Tribute to Afrikaans rock legend Piet Botha


Robyn Sassen

A freelance arts writer since 1998, I fell in love with the theatre as a toddler, proved rubbish as a ballerina: my starring role was as Mrs Pussy in Noddy as a seven-year-old, and earned my stripes as an academic in Fine Arts and Art History, in subsequent years. I write for a range of online and print publications, including the Sunday Times, the Mail & Guardian and and was formerly the arts editor of the SA Jewish Report, a weekly newspaper with which I was associated for 16 years.
Robyn Sassen


Piet Botha. Photograph by Yolanda Saayman.

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ABLE TO MIX gravelly hard-hitting rock with the poetry you feel in your belly and as your skin breaks into goose bumps, Piet Botha, the lead singer and founder of South African rock band Jack Hammer had a curious and entangled relationship with the Afrikaans language. He always knew that the music was within him and had to find its way out. Unequivocally an icon in his own time, he died on June 2 2019, having been diagnosed three months earlier with pancreatic cancer. He was 63.

Founded in 1984, Jack Hammer was always more than just a band. It was a whirligig, a roundabout of contemporary musicians with something to say. It had grown out of the energy Botha gleaned from a stint of busking in Los Angeles in the mid 1980s, and a meeting with American actor/musician Billy Bob Thornton in 1985. First featuring the contribution of Rupert Mellor on keyboard and kwaito master Gabi Le Roux, the band was born at Slowfarm, on the Old Warmbaths…

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