A lifetime of stories in 14 songs: Andy Innes’ debut album Anthems of a Stranger

 

Ride to the Sea

Insight: Mahatma Ghandi made the concept of passive resistance famous in the 1930s when he marched to the sea in defiance of a British occupation law, to make salt with his followers. This protest was known as ‘The salt march’. In a latter day context, the lyric of Ride to the Sea encourages the listener to focus on what is real and enduring about their lives and speak truth to power to get that which is most important for them and their loved ones. The path of honesty and direct non-violent engagement is usually the one that will bring about lasting change, that which is most potentially beneficial to all.

Instruments: 8-string acoustic baritone, acoustic slide guitar, tabla

Collaborations: Ashish Joshi (tabla), Hlengiwe Pitso (vocals)

 

The Chains

Insight: Fundamentalist ideologies and practices are generally inflexible and judgmental of others. There are many people in our world today who choose not to follow the tenets of a particular faith, yet still have an inner ‘spirituality’ and ethical disposition towards that which is ‘good’ or generally considered ‘right’. Chains is an exhortation to stand clear of judging others based on your own belief system to the exclusion of any other possibilities. There is currently only one planet for us all to share. The practice of your beliefs should not preclude my right to choose mine.

Instruments: 8-string acoustic baritone, electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, bass, drums, Hammond A100 organ, percussion

Collaborations: Trevor Donjeany (bass), Keith Marisheni (drums), Ron Brettel (Hammond organ), Tlale Makhene (percussion), Mandisa Dlanga (vocals), Hlengiwe Pitso (vocals, rave), Bongani Masuku (vocals)

 

The Devil and the Rainbow

Insight: All of us have moments when what might have been great becomes mediocre, for any one of several reasons. Imbalance in a relationship is usually a road to the end of that relationship, whether it is one person falling out of love, a skewed balance of power or various other factors. As relationships end, love becomes something else, sometimes for one of the parties, often for both.

Instruments: guitar, bass, violin, drums, udu, piano

Collaborations: Nicolas Fiszman (bass), Hlengiwe Pitso (vocals), Waldo Alexander (violin), Barry van Zyl (drums), Tlale Makhene (udu), Kerri-leigh Wayne (piano)

 

Aliens

Insight: Since the late 80s, millions of South Africans have effected a diaspora to Europe, north America and the Antipodes, often referred to as ‘the brain drain’ because so many of these individuals are beneficiaries of tertiary education or members of a higher income bracket, thus having the means to emigrate. With each one of these emigrations, damage is done to the SA economy, health system and future capacity to produce and educate, as the tax base shrinks, social welfare increases and overall the pedagogy dumbs down.

Our SA “drain rate” is effectively higher than Africa-wide statistics of almost 50% of skilled professionals emigrating to live abroad. The sad double edge to this blade is the reality that most who have left are ultimately more secure, but less happy in many ways, permanently in disconnect with the country of their birth, carrying the flags and cultures of strangers, most having made this sacrifice either for their families or as a result of some trauma.

This is a theme Andy has seen played out again and again over 20 years of touring with quintessentially SA bands in the ‘diaspora territories’ catering to mainly SA expatriate markets. It has also been something that has resonated with him emotionally, hence the album title ‘Anthems of a Stranger’. Although originally written in a South African context, several ideas in Aliens are universally applicable. The concepts of millions of ideological, economic and political refugees crossing borders every year and struggling to adapt in the new world apply over most of the globe.

The Zulu refrain ‘Buyelani emakhaya Bakithi’ means ‘Come back to your homes, our people’.

Instruments: electric and acoustic guitars, drums, bass, percussion

Collaborations: Rob Watson (drums), Trevor Donjeany (bass), Tlale Makhene (percussion), Mandisa Dlanga (vocals), Hlengiwe Pitso (vocals), Bongai Masuku (vocals)

 

Beyond these Mountains

Insight: Written during the political interregnum and unrest of the early 90s in South Africa, but equally applicable now, Beyond these Mountains looks at the possibility of a brighter future for our children, beyond the cycle of retributive violence and crime waves in which we live. We face enormous obstacles and challenges as a society that can only be overcome through co-operative efforts. This requires a better understanding of what it means to be South African, what that elusive shared identity really represents. Until that identity, free from racial or social descriptors, can be defined, we face an uncertain future. The tragic humour of the situation is that we all lose in relatively equal proportions until we find the common ground and agree that this is who we are. Choosing to segregate rather than integrate will only ever push us further from the shared goal of true peace for our descendants.

