If you’ve ever wanted to experience unfiltered Afrikaans culture, look no further than Radio Kalahari Orkes (RKO). Their raunchy, unpolished music and use of authentic acoustic instruments expresses what it means to be an unconventional, unapologetic Afrikaner. When RKO burst onto the South African music scene in 2005, it was not a minute too late - Afrikaans music was evolving and in desperate need of new talent. The band gives traditional boeremusiek a new lease on life, while their nonconformity and heterogeneity goes some way in undoing Afrikaner stereotypes.
The band was founded by actor and singer Ian Roberts, who is well known for his various roles in South African movies and TV series. Joining him are Alicia van Dyk on accordion, Barry Steenkamp on bass, Bradley Cooper on drums, Friso Woustra on guitar, Rian Malan - lyricist and Wynand Davel on violin. The band incorporates traditional, often underused instruments into their music, such as the fiddle, mouth organ, castanets and penny-whistle. Their lyrical style is tongue-in-cheek at its most fun, and satirical political. social commentary at its most serious.
RKO performs all over the country - every big city and small dorpie has been graced by their presence. The band has released 4 albums, with their 5th album being a ‘Biggest Hits’ album. They collaborate extensively with alternative Afrikaans performers, including Chris Chameleon, Jack Parow and Valiant Swart. Ian Roberts describes the band as ‘A little Rock ‘n Roll, Ghoema, Latin, Jazz and Africana music in a rainbow fusion.’
One of their most successful albums, ‘Heuningland’, was released in 2009 and is the amalgamation of memorable storytelling through music. Tracks such as ‘Jolie Jarie’ has a traditional, nostalgic sound, and the fun featurette of rapper Jack Parow on ‘Blaas jou Vuvuzela’ gives the band a youthful feel.
RKO’s toe-tapping music reminds one of being in the bushveld, or somewhere in the Karoo, coffee-brandy in hand, sitting by a fire and enjoying the starry night sky. Whether you enjoy new wave boeremusiek or not, Radio Kalahari Orkes is one memorable band.
By Carla Lottering