Thursday, October 20, 2011

bttereinder bio October 2011

Bittereinder is a three-man think/dance machine, one of the freshest bands in the current musical explosion emanating from the unpredictable city of Pretoria, South Africa. Jaco van der Merwe (rapper/lyricist), Peach van Pletzen (award-winning producer extraordinaire) and Louis Minnaar (multi award-winning visual artist and musical producer) lend equal impetus to the lyrical, musical and visual elements of the band.

Bittereinder formed early in 2009, and immediately began production on their debut album, titled ‘n Ware Verhaal (A True Story). The album took almost 2 years to complete, and in October 2010 ‘n Ware Verhaal was released through Rhythm Records, featuring powerful collaborations with Jack Parow, Tim Beumers (acclaimed Dutch rapper from Rotterdam), Tumi Molekane (Tumi & the Volume), Inge Beckmann (Lark), Richard Brokensha (Isochronous/kidofdoom) and Sev Statik (Deepspace 5, from New York).

All Bittereinder’s music videos were produced, shot and directed by the band’s own mastermind, Louis Minnaar, and they all reached MK’s Top 10 chart (South Africa’s premier music TV channel), including a 3-week number 1 spot for the third single “Slechte Mensen”. All 3 of their first singles reached number 1 chart positions on a number of radio stations across South Africa.

Following a hugely successful and much anticipated national tour starting with seven cities in a month, Bittereinder crowned the excellent reception of their debut album by winning the SAMA (South African Music Award) for Best Afrikaans Alternative Album of 2011 at the SAMA Awards Ceremony in Johannesburg in May 2011. The album and the first video were also finalists in the 2011 Tempo Awards. Before Bittereinder had even played one show they had already been heralded as:

“the best thing that has happened to local music this past year.” (Chutney de Ridder, Rapport)
“Bittereinder is the biggest thing to hit Afrikaans in months, if not years.” (Annie Klopper, Litnet)
“Bittereinder will most probably be the next alternative Afrikaans export to Netherlands and Belgium. You want to find their album in your Christmas stocking.” (Jannike Bergh, Acoustic Image)
“Bittereinder is the next big thing…Jaco/Bittereinder could be to hip-hop what Hunter/Fokofpolisiekar was to rock in South Africa…a refreshingly real and honest Afrikaans voice, true poetry.” (Liam Lynch, Obrigado)
“Bittereinder is the real deal. This is one Afrikaans hip hop act you need to hear.” (Lloyd Gedye, Mail & Guardian)
“Bittereinder make a sick combination of awesome rhymes, harmonies and spaced-out, thumping beats. This album brings together some very diverse sounds and styles, which keep it fresh, and unlike many other rap albums it never gets boring.” (Ettiene Buys, The Urbanist)
“’n Ware Verhaal is an outstanding, refreshing musical explosion.” (Luzaan van der Westhuizen, Perdeby)
“’n Ware Verhaal is a complex and intelligent album. The music, an irresistible fusion of contagious sounds and powerful, poetic sentiments, is progressive, innovative and shifts the boundaries of hip-hop in the South African context.” (Republikein online)

Bittereinder has built a solid live reputation during 2011, buttressed by big festival performances at Ramfest CT, Ramfest JHB, KKNK, Gariep Festival, Aardklop and Oppikoppi. In August 2011 Bittereinder played their first international show at the legendary Paradiso club in Amsterdam, followed by a massive set at the Lowlands Festival in the Netherlands, during which they shared the stage with Dutch rap veteran Tim Beumers. Bittereinder will definitely be returning to the Netherlands in 2012.

In October 2011 Bittereinder began serious work on their second album.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

a short biography

It seems that the unpredictable city of Pretoria is responsible for much greater controversy and magic realism in recent years than many citizens of the world might have guessed. Take bittereinder for instance. Three relatively good-looking young Pretorian men who have unimaginably overcome their respective quarter-life crises to produce a series of works that verges on the magnificent and borders on being inexcusably ridiculous. Bittereinder’s music rubs noses with the language that you speak at home, massages the shoulders of your favourite book, and French kisses your ideas about God.

In 2007 Jaco penned his first Afrikaans rap verse, and Peach and Louis immediately knew what to do. Taking their cue from years of experience in what may politely be referred to as “the industry”, the three young men forged a landscape of Rhythm And Poetry that was as daring as it was truthful, as hysterical as it was ambiguous, and as South African as it was hopeful. There was only one name for it. Bittereinder.

PRESS RELEASE January 2010

Pretoria-based rap group Bittereinder is proud to announce the launch of their debut album ‘n ware verhaal in October 2010.

Background and Formation

Bittereinder was formed early in 2009 when Jaco van der Merwe approached
Peach van Pletzen and Louis Minnaar about his desire to start an Afrikaans rap project. Jaco had been writing and performing English hip hop and spoken word poetry since 1998, using the stage name Ajax, and had released two solo albums in 2005 and 2009. He had begun the journey of uncovering the dormant power of rap in his mother tongue in 2007. Peach van Pletzen, also known as Yesterday’s Pupil, had been solidifying his reputation as one of South Africa’s most skilful and diverse songwriter/producers in collaborations with Tumi Molekane (arguably SA’s finest hip hop artist) and Francois van Coke (resulting in the “Oorlog Frankenstein” project) amongst many others.

In April 2008, Ajax & Yesterday’s Pupil toured Poland together, delivering crunchy sets of beat poetry and the first live performances of YP’s debut album Errors of Enthusiasm to unsuspecting audiences in 4 Polish cities. (For those incredibly interested in detail, this was not Jaco and Peach’s first music collaboration. They first worked together in high school, as vocalist and drummer for a conscious rap group called illastraight in 2000, and Jaco rapped and sang on a track on Peach’s first band SHU’s first recording at BMG in 2001. Even more remarkably, Louis played cello for a few weeks in Jaco’s first band silt in 1998.)

