Rooibaardt: A Musical Journey

Rooibaardt: A Musical Journey

Rooibaardt emerged onto the South African music scene in May 2004, uniting the talents of Hensi Van Staden, Denzl Keenan, Louis Esterhuizen, and André du Plessis. Their journey began in Bethlehem, nestled in the Free State province of South Africa. It was here, in their hometown, that the band found its roots and shared their passion for music.

As fate would have it, Rooibaardt’s name came to them during a memorable journey to their first gig. Traveling in their makeshift “pirate ship,” a Volkswagen Combi, the spirit of adventure and camaraderie inspired them. They chose the name “Rooibaardt” as an ode to the legendary pirate Redbeard, a figure of daring and defiance from the annals of history.

In June 2004, Rooibaardt took to the stage for the first time, captivating audiences at the Konkakol Bloemfontein Arts festival. Their electrifying performance marked the beginning of a thrilling musical voyage, filled with passion, energy, and a touch of rebellious spirit.

Throughout their journey, Rooibaardt embodied the essence of rock and roll, infusing their music with raw emotion and unbridled energy. Their songs echoed tales of adventure, love, and the pursuit of freedom, resonating with audiences far and wide.


The seeds of Rooibaardt were sown through the musical endeavors of Hensi Van Staden and Denzl Keenan, who embarked on a project called Fumadores in 1999. Their nomadic journey took them across South Africa, performing and sharing their music in a gypsy-style fashion. Along the way, they encountered Mario van Vuuren, a pub owner and music enthusiast from Bethlehem, who helped promote their music and foster their artistic growth.


In 2000, while Van Staden and André du Plessis ventured abroad, Keenan crossed paths with Louis Esterhuizen, sparking a creative partnership that led to collaborations in various projects like Baraka, Spin Nasi, and Shamanzi. Meanwhile, Du Plessis found himself teaching at a local school outside Bethlehem while moonlighting as a drummer for local bands.

The Birth of Rooibaardt:

Their paths converged once again when Van Staden returned to town, reuniting with his old friends. The Game Cock Inn became their creative sanctuary, where they jammed and honed their musical craft. In May 2006, another local talent, OB Swart, joined the group on bass, and Esterhuizen transitioned to electric guitar, solidifying the lineup of Rooibaardt.

Despite their passion and dedication, Rooibaardt faced setbacks, including the loss of their equipment and van in January 2007. Undeterred, they persevered, scaling down their performances and focusing on smaller venues in Clarens. Eventually, Esterhuizen relocated to the Western Cape, prompting a shift in the group dynamics.

While some members pursued other musical endeavors, Rooibaardt continued to evolve, with Van Staden and Keenan carrying the torch as Rooibaardt Light/Fumadores. Meanwhile, OB Swart and André du Plessis, alongside Riaan de Jager, formed the group BenDover. Despite these changes, Rooibaardt found renewed energy and purpose, returning to the stage in August 2010 and remaining active until at least 2013.

Through their journey, Rooibaardt exemplified resilience, camaraderie, and a deep-seated passion for music, leaving an indelible mark on the South African music scene.

Musical Diversity and Influences

Rooibaardt’s sonic palette is as diverse as the South African landscape itself, drawing from an eclectic array of sounds and instruments. From classical and electric guitars to traditional African instruments like the colongo and mbira, they seamlessly blend elements of various musical traditions. Pan pipes, pennywhistles, harmonicas, and concertinas add layers of texture to their compositions, while trumpets, keyboards, and samplers contribute to their rich sonic tapestry.

Genre-Bending Fusion

Defying conventional categorization, Rooibaardt’s style traverses across genres, embracing influences from Afro-world trans, Boere reggae, and Gipsy cowboy rock. Their music is a melting pot of cultural influences, creating a unique and vibrant sound that defies easy classification.

Multilingual and Multifaceted Message

Rooibaardt’s lyrics reflect the multicultural fabric of South Africa, often delivering a serious, political, or satirical message in a variety of languages including English, Afrikaans, Sotho, and Zulu. Their songs serve as a platform for social commentary and storytelling, tackling issues ranging from identity and heritage to societal norms and political discourse.

Nomadic Spirit and DIY Ethos

Embodying a nomadic spirit reminiscent of pirates, Rooibaardt spends the majority of their time on the road, bringing their music to diverse audiences across South Africa. Their debut album, “Increase da Peace,” epitomizes their DIY ethos, recorded and engineered by the band themselves in a makeshift studio built from hay bales. Released in May 2005, it marked the beginning of Rooibaardt’s musical journey, paving the way for their sophomore album, “More Fire, Less Bullets,” released in 2013.

Though their time together may have been relatively brief, Rooibaardt’s legacy lives on, etched into the annals of South African rock history. Their spirit of adventure and camaraderie continues to inspire aspiring musicians, reminding us all to embrace the thrill of the journey and the joy of making music together.

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