Tribe After Tribe
Tribe After Tribe - Power

Tribe After Tribe

Fronted by the radical and uncompromising rock vision of guitarist Robbi Robb, Tribe After Tribe was one of the hardest-hitting rock bands of the mid to late ’80s. ‘Power’ is their debut album which was released in 1985 and includes all the original tracks, as well as three newer “bonus”, tracks courtesy of Robbi Robb. TAT has gone on to greater things in the U.S., releasing several critically acclaimed albums. If it’s challenging and inventive music that you are looking for then look no further than ‘Power!’.

The change was coming and the risks were getting to have more serious consequences. Neil Aggett was a friend, we learned a helluva lot from him about what was going on behind the scenes. It was a strange backdrop for us to fall in love – the crazy feelings that surrounded us, growing up in a country going through such intense changes, made life unusually more vivid – ultra-vivid as we used to say… Many of us felt we were constantly stepping on cautious ground…I never was too cautious; a wild man at heart or a wild-hearted man – angry to boot. The Sunday Times called me the angriest young man of the South African rock scene…even still in a ring of fire I invoked the clowns – bring on the clowns – keeping it real by playing the clown, yea! even the clowns….while fires are burning at your feet! Anneline Kriel won the crown of beauty after the horny camera dethroned or beheaded the queen. Then she married the Sun City God, the Donald Trump of South Africa. They were in and out of the news all the time – wild parties – separations – reconciliations and finally the inevitable…she was always leaving him. All this while the kids in Soweto were burning books and schools, cops were shooting into the crowds wounding and killing young kids and the revolution was getting into gear. It was the wedding of the year – a strange love affair. it was a crazy backdrop for to fall in love – the sort of shit the mainstream media fed us and what society read for breakfast. Tribe after Tribe, like the Asylum Kids, were a photocopy of the times or a prison tattoo, I cannot tell the difference sometimes, nevertheless, it was inevitable that the story of Anneline K should make it to the record. It happens to be my favorite song on the record.

“in black and white this kingdom stands
in ruins but not remains”

Here is a little song about Alexander and Montshiwe township/location. I had joined an eight-piece jazz group called Muddy Bridge. I did this because I wanted to get near Livingston Phagle who was an incredible keyboard player and a shaman in his own way. I learned much of music and silences from him. At that time it was illegal for a white person (if you weren’t a cop that is) to go into the township without a permit. I used to get picked up by Livingston and sneak into the township to practice at his house. Without permission, I got to know Alexander township pretty well, – hanging out at the shebeens playing jazz into the early hours of the morning. Mostly what struck me was the incredible generosity of the folk who lived there, even under such appalling conditions. I ate very well and was treated as a friend indeed – it was the beginning of an enormous change in awareness in me as I was exposed to the lifestyles and different personalities within this poverty-ridden suburb on the outskirts of white affluence – it was a strange backdrop for to fall in love… I often wished my white brothers could experience the same. Then we got the gig at Montshiwe location in Bophuthatswana just near Sun City. Again the contrasts were amazing – the white man in his casino and the simple folk at the township gig. Here I lived in small and close quarters with the band. Waking up in the early morning was amazing, – I would sit for hours and just watch how bop natives would begin the simple tasks of their day, making fires, washing the kids and fathers walking off to work, etc – simply beautiful…the Karoo like landscape stretching off into the distances where each afternoon the rain clouds would gather like an army on the border – friends were sent to the border…oh yes the border!….still too many fucking borders in the world!!!

“dawn it comes with cock crows and dogs of skin and bone
women come out to make their fires beside their broken homes
and the poet he just dreamt all night of the chains that bound his mouth
and the suburb in the south”…

Christmas and New Year’s came with much drinking and rejoicing in the – “a place where laughter cheers the deaf and happiness is in chains” I was especially moved to anger and sadness when I began to see photos of the SADF in the townships and the cruelty they afflicted on the people there….you see, some of those folks I had met, some of those houses I had partied in and slept and had meals, some of those alleyways I fell in love in… it was a strange backdrop for to fall in love.

children yield the hand made blade
their shadows swarm the lamp
streets are filled with sand and junk
and the air is thick and damp
and life’s as thick as blood on sand
and death makes no demands

I wanted to end the song with the sax playing the new national anthem but the powers surrounding us wouldn’t have it – nevertheless, it is concealed in the melody as the sax soars through to the end. I could never really explain the changes in me but I am ever grateful for the lessons I learned there, especially of how deep the apartheid education had contaminated me. In Montshiwe location I was cleansed of much of this education and I will forever be maintaining this cleansing. Some of the people I met in these suburbs will always be as towering human monuments of dignity. ….and oh yes there was a love song about a relationship between a young black girl and a white soldier, juxtaposed against the regime that had the Immorality Act in place to prevent this sort of relationship from blossoming in any natural way. Yea, it was a strange backdrop for to fall in love .. still, the hopes and the struggles of the revolution are reflected in our lover’s own hopes and struggles. ” young hearts might mend, feel strong again, nine times out of ten” but the night-watchman still played his accordion into the early morning hours and the watch was ever more in line…the ridiculous laws that were put in place under the state of emergency. Cops were crawling around at gigs. Laws so wide open that one could get arrested for any “subversive statements”. Many were arrested and thrown in jail without trial – this sort of thing was frustrating to many, especially journalists whose articles were severely edited by the same laws. The actual lyrics, most of which were written by a young Julian Weinberg, kinda have a weird playful toi toi attitude to them;

the watch is in line
the watch is in line
ends with a rhyme and muddles follow
billy can tricks its apples in the shadows
supposing they fall and land up in the middle

A couple of white folks took daffodils down to the border of Soweto as a peaceful protest and a sign of comradeship to the children of the revolution. A lovely gesture in the line “cut-up daffodils lying in array soaking up rays of light and glory…sending a message to the embassy eagle his watch is in line and does he watch me still…” oh yea a strange backdrop for to fall in love!!! And oh yea Juju said we are the president’s men yet even still Billy banged the Quinn banged a peach, the peach rolled into the lap of the Greek and the bus left via Afrika…a small horse whined meaninglessly into the void and somewhere in the dark forest a bone snapped and a woman screamed unheard by the masses laughing at the crown mine affair….mmmm…All very Ella mental really, but without Baxtop I was sinking into drunkenness of confusion like a Cherry Faced Lurcher, oh but the Bantu beer gave me wings.. and out of the dark came forth lightning, yea! Lightning and Power and Gratitude and Love…

A special thanks go out to everyone
Tribe after tribe