Ra­dio Kala­hari Orkes turns into reel thing

Rooi-jan watches his PCS and cues in new film

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - HENRIËTTE GELDENHUYS

CON­TRO­VER­SIAL SA writer Rian Malan has tem­po­rar­ily put down his non-pc pen to be­come “Rooi-jan” Malan, the lead ac­tor in a movie about the cult band Ra­dio Kala­hari Orkes.

Malan, known more for his thought-pro­vok­ing and of­ten con­tro­ver­sial ar­ti­cles than his act­ing abil­ity, plays a lone ranger search­ing for the where­abouts of the band, known as the RKO, in the re­cently re­leased one-hour film ti­tled The Se­cret of Slang­fontein.

The RKO, led by vet­eran ac­tor, di­rec­tor and tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity Ian Roberts, plays old- style boere­musiek and prides it­self on be­ing 100 years be­hind the times.

Fea­tur­ing pop­u­lar mu­si­cians Jack Parow and Valiant Swart, the film is mar­keted by independent record la­bel Rhythm Records as a “jour­ney into the Ra­dio Kala­hari Orkes cult-con­scious­ness”.

It starts with Malan, who com­poses the band’s songs and writes its lyrics, trav­el­ling in a bakkie along a dusty coun­try road and pick­ing up a strange ra­dio sta­tion play­ing boere­musiek. Cu­ri­ous, he asks ev­ery­one he meets if they know where to find the band, which hides out in Slang­fontein, but no­body can help him. Un­de­terred, he presses on.

In the sec­ond half, Malan ac­com­pa­nies the band to the 2010 Op­pikoppi fes­ti­val, which leads to some of the fun­ni­est mo­ments in the film as he in­ter­views fes­ti­val-go­ers.

The movie ends with a pow­er­ful per­for­mance of one of the band’s favourite songs, Staan My By, which is more rock than boere­musiek, from the band’s al­bum, He­un­ing­land, fea­tur­ing singer Chris Chameleon.

Asked about his role in the film, Malan said: “I’m still look­ing for Slang­fontein.

“I wasn’t re­ally act­ing, I was just play­ing my­self in the mid­dle of a rain­storm north of Uping­ton, look­ing like a lone ranger and wear­ing a Liewe Hek­sie hat,” he said

“As far as I’m con­cerned, boere­musiek saved my life… my life in Cape Town in the rain along with the gen­eral point­less­ness of pol­i­tics.”

Ian Roberts, star­ring in the M-net soap opera The Wild, said he’d been play­ing with the RKO for five years and the movie came about “be­cause I’ve al­ways be­lieved we should cre­ate a trend, be­cause the band is so enig­matic”.

In the movie, Roberts plays the Ra­dio Kala­hari an­chor­man who an­swers calls from lis­ten­ers. “It was great fun to do the movie.

“The chal­lenge was to come up with the right words on the spur of the mo­ment.”

Roberts said his cousin, Dan Roberts, who grew up with him on a farm in the East­ern Cape, in­tro­duced him to Jack Parow.

Of Malan, Roberts said: “He has an ex­tra­or­di­nary tal­ent.

“In the be­gin­ning his ideas may seem strange, but later you tend to agree with them.

“He gets de­pressed when we play a song live and mess it up. But there’s no such thing as per­fec­tion in mu­sic.”

The video of the movie will be sold at the band’s shows.

Malan’s writ­ing has caused much con­tro­versy in the past decade.

Last month, he wrote that the apartheid army had won the war in An­gola and never lost the Bat­tle of Cuito Cua­navale in 1987, con­trary to the gen­eral view.

His 2009 book, Res­i­dent Alien, which led the Lon­don Times to com­ment that he was “SA’S Hunter S Thomp­son”, in­cludes an es­say claim­ing there was no Third Force in­volved in the Boipa­tong mas­sacre of June 1992, in which 48 peo­ple were killed.

But per­haps his most con­tro­ver­sial state­ment was that 60 000 peo­ple may have died be­cause of Aids over a five-year pe­riod in SA, when UNAIDS es­ti­mates that 250 000 peo­ple died.

This led to ac­cu­sa­tions that he was an Aids de­nial­ist. henriette.geldenhuys@inl.co.za

ROAD TRIP: Writer Rian Malan as he ap­pears in the new movie called The Se­cret of Slang­fontein.

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