The Cultural Force of Francois van Coke “En Vriende”

Francois van Coke recently released En Vriende and it has all the musical grit and razor-sharp lyrical bite that form the golden thread present in all albums that spin under the FvC banner.

En Vriende features the likes of Die Heuwels Fantasties, Early B, Laudo Liebenberg and Jack Parow, making for a powerful arsenal of voices and styles, in the short space of four songs. The idea for the EP was seeded by the production “Francois van Coke & Vriende”, taking place in Pretoria come September.

A lot has changed since Francois van Coke first started launching a cultural assault on the religious and social structures around him. Some of the teenagers who shouted along to the anthems of Fokofpolisiekar are now well on their way to reaching 40. Van Coke himself has outgrown the “Drugs, sex and rock ‘n roll” lifestyle and is now a husband and a father. But what hasn’t changed is the force with which his music speaks into culture, particularly the country’s middle-class suburban scene.

En Vriende starts with “Ek lewe, ek belowe”, which mingles everyday, mundane scenes with violent, war imagery: “electric fences” (elektriese heinings), “churches like rockets” (kerke soos vuurpyle) and “bottles like landmines” that “lay scattered in the parks” (bottels soos landmyne lê die parkies vol). The song is infused with the characteristic pop/rock sound of Die Heuwels Fantasties and reveals the potential violence of cultural norms and routine.

The second track ropes in the compelling rhymes of hip-hop artist, Early B, in a song about betrayal and regret – the subdued tone of the first half of the song is broken when the second chorus bursts through with alarming yet delightful aggression, carried by a huge guitar-sound and the raging vocal unique to Francois van Coke.

Laudo Liebenberg joins the fray on “Spaar my Asseblief”, a song that looks back on a childhood marked by disillusionment with the expectations of a conservative Afrikaner culture, set in Meerlust Straat in Bellville. One of the highlights of the song comes right at the end, with a creative and skillfully-executed drum outro by none other than Sheldon Yoko – who is fast becoming one of the country’s most recognised faces behind the kit.

“Moenie Bang Wees Nie” addresses the fear and paranoia that underlies much of the middle-class Afrikaner community – a fear that separates people from one another. Jack Parow presents a view through this lens of fear that projects cultures as “dark disciples on my horison” (donker dissipels op my horison). His words in the second verse admonish people to stop looking back to a bygone time, “don’t long for something that is long past” (moenie verlang na iets wat lankal in die verlede is).

Although short, En Vriende certainly does not leave anything wanting in terms of lyrical weight and musical brilliance. I would definitely recommend a listen.

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