For people who haven’t heard me and the band perform before, the most common question is “what type of music do you play?”… in the past I’ve been uncomfortable with that question, but I’ve come to a simple conclusion.
We write and perform South African music.
The joy of being South African is that, culturally, we are just so diverse. It’s impossible to put us South Africans in a box. Musically, there’s the Afrikaans, there’s kwaito and hip hip, there’s maskande, there’s R’nB and soul, there’s rock, there’s blues and jazz. And there’s the Ryan Calder Band. And we’re all in that beautiful unique category called South African music, which is unlike the rest of the world.
The RCB is proudly South African. If you want to label our music, call it South African acoustic rock. The music comes out of this country; it’s inspired by our people, our heritage, our surroundings and our glorious diversity.
Let’s be honest (any musos out there reading this): we don’t like putting ourselves in a category. As soon as you say “we play opera”, people put you in a box. Heck, I do it with everyone. You say “opera” and it’s immensely frustrating when people go “okay, got it”.
You implore that you’re a blues-opera fusion act, with a bit of rock and a tinge of R’nB thrown in as well. But people just call you an opera singer. You’re in a box.
I’ve come to realise that that’s ok. I would rather be boxed as something than not known as anything. And I’d like to be known as South African.
Now there are plenty of doom sayers in this country who will not want to be associated with South Africa, who will say they are not proudly South African and that the South African identity has been tainted by all the personalities prostituted in the media. That may be true to an extent, but the more you listen to and hang around the doomsayers, the more you become like them. I am not a South African doom sayer. I see plenty to be thankful and grateful for which this country has given us.
We play South African music. We’re normal, middle-class, English-speaking, proudly South African musicians. We love what we do, we love that South Africans listen to our music, and we love that there’s still so much to look forward to in this, our combined South Africa.