Syd Kitchen
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Syd Kitchen


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"Brooklyn Vegan, Syd Kitchen Review"

"Syd Kitchen is to South African music what the Sphynx is to Egypt; a landmark that has seemingly always existed, yet remains a true enigma. Syd Kitchen has been active in the South African music scene since the late 60's, and has in all that time remained an innovative and non-compromising performer."

“Afro-Saxon minstrel poet, guitarist and singer song-fighter Syd Kitchen has been a dynamic, innovative contributor to the South African musical landscape since the '70's.”
- Brooklyn Vegan


“South Africa’s favourite minstrel, Syd Kitchen has been an innovative and major musical force in South Africa since the 1970’s and has built a solid fan base and reputation throughout the country. He is also the only artist to have played at every single Splashy Fen since it’s inception in 1990. Syd has toured America, the UK and Europe and has been the subject of a documentary which will be aired in the near future.

Along with being a prolific songwriter, Syd has also lent his talents to scoring plays including Greig Coetzee’s highly acclaimed “Johnny Boskak is feeling funny” which not only traveled to the Edinburgh Festival, but was awarded the Scotsman’s Fringe First Award; one of only 15 awards given to over 9000 Fringe acts. The show has been booked for a 6 week tour of the UK in early 2008.”
- Whats' On SA, SABC South African Broadcast Company

"SYD KITCHEN by Richard Haslop"

SYD KITCHEN by Richard Haslop (lawyer, musician, radio presenter, writer and friend)

Syd Kitchen tends to be referred to these days as a local music institution. Though possibly factually correct, the description does him scant justice. Institutions are generally old and musty, conservative and dedicated to the preservation of the past; Syd is anything but. Indeed his unremitting willingness to keep moving forward and embracing the musically new are astonishing.

I first encountered him in the early ‘70s when he was the more extroverted half of an impressively original acoustic duo with his brother Pete. Syd wrote, sang and strummed – and played a little percussion and recorder – while Pete’s guitar provided the flourishes and filigree fills. They became favourites of a folk music scene that harboured some of South Africa’s most notable ever songwriting, and Syd - soon a published poet, with his book, Scars That Shine, a crucial addition to every hip local library – was among the best.

Over the last thirty years and more – say it quickly and it doesn’t seem that long – that songwriting has matured and, more importantly, progressed to a point where, while you might think you can always recognise the quirks and detours of a Syd Kitchen song, the stylistic spread encompassed by that simple phrase is vast indeed. Like his playing, it takes in rock, folk, jazz, blues and African music in almost equal measure – often all at once.

Virtually without the assistance of the formal record industry he has built up an admirable body of recorded work, and his musical CV is wider ranging than most musicians could even imagine. He’s always seemed and sounded completely at home, whether solo or with a bewildering array of ensembles, from jazz-rock fusioneers Equinox and the wonderfully named Harry Was A Snake to the category defying virtuosity of the Aquarian Quartet … and I once saw him lead an electric band through a convincing set of blues standards.

Syd’s musical passage from enthusiastically strumming folkie to one of the country’s genuine acoustic guitar virtuosi has been relentless and yet somehow natural. He continues to study all aspects of music rigorously – its theory and practice, its history and sociology. Nobody would blame him if he showed signs of resting on his laurels – something one might expect from an institution, in fact - but his enthusiasm for new ventures is undiminished and Bafo Bafo, a recent collaboration with maskanda hero Madala Kunene, saw him headed in yet another direction.

Ironically, perhaps (though irony is almost a Kitchen stock-in-trade), just about the time that his songwriting seemed to be finding a wider audience (a mainstream TV commercial; the much sought after McCabe’s gig in Santa Monica, California; the appropriation by a large corporation of his Africa’s Not For Sissies slogan for a T-shirt, needless to say without credit or commercial advantage to him), 2007 saw the release of arguably his best album ever, Across, which has no vocals at all. It consists of four long solo acoustic guitar instrumentals named after the four elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water, each displaying exactly the right combination of artistic drift and internal development, referencing, without fuss or fanfare, the numerous musical influences in his life, and together forming a fifth element, the quintessence of Kitchen.

I have had the privilege of playing with Syd from time to time and have been fortunate to experience at first hand the way he enriches the musical scene by his sheer zest for performing. If he instils in his students just a fraction of his passion for music, it will be enough.

