David Kramer: A Musical Storyteller from South Africa

David Kramer: A Musical Storyteller from South Africa

David Kramer, pronounced /krɑːmə/, is more than just a name; he’s a South African icon known for his music, plays, and activism. Born on June 27, 1951, he’s not just a singer and songwriter but also a playwright and director. His works shed light on the Coloured communities in the Cape and stand as a testament to his early opposition to apartheid.

David Kramer

Born 27 June 1951 (age 72)

Worcester, South Africa
Nationality South African
Alma mater Leeds University (textile)
University of Cape Town (hon)
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, playwright and musical director
Years active 1980-
Agent Mountain Records
Known for Red veldskoen shoes
Volkswagen Microbus adverts
Style folk, solo guitar
Awards 11 gold and 1 platinum record

Early Days

The story of David Kramer starts with his family. Originally known as Karabelnik, the family name was changed to Kramer by his grandfather, who journeyed from Lithuania to South Africa in 1899. Selling goods from farm to farm, his grandfather carved out a new life in a new land.

David was born in Worcester, South Africa, to a furniture merchant and a hairdresser. Growing up in Worcester, he found his passion for music. Even in his formative years, he showed promise, taking music lessons from the renowned composer Cromwell Everson.

But David’s talents weren’t confined to music alone. He explored various avenues, including textile design, and in 1971, he ventured to England to study at Leeds University on a bursary.

Family Bonds

Artistry runs in the family. David’s brother, John Kramer, is an artist celebrated for his stunning oil-on-canvas paintings. His artworks capture the essence of cafes, stores, and houses, basking in the warm sunlight of sleepy towns, adding another layer to the Kramer family’s creative legacy.

David Kramer’s journey from Worcester to the world stage is a testament to his talent, creativity, and unwavering dedication to telling the stories of his people through music and theater.

Musical career

In the vibrant landscape of South African music, David Kramer stands as a unique storyteller, weaving tales of small-town life and cultural nuances through his captivating melodies. Born in Worcester, South Africa, on June 27, 1951, Kramer’s musical journey began in the mid-1970s, as he took to folk clubs and campus stages across the country.

Kramer’s songs are a blend of Cape Afrikaans and South African English, reflecting the rich tapestry of his upbringing. With a guitar in hand and a knack for satire, he paints vivid portraits of rural life, creating characters that resonate deeply with his audience.

Under the banner of Mountain Records, Kramer released a series of albums that earned him widespread acclaim. Despite facing censorship for his provocative content, his music soared to commercial success, earning him numerous gold and platinum certifications.

One of his standout albums, “Die Verhaal van Blokkies Joubert,” thrust Kramer into the limelight, with singles like “Blokkies Joubert” and “Die Royal Hotel” dominating the airwaves. His partnership with Volkswagen South Africa further solidified his status as a cultural icon, with his image gracing the company’s advertising campaigns for over a decade.

In 2001, Kramer embarked on a mission to preserve South Africa’s musical heritage with “Karoo Kitaar Blues,” a show that celebrated the unique guitar styles of the Karoo. Through this endeavor, he unearthed hidden talents like Hannes Coetzee, who gained global recognition through YouTube.

Collaborating with Taliep Pietersen, Kramer ventured into the realm of musical theater, creating politically charged productions like “District Six: The Musical” and “Kat & the Kings.” Their partnership was cut short by Petersen’s tragic murder in 2006, but Kramer continues to honor his legacy through their acclaimed works.

David Kramer’s contributions to South African music and theater have not gone unnoticed. He has been bestowed with numerous accolades, including honorary doctorates from the University of Cape Town and the University of Stellenbosch, as well as the prestigious Fleur du Cap Lifetime Achievement Award in 2023.

Through his music, Kramer has not only entertained audiences but also preserved the essence of South African culture for generations to come. His legacy as a musical pioneer and cultural ambassador remains unmatched in the annals of South African history.

Albums by David Kramer

  1. Bakgat! (1980)
  2. Die Verhaal van Blokkies Joubert (1981)
  3. Delicious Monster (1982)
  4. Hanepootpad (1983)
  5. Jis Jis Jis (1983)
  6. Kwaai (1984)
  7. Van Der Merwe P.I. (1985) – Soundtrack to a movie of the same name
  8. Laat vir die Dans (1986)
  9. Baboondogs (1986)
  10. Cape Town (1988)
  11. Eina (1989)
  12. Klassic Kramer (compilation) (1996)
  13. Alles Vannie Beste (1997)
  14. Kliphard (2001)
  15. Karoo Kitaar Blues (2002)
  16. Huistoe (2004)
  17. Hemel en Aarde (2007)
  18. Wakkerslaap (2017)
  19. Sharttendorrf (2019)

Musicals by David Kramer

  1. District Six (1986)
  2. Fairyland (1991)
  3. Poison (1992)
  4. Crooners (1992)
  5. Klop Klop (1996)
  6. Kat and the Kings (1995)
  7. Die Ballade van Koos Sas (2001)
  8. Ghoema (2005)
  9. The Kramer Petersen Songbook (2007)
  10. David Kramer’s Breyani (2010)
  11. Some Like It Vrot (2011)
  12. Blood Brothers (2013)
  13. Orpheus in Africa (2015)
  14. Langarm (2018)
  15. Danger in the Dark (2018)

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