Instruments: guitars, synth guitars, drums, bass, percussion

Collaborations: Neill Ettridge (drums), Jonathan Noyce (bass), Tlale Makhene (percussion), Mandisa Dlanga (vocals), Hlengiwe Pitso (vocals), Bongani Masuku (vocals), Johnny Clegg (outro vocals)

 

Desiree

Insight: Any long-term relationship is a re-writing of stories to incorporate new lines. If the storylines are compatible a new and beautiful tale can be realised. Andy wrote this for his wife and played it for her at their wedding reception. Says Andy, “We’ve had seven amazing years together, and it’s still just beginning.”

Instruments: electric and acoustic guitars, drums, bass

Collaborations: Rob Watson (drums), Trevor Donjeany (bass)

 

Angels

Insight: With several restrictions wrapping their fingers around the throat of South Africa’s press freedoms in the past decade – the Black Tuesday Information Bill, incarceration of journalists, political assassinations and more – we as a society must be vigilant and ‘watch the watchers’ as Juvenal said in The Satires and Plato expanded upon in his Republic. A democracy is ultimately only as strong as the freedoms that it protects and the manner in which it protects them determines the outcomes for its people. Governments formed with the best intentions and ideals can easily stray once practical challenges and temptations come into play. The free press is how the electorate communicates with and checks government. Our democratic values are protected by our free press and the members of the press are the ‘angels’ referred to in this lyric line, where ‘Izingelosi’ means ‘angels’ in Zulu.

Instruments: electric and acoustic guitars, drums, bass, Hammond A100 organ

Collaborations: Derek de Beer (drums), Trevor Donjeany (bass), Ron Brettel (Hammond organ), Mandisa Dlanga (vocals), Hlengiwe Pitso (vocals), Bongani Masuku (vocals)

 

The River

Insight: A metaphor for life, The River deals with life memories and questions along with fallen heroes and epiphanous realities.

Instruments: electric and acoustic guitars, drums, bass

Collaborations: Neill Ettridge (drums), Denny Lalouette (bass)

 

Gitane

Insight:Gitane’ is a French word for ‘gypsy’, ‘e’ on the end is feminine, as the piece is more feminine in spirit, loosely influenced by French Manouche jazz a la Django Reinhardt.

Instruments: guitar, drums, bass

Collaborations: Kevin Gibson (drums), Shaun Johannes (bass)

 

Delilah

Insight: The old testament concept of Samson and Delilah has interested Andy for some time. The emotionally complex idea that in giving of yourself to another, you sacrifice certain strengths means you must choose wisely when deciding in whom to place your trust. Originally a piece with lyrics, the music was nevertheless composed to channel the energies of these ideas.

Instruments: electric and acoustic guitars, drums, bass

Collaboration: Kevin Gibson (drums), Shaun Johannes (bass)

 

Nuit Blanche

Insight:Nuit Blanche’, literal translation of the French is ‘white night’, actually means ‘all nighter’ colloquially. There is a Nuit Blanche movement in France that has gained traction over the last decade with town councils. In several cities across France, originally in Nantes, the councils stage a Nuit Blanche once a year comprising music, art and dance from dusk till dawn. A fantastic concept.

Instruments: guitars, drums, bass

Collaborations: Neill Ettridge (drums), Denny Lalouette (bass)

 

Tugela Crossing

Insight: The great Tugela River, traditional border between the kingdom of the Zulu and colonial Natal, has run red with blood time and again for centuries, from the massacres of the Difecane to the Anglo-Zulu war and beyond with the continued apartheid-era bloodshed at Tugela Ferry and the ANC / Inkatha clashes that continue to this day. This is a piece of music inspired by the paradox of that landscape’s beauty contrasted with the centuries of violence it has witnessed. Strong Maskandi guitar themes and isiZulu-inspired melodies drive this very African rock instrumental.

Instruments: electric and Zulu acoustic guitars, drums, percussion, bass

Collaborations: Rob Watson (drums), Tkale Makhene (perc), Trevor Donjeany (bass)

 

Emaweni

Insight:Emaweni’ is a Zulu word meaning ‘at the cliffs’.

Instruments: electric and Zulu acoustic guitars, VG-99 midi sitar, Umhupe Zulu mouth bow, drums, bass, tabla, percussion

Collaborations: Johnny Clegg (mouth bow), Neill Ettridge (drums), Denny Lalouette (bass), Ashish Joshi (tabla), Tlale Makhene (percussion)

 

Low Flyer

Insight: A solid, rock-based instrumental driving tune. This is one for long car journeys.

Instruments: guitars, bass, drums

Collaborations: Jonathan Noyce (bass), Barry van Zyl (drums)