Everybody recognises Syd by his trademarks – the hat and the handshake – but those who know him better love him for his humility, his unfailing good humour, and the disarming frankness that shows in his songs. Institution be damned! Let’s rather start describing Syd Kitchen as a South African music treasure.
- Richard Haslop (South African Music Journalistl)


Syd Kitchen’s music fits into the world’s great music halls, but his lyrics tell a story of a country in transition, of a people embracing their diversity and of a person who is not afraid to tell it like it is. I have personally known Syd only a short time relative to having known his music for a few decades. He is sincere in what he does, what he says and in the music he gives us. For that our city will always love him, as his music is quintessentially eclectic, providing a vibe that stays long after the music stops with lyrics that are as crisp and concise as you will ever find.

His life is a social commentary in and of itself. People who write on South Africa often don’t realize that people classified as white were not all part of the bourgeoisie or the state apparatus which repressed so many for so long. Syd’s background is humble, working-class, rooted among the people of Durban. He knows what the streets are like, what the people have felt and how we as Africans are continually in a state of becoming. And in the four decades or so of bringing us music we have continued to be amazed at how his lyrics provide pertinent commentary but also allow us to understand the bigger picture.

For those who know the USA genre, he is more Woody Guthrie than Arlo, Bob Dylan than Joan Baez, but he is all of those at once. He is an African whose roots are working class, but he is universal in how he tells his stories.

I have no hesitation in commending Syd and in providing a recommendation for him (as long as it doesn’t mean he’ll get an 8-5 job and stop playing great music).

All the best and thanks in anticipation.


Dr. Michael Sutcliffe
City Manager: eThekwini
- Dr. Michael Sutcliffe, Durban City Manager: eThekwini

"Syd Kitchen, South African Legend"

Syd Kitchen is a legend in his time, and very much still in his prime. Syd’s expansive musical grasp reaches from folk roots and acoustic-rock to blues idioms and jazz arrangements, with inflections of Zulu maskanda, which together comprise a wonderfully rich originality that is Syd’s own. Syd’s versatility is evident in the numerous collaborations and musical partnerships he has engaged in down the years, and this openness and spirit of exploration is perhaps key to the continuing freshness of his music. An iconic figure of the city of Durban, Syd is sometimes referred to as an “Umbilonian” – Umbilo being the suburb of his formative years. This sense of place is indicative of Syd’s ability to represent stories of this city and this country, and his skill to articulate society in its multi-faceted shades and dimensions. This superlative wordsmith moves from incisive political comment to deeply personal emotion, and is not short on bittersweet irony and nuanced satire. Syd is a musician’s musician, occupying a niche which regrettably has not drawn sufficient commercial fame and fortune, but it is high time his brilliance received greater recognition and appreciation. Syd Kitchen is a voice that will not be silenced, and that’s a gift to us all. Syd deserves every opportunity that unfolds before him.

Peter Rorvik
Director, Centre for Creative Arts, University of KwaZulu-Natal

- Peter Rorvik Director, Centre for Creative Arts, University of KwaZulu-Natal

"Album Review"

After decades of friendship and informal "jamming" together at clubs and festivals, Madala Kunene and Syd Kitchen; two of South Africa's most enduring musical sons; have joined forces in the creation of BAFO BAFO.

This exciting, cross-cultural collaboration between two highly individual guitar stylists with diverse contributions creates a musical landscape that is magical and absolutely unique. Syd Kitchen's eclectic use of musical elements that traverse everything from Celtic, Afrikaans, jazz, Cajun, Eastern and African influences is balanced and complimented by Madala Kunene_s uncanny ability to develop a Maskanda groove that burrows itself into your consciousness. Kitchen plays guitar, mandolin, recorders, hosepipe flute, percussion and sings. Kunene plays guitar, mouth bow, percussion and sings. All the music is organically co-written and sung in Zulu, English and Fanigalo (urban slang).

In harmony with the ethos behind the push for Africa's renaissance the Ancestors give us BAFO BAFO and their 100% halaal, Afro-Saxon sonic parables of possibility. The collaboration is a creation of its time. "manje isikhathi sesifikile" ("now is the time, and it is here")


When the full story of South African music is told, the name Syd Kitchen will appear right at the top with the best of the country’s home-grown musicians. Not only is he an incredibly talented musician, but he is also one of the country’s best-known musical personalities, with an ability to interact with other leading musicians of all backgrounds and styles. The result is that if you are looking for a fusion of all that makes up South Africa’s rich musical background Syd Kitchen is where you will find it.

As organiser of the Splashy Fen Music Festivals, South Africa’s longest established music festival, it has been my pleasure to have had Syd perform at every one of our festivals so far, and he is due to perform a major role in next year’s significant 20th-year celebration. Syd is one of Splashy Fen’s most loyal supporters, but that loyalty does not mean that his sunny independence is in any way compromised!

He is a great performer. And what is more important…he really enjoys what he is doing and puts his heart into it.

