Johannes Kerkorrel

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Johannes Kerkorrel
Birth nameRalph John Rabie
Born27 March 1960
Johannesburg, South Africa
Died12 November 2002(2002-11-12) (aged 42)
Kleinmond, near Cape Town,
South Africa
Years active1986–2002

Johannes Kerkorrel (27 March 1960 – 12 November 2002), born Ralph John Rabie, was a South African singer-songwriter, journalist and playwright.[1][2]


Rabie, who was born in Johannesburg, worked as a journalist for the Afrikaans newspapers Die Burger and Rapport.[3] In 1986, Rabie started performing politically themed cabaret at arts festivals under his new stage name (kerkorrel meaning church organ in Afrikaans). At that time, apartheid was at its nadir under State President P.W. Botha's National Party-led government.

In 1987, Rabie was fired by Rapport for using quotes from Botha's speeches in his music; he then became a full-time musician and performer under the name Johannes Kerkorrel en die Gereformeerde Blues Band (Johannes Kerkorrel and the Reformed Blues Band), a deliberate reference to the Reformed Church. The band also included the Afrikaans singer-songwriter Koos Kombuis. Their brand of new Afrikaans music was dubbed alternatiewe Afrikaans (alternative Afrikaans) and exposed divergent political views to a new generation of Afrikaners.[1][2]

In 1985, they released the album Eet Kreef (Eat Crayfish) on the now-defunct Shifty Records label, which was a commercial success despite its tracks being banned from radio airplay by the state-controlled South African Broadcasting Corporation, which was the government mouthpiece. Colloquially, 'Eet Kreef' is ambiguous, meaning either 'Enjoy!' or 'Get lost!'. The subsequent regional tour of college campuses and art festivals was called Voëlvry (literally free as a bird but here meaning outlawed), and Rabie's controversial reinvention of Afrikaans popular music became known as the Voëlvry movement.[1][2]

In 1990, Rabie visited Amsterdam, and almost simultaneously the track "Hillbrow" from the Eet Kreef album became a hit in Belgium, and Rabie followed its success with a solo tour. In subsequent years he enjoyed substantial artistic success in Belgium and the Netherlands, and spent much of his time in Belgium. Here he also befriended Stef Bos, a Dutch cabaret artist, with whom he would share a number of concerts.[1][2]


Rabie hanged himself on 12 November 2002 in Kleinmond, near Hermanus on the Western Cape coast on a tree that is alien to South Africa. He was survived by his long-term partner, and by his ex-wife and son.[4][5][6][7]

The South African singer songwriter Valiant Swart wrote the song "Sonvanger" dedicated to the artist with Kerkorrel's mother Anne in mind, longing for her lost son.



  • Eet Kreef (1989)
  • Bloudruk (1992)
  • Cyanide in the Beefcake (1994)
  • Ge-trans-for-meer (1996)
  • Tien Jaar Later (1998)
  • Sing Koos du Plessis (1999)
  • Die Ander Kant (2000)
  • Voëlvry Die Toer (2002)
  • Kerkorrel – Best Of: Pêrels Voor Die Swyne (2003)
  • Hoe Ek Voel (2012) – issued to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of Rabie's death[12]


After Rabie's death, several artists recorded tribute songs to his life and work. An incomplete list follows:


Rabie is a much covered artist. Among the cover versions that exist are:


