“I am not a Coloured, I am Khoi,” says Colin Meyer. “The apartheid era imposed the identity of being Coloured on us, but that is an invention.”
Meyer is a Cape Town-based musician and poet, who shares “the real living stories that need to be told” using a guitar, a khoi bow, and his hypnotic voice.
Meyer was born near Oudtshoorn, and started music in grade 10 when his mother booked him into a local music school. “It was informal and worked out of some guy’s garage,” he says. Meyer began his musical learning with drumming. Later he learned other instruments, and eventually started song-writing and solo performances.
After school, Meyer improved his talents by playing with other musicians and learning from them. Meyer has worked and performed alongside the likes of Black Noise, Jitsvinger and “ghetto poet” Jethro Louw. “Jethro Louw and other guys started a group called Khoi Collective in the 80s, and I played with them as a laaitie,” says Meyer.
Throughout his career from 1995 till today, Meyer says, he has always “revisited the sound of the blues. The blues bit me. Now I still rap and play with bands, but mostly I play the Khoi blues.”
Meyer, describing the Khoi blues, says this is “just about the sound … of times changing, land being taken, and the loss of restoring identity.”
Meyer points to the similarities between the conditions of the Khoi people under colonial rule and the conditions for Afro-American slaves which gave rise to the blues. “People are always saying I have a signature sound on the guitar, and I don’t know what they mean exactly,” says Meyer. Maybe this is the Khoi blues that charms and captivates Meyer’s diverse audiences.
When asked what it means to be Khoi in SA today, Meyer says that “it means a lot, and it means that I can be me…there are people who look at the Khoi from microscopic lenses. Social anthropologists and academics talk about the Khoi as if he is not alive, but the Bushman or Khoi is like anyone else, he has feelings. We are still a living people.”
Meyer performs his music to captivated audiences at venues in and around Cape Town. He also runs Khoi bow-making and -playing workshops at primary schools, most recently in Wellington. Of the Khoi bow, Meyer says, “It’s a sad sound,” but mentions that the Dave Matthews Band was now using a Khoi bow.
At a concert on 25 January, Meyer shared his Khoi blues and poetry with a captivated crowd at Muizenberg’s Alive Cafe. Justin Maxwell, of Alive Cafe, believes the audience “experienced a creative life experience, rather than just entertainment”. Asked to describe Meyer’s “signature sound”, Justin says “Khoi means people literally, and Colin’s music speaks from all people.”
Colin Meyer will be performing at Africa Corner in Muizenberg on Saturday 29 March. The event is a collaboration of artists and is called Khoi Indie Journeys.
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