How Bittereinder Survived A Bitter Decade

Things weren’t all that different 10 years ago. Or were they? Bittereinder have seen it all, so maybe they can offer some perspective. Charlene Charls Dos Ramos takes a look at the last decade with the Afrikaans electronic rap crew.

 

A Bitter Decade - Bittereinder - Durban Is Yours

 

 

How do you do a successful interview with one of your favourite bands? You send Bittereinder an earnest voice note, wait for the double ticks and rejoice when the reply is “Ja”. The next step is to go ahead and plan a time for the interview (has to be IRL), drive 5 hours to a festival in Clarens, drink (a bit too much), ruin all your clothes in mud and when they arrive 2 days later, don’t do the interview. Don’t forget to end off strong and send your questions through via Google Doc for best results.

 

Our vision, if a worded attempt is to be made, was probably to create something fresh in Afrikaans, to combine our three skill sets and to make art that would be timeless.

 

In a decade, Bittereinder has become a staple in the South African music scene. Having won a SAMA with their debut album ‘n Ware Verhaal, released 3 more studio albums, toured locally and internationally, won another SAMA award for SKERM, as well as a Rekord – Best of Pretoria Award and still manage to continuously release songs that create and inform the local narrative whilst making you dans tot die dood. Most importantly they created, in an opinion of one, the best behind the scenes documentary in history; a monumental piece of content that sums up everything other than the music that makes this band so damn good.

 

 

In that same time period, I became a legal drinker, outgrew my emo stage, passed Afrikaans in matric by 2%, fell in and out of advertising school with a degree and still don’t really understand how to read a utility bill (if you know, please slide into my DMs, seriously). But like Jaco Van Der Merwe says, “success is a slippery bastard, impossible to get a grip on.”

 

A Bitter Decade - Bittereinder - Durban Is Yours

 

My love for Bittereinder stems from their holistic extension of the local hip-hop genre as well as the voice they give to a pocket of South Africans and their self-actualization as countrymen in a 21st-century setting complete with more digital screens than we know what to do with. Moreover, because as Jaco van der Merwe says “the great thing about Bittereinder has always been that it remains a passion project, an avenue for art-making that exists mostly outside of our day-jobs.”

A Bitter Decade - Bittereinder - Durban Is Yours

With every piece of art, it starts with a concept whether concrete or as obscure as the number 42. “It’s hard to articulate things like “vision”, especially when looking back at it almost ten years later. Those were wondrous days, the electric sparks of creation were tangible in nearly every conversation and session that the three of us had. Our vision, if a worded attempt is to be made, was probably to create something fresh in Afrikaans, to combine our three skill sets and to make art that would be timeless.” says Jaco van der Merwe.

 

It has been a Bitterdecade, with their 5th album expected later this year. I’d like to think that their next offering will showcase their growth as both individual and collective musicians that stems from the natural turning of time and all that they have done and learnt with/out of the industry. Until then I will continue to play Donderwolk twice a day in anticipation and hopefully work on my musician interview skills.

Leave A Comment