They look like mannequins; dystonically catatonic robots with Tourrette’s syndrome; their animated twitches are infectious… the blotched, syncopated ilk of their music is calming, in a strange yet effective, systemic way…

Twitter is deceiving in how it flashes sound-bites across one’s screen; its soundbites somehow tragically morph into recursively cancerous formations, each iteration building upon the last one. It – Twitter – is conspiratorial, in very much the same way that conspiracy theorists argue that news networks intentionally program people to believe certain things. Such as was the case after 9/11; ‘terrorism’ became the word to fear because, argues Michael Moore, the news networks said it more than ten times per minute in their bulletins. It could have been a hundred. Or a thousand. I couldn’t care less!

I blame Twitter for bombarding me with the name Bittereinder on a constant basis, yet failing to remind me to Google its origins. Is it a group? A song? A new-age H1N1 virus incarnate? I decided to take matters into my own hands; I made a conscious effort to ‘cross over’ to yet another social network – though I always find that classification odd in a WTF kind of way – called YouTube. As an aside, a friend once posted on another social network that rather ironically has a movie named Social Network dedicated to exploring its initial machinations. Anyway, the bite went: ‘Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook are going to combine in order to form a new network call YouTwitFace‘. Lol? Not! Rather, lqtm – laughing quietly to myself – a new phrase for an aloof social networker. Boom!

Back to my Youtube escapade, ‘Bittereinder’ was what got typed into the search box; I ignored the suggestions on the drop-down box… I wanted the atomic, the real and raw! What followed were two videos: Ware Verhaal (the title track whose visual on-goings I tried to capture in words above), as well as A Tale of Three Cities, an homage to the 012, 011, and 021 area codes featuring  Tumi and Afrikaans rap artist Jack Parow.


The insane attack of raps and bass that is Bittereinder’s music all begun with an innocent post on twitter: ‘I want to have a chat to one of the guys in Bittereinder‘. ‘Chat away, I’m all ears. and a bit of mouth…‘ came back a tweet from one @ajaxrap. One more twitter exchange and a couple of SMSes later (one sent the morning of their Ramfest performance, and three just before the interview), I found myself chatting to Jaco who, along with Peach van Pletzen and Louis Minnaar, forms the trio that is Bittereinder. Prior to listening to their album I would have classified their music as hip-hop; however I am a little conflicted as to how to classify their sound, and so shall abstain from so doing.

Me: So yes, chilling here with Jaco from Bittereinder

Jaco: Rrrr…yeah, people always to leave out the ‘r’ at the end.

Me: Dope performance by the way. Um, what I want to know is, like, where does the name come from. I know about the historical significance, but in terms of the group, how does the name relate?

Jaco: Okay well, it’s a couple of things. The first is that we see our band as sort of an end to bitterness, you know like something that brings as end, like a ‘bitter-ender’. And then obviously, like you mentioned, the historical context. I…I am Afrikaans but I grew up in English schools. I was in Boy’s High and my friends were in Pro-Arte, so we always had this struggle between our English identity and Afrikaans identity. This band is like the first time that we…it’s like Afrikaans-101; like the Bittereinders, we didn’t give up. And then the third meaning is somebody who never gives up.

Me: So do you feel like your identity had been repressed? For me as a black person, there was a part of my history that I wasn’t taught in schools, and I’m only discovering certain things now. Do you feel that perhaps the group is kind of a ‘guiding star’ for you?

Jaco: I hope so, um, in the time that we were growing up, in the nineties, it wasn’t a sort of very popular thing to be an Afrikaner – a young Afrikaner. And we were kids, we had no idea of what was going on in this country you know, we were just growing up. So…it was like…some of us grew up hating our own identity, our own culture. And this project is something that happened, it’s like god showed me something about who I am and I embraced it. Now I’m okay to be an Afrikaner…not okay, I’m loving it! So it’s like you said, it’s a part of our history that we needed to deal with in a way.

Me: You’ve been emceeing for a while as Ajax. I just wanted to know how the switch was between your English stuff and the group stuff that you do. Is there a relation? Are  they two separate things?

Jaco: Yeah well, technically now…technically now I’m doing the ‘vernac’ because now I’m doing Afrikaans you know, that’s funny. Ja no, I rapped in English since I was fifteen; I’m twenty-eight now so it’s been thirteen years. Always the conscious underground stuff you know; I don’t freestyle, I’m not really an emcee, I’m a writer, I’m a poet. So…also in Afrikaans, it’s been the last four years now that I’ve been writing in Afrikaans. And I mean that had a…that’s a big part of my identity that came out. I feel most at home with my language, I guess everybody does…even though English…I still sometimes think in English, and flow in English, and even write easier in English but, when I write in Afrikaans, something holy happens, something beyond me. It’s beautiful.

Me: So is this band now a full-time project for you?

Jaco: Yeah, we worked for two years on the album and er, like you saw we collaborated with Tumi, we collaborated with Inge from Lark, we collaborated with Jack Parow, we collaborated with um…this guy from New York called Sev Statik, one of my favourite emcees. We rapped with a guy from Holland, Rotterdam…we did the first Afrikaans-Dutch collaboration. Ja, all of them are on the album.

Me: One of the articles from Huisgenoot tried to pan you guys against each other…

Jaco: …ah yeah, they tried to start some beef there. Jack read that and he was like ‘wassup with this’, you know?! And then we just chatted with him like no man, it was a misquote and out of context. That is what happened, we never said any of that stuff. But at the end of the day, we sorted things out. [*phone rings*]

Jaco had taken a detour from the band’s itinerary to squeeze in this interview, and his band members wanted to go. It felt great that he set aside the time, however short. I wanted to laugh at the girl who had been waiting rather eagerly for her turn to do an interview with Bittereinder, and was giving me ‘the eye’. The thought quickly passed – sort of like a twitter feed – as I hurried backstage to get my CD autographed by Louis and Peach. Life was back to normal. I headed back to the crowd in order to witness Mix ‘n Blend, whose set was just picking up momentum.





words by: Biz-ark-human