100 World Class South Africans: David Kramer

Honouring unique expressions

Red veldskoens, a pork-pie hat, a battered bicycle and a big guitar – it can only be David Kramer. ‘It wasn’t a marketing gimmick. It was an expression of my ideas,’ says the musical pioneer, one of SA’s first crossover artists.

Entertaining, often humorous, his songs also carried a deeply poignant socio-political message (his debut album Bakgat was banned in 1981).

Worcester-born Kramer grew up listening to his grandpa playing the concertina and to farm workers playing guitar.

It’s where his musical education began. His creative partnership with the late Taliep Petersen brought international fame, starting in 1986 with the musical District Six.

Then came Fairyland, Poison, Ghoema and Kat & the Kings, which ran on Broadway (nominated for a Tony, among other awards) and London’s West End, where it won two Oliviers.

The shows still play to standing ovations. Recently, Kramer’s Karoo Kitaar Blues showcased the unique and eccentric guitar styles of poor, marginalised musicians in SA’s most desolate reaches.

(One of them, Hannes Coetzee – who plays slide guitar with a spoon – became a YouTube sensation and has since held workshops in the US.)

The award-winning show became a documentary that toured the world’s film festivals – a South African version of Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club, if you like.

Kramer has opened a window for the world on music styles largely unknown.

For him, there’s no place like home.

‘Why are SouthAfricans so obsessed with American music? Our country has the same riches,’ he says.

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