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The Cape Town folk quartet that channels the Woodstock spirit

August 28, 2013


It has been a long contested argument between my (male) friend and I that the best kind of vocals in a folk song are those belonging to a male singer.

And whilst I still strongly stand by my belief that the best singers of the ‘70s were women, I have come to see his point that, nowadays, all my favourite folk songs are sung by men. But don’t tell him that I said that.

I went through a massive feminist stage in high school where all I listened to were floaty, hippie types like Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. I’d bore my mum’s ears to death with their warbling voices playing on repeat and I’d sigh with despair when my friends would subject me to the likes of the terrible Avril Lavigne. I had to really come to believe that women singers these days would never be as charming as the lovely Joni.

Until the wonderful folk group, Touchwood came gypsying along in to my life.

On lead vocals, Ruth de Frietas is straight out of a Woodstock dream. It is fresh and it is blossoming, just as a folk singer should be. The story of the band (available for your reading pleasure on their Facebook page) describes their meeting as if it were a scene out of an indie film: a serendipitous introduction of three young, musically-talented girls at a tree planting festival in the “enchanted” Platbos forest. I know, right?

The band, made up of Ruth, twins Tessa and Julia Johnston, and drummer Matt Norris, write that they have experimented with several instruments such as ukeleles and marimbas, until they finally cracked the formula to produce the musical dream that is Touchwood.

Their first EP Land In The Sun is a great achievement for a band that is only one year old. Their playful sound is so evident in every track; and the happy ukelele chords and catchy drumming beats will be sure to get your feet tapping. Songs like “Running in Circles”, “Zambia” and “Bend” are the perfect illustration as to why I prefer female folk singers: it is just so pretty. Those beautiful harmonies make you want to believe in fairies and dance in public as if your life is a scene from Mary Poppins. Boys’ voices just can’t do that, and I don’t care how much you argue with me.

My favourite by far, however, had to be “Road to Paradise”, featuring the very talented Jeremy Loops. As great as the harmonies and pretty ukelele strumming in the other tracks are, there is something raw about this song which got under my skin. Should this talented band make more music for us, I would love to hear more songs that sound like this.

Stream Land In The Sun here:

I really do hope Touchwood carry on making pretty songs for us. Not only will it make me win more arguments against my stubborn (male) friend, but it will continue to make me believe that beautiful folk voices are still emerging among the young music talent of today. And that fairies are real, of course.

Touchwood are finalists in Converse’s Get Out Of The Garage competition this year. Vote for them here and you could join them on a trip to London to #Play100Club.

Anna van Dyk

Anna van Dyk

Anna is an endearingly awkward aspiring screenwriter at UCT who never really got accepted in to the Cape Town hipster scene. She has a self-recognised obsession with music and on most days you can find her tucked away in a corner of the Mother City enjoying the incredible local talent, often accompanied by a bottle (or three) of vino.

She has an appreciation for anything from indie folk to good, old fashioned disco tunes; and is devoted to discovering the next big artists out there. Whilst writing movies is her game, music is her first love; and this Durban born girl would love to share some her favourite songs with you.

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