The film Johnny is nie dood nie portrays a fictional group of friends meeting up after his suicide, looking back to the events leading up to the Voëlvry movement, and how his music inspired and influenced them.[13][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "'Dylan' of Afrikaans rock dies". 13 November 2002. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d Sassen, Robyn (15 January 2003). "Just Another Day in Africa: In no-man's land I got lost". Retrieved 13 November 2007.
  3. ^ Allan, Jani. Afrikaner pride and passion mix with fun and laughter Sunday Times (South Africa). 9 July 1989
  4. ^ Redelinghuys, Pieter (12 November 2002). "Kerkorrel commits suicide". News24. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  5. ^ "Remembering Kerkorrel". Mail & Guardian. 13 November 2012. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  6. ^ Rooi, Jacob (17 November 2002). "'I'm sorry mom'". Rapport. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  7. ^ "'Who killed Kerkorrel?'". News24. 25 August 2005. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  8. ^ "The long road ahead". Mail & Guardian. 2 May 1997. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  9. ^ Malan, Mariana (6 November 2001). "First Geraas award ceremony". Die Burger Wes. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  10. ^ "Music veterans to be honoured at SA Music Awards". Mail & Guardian. 3 April 2013. Retrieved 21 April 2013. Kerkorrel was a prominent icon of the alternative Afrikaans music scene and a significant player in the vibrant 'Voëlvry' cultural movement. The Voëlvry movement was the 'Boere Beatlemania' of the late 1980s, whose main proponents sported undeniably kitsch names like Koos Kombuis and Johannes Kerkorrel. But far from being incidental, this eccentric bunch of young Afrikaans artists became the voice of their generation when South Africa was pushed to the brink of collapse by apartheid. Under the Voëlvry banner, their goal was the emancipation of Afrikaner youth from the strictures of their authoritarian, patriarchal culture – to make it cool to be Afrikaans. Kerkorrel's life has been celebrated in a wave of tributes following his untimely death at the age of 42 in 2002.
  11. ^ Leonard, Charles (10 May 2013). "Johannes Kerkorrel: The wise fool who left the fray". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  12. ^ "Die 10-jaar herdenking van Johannes Kerkorrel se dood". 8 November 2012. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  13. ^ SMITH, THERESA (4 May 2017). "Review: 'Johnny is nie dood nie'". WeekendSpecial. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  14. ^ Zietsman, Gabi (5 May 2017). "Johnny is nie dood nie". Channel24. Retrieved 23 October 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • Laubscher, Leswin (2005). "Afrikaner identity and the music of Johannes Kerkorrel". South African Journal of Psychology. Psychological Society of South Africa. 35 (2): 308–330. doi:10.1177/008124630503500209. S2CID 143530308. Retrieved 21 April 2013. As old identity verities are dislodged, post-apartheid South Africa is witness to dramatic identitary flux. This study examines Afrikaner identity and particularly that of the generational cohort who witnessed the end of apartheid as young adults. Employing a hermeneutic semiology, the study provides a reading of Johannes Kerkorrel's music, arguing that, as cultural text, it enacts identitary discourse and tension. As such, several identitary moments and motifs are noted across a period of roughly 20 years, including that of identity as rebellion, location and individualising interiority. Finally, it is suggested that the law-of-the-father, as apartheid bequest, organises and animates identity struggles for this generation.
  • Viljoen, Martina (1 November 2005). "Johannes Kerkorrel en postapartheid-Afrikaneridentiteit" [Johannes Kerkorrel and post Apartheid Afrikaaner Identity]. Literator (in Afrikaans). Literator Society of South Africa. 26 (3): 65–82. doi:10.4102/lit.v26i3.237. ISSN 0258-2279. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  • Hopkins, Pat (2006). Voëlvry the movement that rocked South Africa. Cape Town: Zebra Press. ISBN 9781770071209.
  • Uys, Hendrick Michael Grobler (2011). A psycho-biographical study of Ralph John Rabie (MA). NMMU. hdl:10948/1366.
  • "Johannes Kerkorrel" (in Afrikaans). Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  • "Music Artists: Johannes Kerkorrel". Entertainmentafrica Mobile. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  • "Voëlvry". Shifty. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2013. Ralph Rabie, who was at that time a journalist on an Afrikaans paper, went down to Cape Town to interview André when Vêr van die ou Kalahari was released. There was a meeting of minds which eventually led to both of them playing in the first incarnation of the Gereformeerde Blues Band. A short while later, André left to forge a solo career as Koos Kombuis, while Ralph, by then known as Johannes Kerkorrel, went on to record the seminal Eet Kreef album with the remaining members of the GBB. Both artists featured on the Voëlvry compilation, which came out around this time.
  • "Johannes Kerkorrel & GBB". Shifty. Retrieved 22 April 2013. Slashing their way out of the Nationalist Party ideology, the GBB charted the wide open spaces of a new Afrikaner rebellion. This time the insurrection was a musical one, with the GBB as rock & roll outlaws slinging guitars and stinging criticism against the laager mentality of volks kultuur and the apartheid way of life. Moving conventional rock into the realm of political theatre and satire as successfully as they did proved that if the GBB were to be seen as cultural upstarts, they were upstarts with a vision both innovative and lucid that could not be ignored.