Bomskok Babelaas
Koos Kombuis

From the Niemandsland album, circa 1987.

Vanoggend sien ek weer grou oggent lig wit son
Ek haal my t-shirt van die draad op Kerkorrel se balkon
Sy broer se dagga stompies lê die helle wêreld vol
Ek weet nie waar is Dirk nie, nog iewers op 'n jol
Ek vat die pad skuins skoor Kotze straat se traffic
Soek driggent na 'n coffee bar met sagte laid-back music
Toe Springsteen's special speel tot verfeelens toe op 5
Oos van my Chelsea Hotel in 'n herindering van 'n lyf

Ek's bomskok babelaas, opgejack and uitgepas
Resiger op tarmac met my takkies en my rugsak
Try for white, try for black, in die rooi and in die kak
Ja meneer, ja baas, hou jou geld en hou jou bek.

Tra la la la la la la la, tra la la, la la la.

Ja die lewe is maar swaar vir 'n alternatiewe Afrikaaner
Die stad is nie my eie nie, dis 'n nuwe tiepe anger
Pedestrians in my pad, lievde wink en vreemde ook,
Coffee bly nooit bottomless, vir 12 smaak whiskey so-so
Ek's down and out in Datse straat, Upper class in Yeoville,
'n Criminal in Marabastad ook in Sandton as ek sou wil.
Hier's all weer niks skoon papier in Highpoint se kakhuis
Ek is nie van hier nie, die heele wêreld is my packagereis

Want ek's bomskok babelaas, opgejack and uitgepas
Resiger op tarmac met my takkies en my rugsak
Try for white, try for black, in die rooi and in die kak
Ja meneer, ja baas, hou jou geld en hou jou bek.

Tra la la la la la la la, tra la la, la la la.

Vanoggend sien ek weer grou oggent lig wit son
Ek haal my t-shirt van die draad of Kerkorrel se balkon
Sy broer se dagga stompies lê die helle wêreld vol
Ek weet nie waar is Dirk nie, nog iewers op 'n jol.
Ek raak so moeg vir all die aande out my woonstel uitgesluit
Wag tot 4 in Cafe Zurich vir Alfie se sleazy date
It's such a hype, I'm not the type, moeg van junk-food poetry
Die heele week ek ruik na sweet, en nog 'n backstreet yuppie
Soggens koes ek vir die son. Saans dodge ek the angels.
Ek weet nie waar ek woon nie. Ek volg die meisie met the bangles

Ek's weer bomskok babelaas, opgejack and uitgepas
Resiger op tarmac met my takkies en my rugsak
Try for white, try for black, in die rooi and in die kak
Ja meneer, ja baas, hou jou geld an hou jou bek.

Tra la la la la la la la, tra la la, la la la.
Tra la la la la la la la, tra la la, la la la...

 

translated to English

Koos Kitchen
Shellshock hangover

This morning again I greet the bleak white sunlight
I take my t-shirt from the line on Kerkorrel's balcony
His brother's joint buts lie all scattered everywhere
I don't know where Dirk is, still somewhere having fun
I cross sideways through Kotze street's traffic
Urgently looking for a coffee bar with gentle laid-back music
when Springsteen's special is played to death on radio five.
East of my Chelsea hotel in a shell of a body.

I'm shell-shocked, hung over, wired up and passed out
Traveller on tarmac with my trainers and my rucksack
Try for white, try for black, in the red and in the kak
Yes mister, yes boss, keep your money and hold your tongue.

Yeah life is tough for an alternative Afrikaaner
The city is not my own, it's a new kind of anger
Pedestrians in my path, love, winks and strangeness too
Coffee's never bottomless, cheap whiskey tastes just so-so
I'm down and out in Datse street, upper class in Yeoville,
A criminal in Marabastad, and Sandton if I chose too.
There's no clean paper again in Highpoint's crapper
I am not from here, the world is my package tour.

Because I'm shell-shock, hang over, cranked up and chilled out
Traveller on tarmac with my trainers and my rucksac
Try for white, try for black, in the red and in the shit
Yes mister, yes boss, close your purse and close your mouth.

This morning again I greet the bleak white sunlight
I take my t-shirt from the line on Kerkorrel's balcony
His brother's joint buts lie all scattered all everywhere
I don't know where Dirk is, still somewhere on a bender
I grow so tied of all these evenings locked out of my apartment
Waiting 'til four in Café Zurich for Alfie's sleazy date.
It's such a hype, I'm not the type, tired of junk-food poetry
ALL week I smell of sweat, like just another back street yuppie
In the mornings I duck from the sun. In the evenings I dodge the angels
I don't know where I live. I follow the girl with the bangles.

I'm again shell-shock, hang over, jacked up and passed out
Traveller on tarmac with my trainers and my rucksack
Try for white, try for black, in the red and in the shit
Yes mister, yes boss, keep your money and bite your tongue.

Notes

It's mostly self-explantaory, but captures Koos' experience of being a itinerant entertainer, a nomadic aspiring musician, a young dirty poor hungover nightlife person.

The phrase herindering van 'n lyf at the end of the first verse was difficult to translate. herindering literally means "memory" or "reminder". I'm fairly sure what he's talking about is a hard comedown, feeling disconnected and weak, just a faded shadow of your recent glory. However "in a memory of a body" doesn't quite convey this. I thought that "echo" or "shell" would describe it well, and opted for "shell" because it resonated with the next line and the title.

The places that he name-checks in the second verse are parts of Johannesburg, the most urban of South African environments.

Note that a couple of English words and phrases have been thrown into the mix, also a couple of hybrid words, opgejack (jacked up), uitgepas (passed out) and packagereis (package tour) which partake of both languages, the bold part being of English origin.

Try for white, try for black is one of the few difficult lines in this song, requiring local knowledge.

Racial classification is an attempt to draw lines across a continuous spectrum of skin tones and cultural variations. Apartheid did not admit the classification of "White", it was called "European". Yet a Greek, a Turk and a Moroccan could all have the same skin tone, but the Greek would be definitely classified as "European", the Turk arguably so, and the Moroccan not.

During apartheid, it was possible for a person to apply to have their racial classification changed, on the grounds that they were close to the dividing line, and had either been placed on the wrong side of it, or had culturally moved over it. The disputed area mostly among those deemed coloured or mixed race. During Apartheid a few did apply to be classified as white, to "try for white" if their appearance and manner was close enough.

Of course, after Apartheid there was no more racial classification. By this time some coloured leaders were declaring solidarity with the formerly-classified-as-black on the legitimate grounds that they were black too, they too had been on the receiving end of apartheid. More cynically, you could say this was a case of pursuing a new ruling elite.

This line I think speaks of a running hither and yon trying to find your place.

meneer "mister" and baas "boss", master or "sir" are both terms of respect, meneer to one of equal or greater social status, baas to one of greater only unless in jest or irony.


Thanks to Frankie and her woordeboek for translations and deft turns of phrase.

The motivation for this translation is that I have included this track on a mix CD, and would like the recipients to have some idea of what they are listening to.

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