I really was still just a kid when I first heard ZX Dan on the Radio, but I remember the moment quite clearly. It felt like I was pulled into one of the science fiction books that I so loved to read and went for a trip with a friendly alien.
It wasn’t until several years later than I finally heard the song again and suddenly realised that it was by a South African band called The Radio Rats and that they were from Springs, a dusty little mining town just outside Johannesburg. By then I was 14 and way too busy with school and sports to think much else of it.
Fast forward 10 years later and, as a fledgling music journalist I start receiving tapes and letters from Jonathan Handley, the musical genius behind the Radio Rats. I played demos on Barney Simon’s show on 5FM and wrote a monthly demo tape review page for Top 40 music magazine and he kept sending these kind of musical projects through. At the time I don’t really think I got what he was doing.
About another ten years later and I finally get to meet Jonathan when I was doing research for the Punk In Africa documentary. The Radio Rats didn’t ever get featured as no-one could ever accuse them of being Punk rock, but they had their genesis at a similar time, so it made sense to speak to Jonathan then.
And now, I am very proud to be hosting the Amsterdam screening of the documentary that has been made about the band. Called Jiving and Dying: The Radio Rats Story the film examines this extremely under-recorded and little known time in South African rock n roll. It also covers a time in South African history that everyone knows well: the state of emergency, but, because it was so effectively censored, very little is known about what it was like to be there and this film gives glimpses into that shadowy world that may be surprising to outsiders.
The screening takes place at Zuid Afrika Huis at Keizersgracht 141C at 19:30 on Wednesday 26 October. I will be conducting a Q&A with the film’s director, editor and producer, Michael Cross after the screening as well as taking questions from the audience.
The Radio Rats as a concept are nearly 40 years old, it’s about time they got paid the attention they always deserved. Sometime being ahead of your time is worse than just being bad. We all forget so fast. This film is a wonderful way to set some of that straight and provide a look into what life was like as a far from average English speaking white south African in the 80’s. Those were weird times
19:00 Wednesday 26 October
Zuid Afrika Huis
Tickets: €10.00 (cash only, no pin)
You MUST please email to reserve your place as seating is limited: firstname.lastname@example.org
More info on the film: https://www.facebook.com/jivinganddyingthemovie