Cape Town, South Africa: we wrote our first item on Woltemade when the band announced its Fragments of Lore coastal tour late last year; the concluding date of which is at SummerFest’19 next weekend. What’s more is that Woltemade is using the M4A stage at SummerFest’19 to launch its debut album, Siele vir die See.
We took the opportunity to discuss at length the band and its creative output in advance of the full album release next week.
“Woltemade came about during a discussion between myself and Stefan Steyn about starting a project. We wanted to retell the myths and legends of South Africa and Namibia set to Heavy Metal music. It’s a topic we both find very interesting and there are so many stories and legends with often dark and somber tones. It immediately made sense as a basis for a band. We chose the name Woltemade as it invokes the spirit of the band and Wolraad Woltemade is a very recognized figure in South African lore. He also stands as a heroic, but tragic, figure and forms a somewhat perfect protagonist for our story telling.” ~ Marius Theron (drums, Woltemade)
Siele vir die See
The album title translates directly into “Souls for the Sea” and introduces the band for everything that it is. Woltemade‘s namesake risked his life – and ultimately lost it – during a daring and impromptu maritime rescue operation in 1773. This is the source of inspiration for the album artwork and title.
However, other lyrical content on Siele vir die See, or future ones, is not specifically focused on this character or event, nor even reality per se:
“Woltemade’s songs and lyrics are based on Southern African folklore as well as historical events. I think we are a band that tells stories, whether fictional or based on real events. It goes without saying that the distinction between fact and fiction are sometimes blurred. I say this in the light of our song ‘Verkluim’, which is the story of Racheltjie De Beer. There is speculation about this story not being historically accurate and that it may have been borrowed from a similar American story. In the end we won’t get too technical about what is fact and what is fiction. It’s still a story told in Southern Africa and our main business is telling these stories.” ~ Karel Kogler (vocals, Woltemade)
Euro-centric versus Afro-centric
Of course, history is a current hotbed and point of great contention in South African social dialog, with polarization evident from certain operatives on all sides. Although, it does actually appear evident that a growing consciousness of curiosity, respect, and even admiration is developing for cross-culture interactions where politicians would have us believe otherwise. As metalheads that quiz everything, we wanted to know if the band was in any kind of way a response to the current climate; especially considering that all members are Afrikaans-speaking as first language and have a similar cultural heritage.
“We are indeed an all-Afrikaans-as-first-language band. It is well and correctly put. Naturally, we are accustomed to the stories which form part of upbringing. And it obviously gives us much pleasure in presenting these stories in our music. However, I would not call our focus or any part of our band euro-centric. Our stories are stories which predominantly originated on the African continent. They are as much part of the cultural riches of Africa as the stories of any other ethnic or linguistic group. It is noteworthy that we have a song coming up on the album about the Nama deity Haiseb which is far removed from anything European. We are not afraid to venture out of the realm of what some may regard “traditional” Afrikaans or European-South-African stories. I wish I could tell you more, but we already have some exciting stories in mind for the next album which may have bearing on this question. I can, however, not disclose any more about this at this stage.” ~ Karel Kogler
A broader perspective than populist opportunity-digging
Woltemade, as proven by its first public appearance, is all about broadening perspective and cross-cultural exploration. The band’s first two performances in May of 2018 included a show in Windhoek, Namibia, to a predominantly white, Afrikaans-speaking audience; and the following night in Ghanzi, Botswana to a predominantly black, Setswana-speaking audience. The band was met with equal enthusiasm at both shows. Karel words his view on politics, mass media and opportunistic behavior rather eloquently when quizzed on the lyrical context of another song from the album, ‘Xhore’; which tells of the seventeenth century abduction of an indigenous chieftain to Europe:
“Yes, Xhore is indeed an interesting story! However, let’s discuss the heritage issue. Personally I think in our day and age people get so sensitive about history and heritage. The abduction of Xhore and the sending of prisoners to establish a settlement/outpost are historical facts. We don’t cast any group as the villain. We merely sing about what happened. Take note that we might also sing about something fictitious in any given song.
In that same breath it is noteworthy that some of the lyrics revolve around timeless issues and concepts. Today there are still people being exploited such as in the time of Xhore. Our song ‘In the Name of the Tyrant’ is in essence a war song; mostly based on facts. Wars still take place today. The song we’ve offered today, Kinderverminker, is about the cross-dressing child abductor Antjie Somers; likely based on fiction. The song deals with sexual violence against children, which is also prevalent in our modern society. So our listeners may feel free to attach some emotion of what happens today to our lyrics, as some issues are relevant now and are even timeless issues. Remember, however, that we tell stories, whether fact or fiction.
As to the Southern African question. Racial and political polarization is but the flavour of the week. A thousand years from now we might have bridged those divides, but I bet people will still treat each other like shit. Inhumanity is timeless. In the light of the aforesaid, I don’t think any current divide between people would influence who enjoys our work and who doesn’t. Our stories are beyond that.” ~ Karel Kogler
Siele vir die See & SummerFest’19
Woltemade‘s full work, which was recorded by Floris Le Roux at FRJ Studios, will be presented at SummerFest’19; incidentally, Woltemade‘s first hometown appearance as well. Siele vir die See will be available only as hard copy initially, with a digital release on the cards for later in 2019. Catch Woltemade on stage at 19h15, with other bands including Zombies Ate My Girlfriend, Vulvodynia, Bulletscript, Adorned in Ash and more for a noteworthy headbanging extravaganza. For full event details, join the official facebook event page.