Peter Ferraz

Organiser, Splashy Fen Music Festivals

Underberg, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
- Peter Ferraz - Organiser, Splashy Fen Music Festivals


In an industry where eclectic artistry is increasingly becoming a rarity; Syd Kitchen has remained constant in maintaining the very definition of the word in his illustrious career spanning over three decades.

As a singer/songwriter/guitarist; Syd has been an integral part of the music scene in Durban; from being a performing artist to parting his knowledge with the young generation of aspiring musicians. He has worked with a vast roster of artists of his caliber, having his music featured on television adverts & his message being heard internationally at various festivals. He also has numerous albums on his catalogue.

Without question, Syd Kitchen is indeed a living legend in his own right not just as a musician but also as a published poet. Over the years he has proven to be consistent with the times in his work & shows no sign of ceasing to transcend.

Andrew Loubser
Managing Director
The Slingshot Group
Tel : +27 31 312 5299
Mobile : +27 84 510 3107
Fax : +27 086 661 7468
- Andrew Loubser, Managing Director, The Slingshot Group

"WNYC Soundcheck with Syd Kitchen"

Syd Kitchen is known as the Afro-Saxon Dylan in his native South Africa. An uncompromising figure on the south African music scene since the 70s, Syd is now recording a new album in the States with Paul Simon’s “Graceland” band.

A teacher, thinker, and published poet, Syd Kitchen will always be, for me at least, the godfather of South African music. He is the very heart and soul of it all.


Fool in a Bubble
Africa is not for Sissies
Bafo Bafo
Waiting For The Heave
Aquarian Quartet LIVE!
City Child
Live in New York
Live in Glastonbury

All have streaming and some have radio airplay in South Africa



SYD KITCHEN has been an active, innovative, and uncompromising part of the South African musical and poetic landscape since the 1970s. A feature documentary film about Syd Kitchen entitled FOOL IN A BUBBLE is applying to premiere at South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival 2010 where publicity will be tied into his musical performances.

Syd’s diverse styles and integration of Afro-Saxon, Zulu, and Indian rhythms, as well as his decision to stay in South Africa throughout the socio-political upheaval, makes him a true one-of-a-kind legend in his native country. He has traversed many different paths, initially establishing himself in the folk movement with THE KITCHEN BROTHERS. His journey has included an early 1980s jazz and rock phase with the bands EQUINOX and HARRY WAS A SNAKE; a successful solo period; the formation of SYD KITCHEN & THE UTENSILS in 1985; ground-breaking work with guitar wizards Steve Newman and Tony Cox in the FLYING SOMBREROS; AMAKOOL, his collaboration in the AQUARIAN QUARTET with Newman, Cox and Greg Georgiades; and BAFO BAFO with Madala Kunene.

Syd’s range knows no bounds. Since 2007, he has been the main subject of the feature documentary film FOOL IN A BUBBLE. The film was shot over two years in South Africa and New York. Syd’s album of the same name features Anton Fig , Steve Holley, Paul Nowinski and South African members of Paul Simon’s Graceland Band including Tony Cedras, Bakithi Kumalo, Morris Goldberg.

A highly acclaimed teacher, thinker, guitarist, lyricist, and published poet, Syd has released over ten albums to date. His album, AFRICA’S NOT FOR SISSIES, an aural celebration of living in Africa, was voted into fourth place on the SA ROCKDIGEST Top 30 SA albums for 2001. His 2004 release, QUINTESSENTIALLY received rave critical acclaim, celebrating the depths of his talents. Syd’s 2007 acoustic instrumental release ACROSS also received strong reviews and drew in legions of new fans. His latest album FOOL IN A BUBBLE is an eclectic mix of Syd’s various styles.

Syd embarked on a successful solo tour abroad in 2004 where he performed in England, Wales, and Norway at, among others, the Glastonbury Festival in England, the Kongsberg Jazz Festival in Norway, and the Belfast Arts Festival in Northern Ireland. He also appeared with Madala Kunene (BAFO BAFO) at the South African Cultural Festival in Copenhagen. Syd performed his first American tour in 2007 at the famed venue, McCabe’s in Santa Monica, California, as well as concerts in Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Los Angeles, and Joshua Tree. He also performed at several shows in Brunswick and Kennebunkport in Maine. He returned to the United States in 2008 and 2009 to record and perform his latest album and to have additional footage shot for the feature documentary film, FOOL IN A BUBBLE.

FOOL IN A BUBBLE is a feature documentary film applying to premiere at SXSW Film Festival 2010. The film features Syd recording the album with South African producer and musicians. Highlights include Pete Seeger and South African musicians from Paul Simon's GRACELAND.