabs on his left cheek. Admitting he looks wilder than usual and doesn’t normally wear bandages for show, Francois says the damage took place before the action-packed yet short-lived tour in South Africa started, so no wonder they are taking it easy before the show, which they say, will be “rock ‘n roll, as loud as we can.”

Van Coke Kartel — which also comprises bass player Wynand Myburgh — Yesterday’s Pupil and The President are all gaining reputations both individually and collectively in their homeland. The President, for example, designs Afro, a ground-breaking quarterly magazine that is printed on one page, starting life as a space blanket and folding down to the size of a cigarette packet, a concept that has sparked global debate over the definition of a magazine, according to Hannerie Visser of the design company. She says: “In South Africa, the ABC (the Audit Bureau of Circulations) wouldn’t give us a rating as they said we’re not a magazine. But we are. It has adverts and all the elements of a magazine — it’s just packaged differently.”

It’s the designer’s projects which have drawn the musicians together. “When I got a call from The President, i thought to myself ‘uh-oh, what’s all this about’,” jokes Wynand. Yesterday’s Pupil featured on the cover of one publication. “I rocked up for the shoot and they painted my face pink, made my hair yellow and put a funnel in my mouth with cheese curl chips coming out. That’s when I thought ‘yes, it doesn’t get any better than this’. I was still washing the paint off three days later. It was awesome,” he says.

But before gracing magazine covers became a normal activity, Francois talks about the Kartel’s early days. “We’ve been together since high school and played in a band called Fokofpolisiekar (Fuck off police car in Afrikaans) and this is another project we’ve been doing for two years. It’s just me and Wynand writing the music but on the album we got some other musicians in.”

Hannerie interrupts to clarify that Fokofpolisiekar is in fact the biggest rock band in South Africa so it seems they are being modest. So just how successful are these guys? “Well, it was the first Afrikaans band to be playlisted on national radio, and we’ve toured Europe…” And called the “best of South Africa” by First Lady Hannerie, they’re even in South America with an entourage in tow. Seems they really have made it…

THEN THERE WAS ONE. Yesterday’s Pupil, also known as Peach Van Pletzen, besides producing for the Kartel, recently released his own album, Errors of Enthusiasm. “I wrote all the music, played all the instruments and recorded and mixed it so it’s 100 per cent my own thing, apart from two guitar solos. Since releasing it, it’s been getting me lots of other work so I’m starting to produce more,” says Peach.

Now it’s Wynand who interrupts to say Peach is in fact a sought-after producer these days who’s just got his first international client. “It’s quite mixed mediums. He’s programmed stuff, plays drums, sings, so what he does is quite spectacular,” adds the bass player.

“When I get booked people think I’m a DJ. I always say ‘I’m not a band but I’m definitely not a fucking DJ.”

Peach played Mar del Plata at the weekend and wasn’t sure what to expect. “I played two songs in a row and I didn’t know what they going to do, I though that maybe they’d just sit there, I was really relieved to hear some clapping and whistling. I thought it was them,” he says, pointing at at Francois and Wynand.

Having got the often tricky local debut out of the way, tonight it’s the Kartel’s turn. Wynand says: “We’d never have ended up here if it wasn’t for them,” says Wynand, now pointing at Hannerie and Peach. “Argentina wasn’t first on our list to play a show at. It’s nice because there’s no preconceived ideas — we’re just going to do it and see what happens.”

It’s all happening tonight so put your hands together for art plus rock plus a man who definitely isn’t a DJ, all in one specially designed South African package, with The President’s seal of approval.

Where & when: Van Coke Kartel and Yesterday’s Pupil at Trimarchi BA, Salón Real, Sarmiento 1272, Thursday 8 October. From 9pm $15, from midnight $30. Including Tremor, Manta Raya and Villa Diamante,

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