This brings us to the third member of Bittereinder, Louis Minnaar, whose status as a premier visual artist has recently been enhanced and affirmed by a magical award-winning series of music videos for Van Coke Kartel, Yesterday’s Pupil, Die Heuwels Fantasties, Jacob Israel, A Skyline on Fire and now Bittereinder. Louis was originally brought into the group to be the visual maestro of the band (as almost any 21st century musician knows that design, video and the aesthetic aspect of being in a band is fast competing in appeal with the music itself). As fate would have it, Peach became very busy with Yesterday’s Pupil work during 2009, and Louis stepped in to create some “rough beats” for Jaco to work with in the meantime...

Making ‘n ware verhaal

Louis’ musical skills rose to the occasion very quickly and very impressively during the 20 months of writing and production on ‘n ware verhaal, eventually seating him as chief composer on tracks like “wakkerword (ft. Inge Beckmann)”, “slechte mensen (ft. Tim Beumers)” and “die slang & die arend (ft. Richard Brokensha of Isochronous)”. As the months wore on, Peach and Louis began to function in an awe-inspiring symbiotic co-production rhythm, intertwining sounds and rhythms and textures in a magnificent tapestry which would eventually form the musical heart of ‘n ware verhaal.

Peachs’ mastery of the art produced tracks like the first single “ware verhaal”, “Voleinder (ft. Sev Statik from New York)” and “die ooreenkoms”, but it is fair to say that the remaining tracks on the album namely “penworstel”, “almanak”, “die waarskuwing” and “solidariteit” were created in basically equal collaborative efforts by the two producers. The last remaining track “a tale of three cities (ft. Jack Parow & Tumi Molekane)” used a beat created by Peach van Pletzen and Jean de Wet in a project called Verkleurhond. It would also be impolite to exclude mention of Jaco’s co-piloting role in the composition and arrangement of virtually all the music on the album. He wrote melodies, harmonies, bass-lines and even fiddled with guitars, a hand drum and the insides of an old wooden clock in a valiant contribution to the aforementioned tapestry.

Jaco and Peach recorded most of their vocals at B-Sharp Studios, ably assisted by JP de Stefani, and the rest at Peach’s own workspace Sleeproom Studios. Peach gleefully took responsibility of the final mix, and eventually Bittereinder produced a body of work that Rogan Kelsey described as “meaningful, diverse and accessible” when he mastered the songs at Lapdust Studios in September 2010.

The Featured Artists

Mention must also be made at this point of the powerful collection of collaborations that Bittereinder delivers on this album. Sev Statik, respected underground emcee from New York and member of Jaco’s all-time favourite rap group Deepspace5, graced “Voleinder” with a tight English verse (making one of Jaco’s lifetime dreams come true). Inge Beckmann, Larks’ leading lady, contributed a hauntingly pretty performance to a long-overdue collaboration on “Wakkerword”. Peach had been working with Tumi Molekane and Jack Parow during 2010, and approached them both to write and record verses for a conceptual track called “a tale of three cities”. The song is Jaco’s brainchild, a patriotic hip hop masterpiece featuring the three rappers speaking about their relationships with their home-cities of Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Kidofdoom rocker and Isochronous front-man Richard Brokensha added exquisite and majestic vocals to “die slang & die arend”. Carin Lange, Jaco’s 3-year-old niece, benevolently delivered some super-cute and highly insightful vocal samples for the opening track of the album. And, in what could prove to be the most exciting match-up of all, Rotterdam’s finest Tim Beumers lends a masterful verse to “slechte mensen” in the first ever Afrikaans-Dutch rap collaboration!

The First Music Video: “ware verhaal”

Louis created the band’s first music video for the first single “ware verhaal” with a budget of R1,500. In a half-day shoot, with no extra crew (not even a cameraman!), the three Bittereinder boys generated enough footage for Louis to animate and edit and sculpt into what would become the band’s first  encounter with the public. The video reached 1,000 views on youtube in less than 5 days, no mean feat for a band that had at that stage never played a gig, done an interview or said anything else to the world. The video itself is set within an endless wall, through which the band’s faces and arms and a few other body parts appear at will, playing instruments, snapping fingers and singing the words of the song. There are also countless picture frames hanging on the wall, including old family photographs, old maps, floating words, strange characters and various bits of fantastical eye candy from the depths of Louis’ boundless imagination, which all move around and interact with the flow of the song. The strength of the video lies in Louis’ editing, specifically the witty and fast-paced visual references to Jaco’s lyrics, as the video twists and bounces energetically through the three choruses and two verses of “ware verhaal”.

What Bittereinder’s Music Sounds Like, and What It is About

Drawing from their combined influences and diverse frame of references, Bittereinder produced an album with 12 tracks that truly don’t really sound like anything they’d heard before. It’s rap music, of course, but perhaps the emphasis when determining style here is on music, not on rap. A good deal of time was spent on the singing arrangements, and the “beats” themselves could much more accurately be described as layered musical compositions, with intricate levels of melody and harmony that create captivating dynamic soundscapes, a far cry from the stagnant and monotonous loops that most rappers are satisfied with. Jaco’s lyrical themes range from humorous and fearless social commentary to fables and narratives intended to induce in the listener the long-neglected art of thinking.

Rhythm Records

The band is thrilled and deeply honoured that Albert du Plessis of Rhythm Records felt Bittereinder was a project worth supporting, and thanks to him and his marvellous infrastructure, Bittereinder’s debut album ’n ware verhaal will be available in stores nationwide on 5 October 2010.