Yes, I’m old enough to remember a time before Fokofpolisiekar. When the South-African music scene was fine, but certain popular genres were just left untouched in Afrikaans. Until Karen Zoid came around. The press dubbed her “South Africa’s rock chick”, and her rocking take on Afrikaans (with touches of punk & hip-hop) reinvigorated the genre for Afrikaans-speaking music lovers and musicians, and paved the way for the Fokofpolisiekar-generation.
Now, an unbelievable 14 years after her debut Poles Apart was released, her new album, Drown out the noise, exemplifies her maturity. And while the title track which opens the album starts slow, with a beautiful distortion-free guitar riff and Zoid’s familiar voice, leading the song into a bigger arrangement with a full band.
Then the album turns towards the Southern Rock-inspired, but also hard and electric ”Secrets and lies” – a track that explores darker thoughts about secret-keepers. “Troublemaker”, on the other hand, is a very African track, which hosts a guest appearance by Freshlyground’s Zolani Mahola and acts as a tribute to Nelson Mandela. Speaking of guest appearances, Francois van Coke appears on the love ballad duet “Smile” – the not-quite-flipside to Zoid’s appearance on van Coke’s hit track “Toe vind ek jou”.
Tracks like “You can show it” cut to the bone and seem to illustrate the album title by contrasting soft, honest and sincere confessions with loud, electric choruses, as if Karen is fighting her fears by turning up the volume on her electric guitars. “Justice! Justice!” is a modern protest song that demands things like “lock up the rapist; throw away the key”, and the song is directly followed by “Nightingale” – a beautifully sweet track that’ll make you believe in love again.
Drowing out the noise has ups and downs, and varies in genre and content, just the way Karen Zoid has always done. It is an excellent, mature rock & roll album which neatly mixes in some nostalgia, earnest secrets, tributes, protests, and love. This is definitely a must for Karen Zoid fans, and would make a warm introduction to newcomers.
Karen Zoid is a South African rock singer, guitarist, and song-writer. She made waves as an Afrikaans “rock chick” in 2001, but has grown, and changed through the years – today, she’s a television host, actress, solo musician, and band leader. Her latest album, Drown Out the Noise, is available now on iTunes.