THE SUBTERRANEAN RHYTHM & BLUES (“STRAB”) EXPERIENCE STARTED IN 2003
A group of 60 scuba divers from the dive school Ocean Ecstasy in Pretoria, amongst them co-owners Annerie Snyman and Andries Burger, decided to add some live music to their 1st birthday celebrations at Ponta Malongane, in the south of Mozambique. It was held in August that year and was known as “The Birthday Bash”.
After much deliberation and assistance from fellow diver Frans Human, it was decided to invite the legendary local band Jack Hammer to perform live at the event. The band plays a large variety of music, from love ballads to hard rock in both Afrikaans and English. The fact that all their songs have powerful lyrics and speak to all music lovers made them a perfect choice and added to the success of the weekend.
120 divers participated in the second “Birthday Bash” in 2004 and for a weekend of fun, scuba and rock & roll. Piet Botha, lead singer and guitarist from Jack Hammer, was so moved after the 2nd experience that he wrote a song about Mozambique and insisted that this must become a regular event. Annerie, gladly obliged, and The Subterranean Rhythm & Blues Experience was born. Piet Botha suggested the name which comes for the Bob Dylan song “Subterranean and Home Sick Blues”. The combination of sea, scuba diving and music reminded him of something “subterranean”. Professional sound and lighting engineer, Conrad Jamneck, became a permanent part of the family and more than three hundred scuba divers and other music fans joined the 1st official STRAB in 2005. The festival stepped up a notch or two, with bands like Southern Gypsy Queen, Scicoustic and Albert Frost being added to the line-up. This “tester” festival proved to be a hit and the rest is history.
With confidence running high, the STRAB team went all out in 2006. It became obvious at that stage already that the true challenge would be to provide a balance between the number of bands on the line-up and the number of people that Ponta Malongane can accommodate; while still capturing the relaxed spirit of the beautiful venue. Dan Patlanski, Akkedis, Clark & Van der Hoven, Gian Groen, Janice & the Half Jacks, Die KaalkopWaarheid, Orkez, Riku Latti, Steelkant, STRAB All Stars and The Lost joined the four bands from the previous year, turning STRAB into an exclusive but established event on the musical calendar.
In 2007 Malongane was filled to capacity for the first time. For the 1st time accommodation in resorts around Malongane were booked by fans just to be able to share the experience and to see the bands perform. Brixton Moord en Roof, No Quarter, Ménage à Trois, Fake Leather Blues Band, Tidal Waves, Gerald Clark + Henry Steele, D-DAY 4-EVER , Natalie Chapman, Couch Potatoes, Kenny & POROROCA played at STRAB for the first time.
Well established by then, STRAB continued to provide exposure to bands from rock to blues to jazz to fusions of these. STRAB continue to aspire to provide “Original music for original people” (favourite line from our good friends Tidal Waves).
In 2019 STRAB celebrated its 15th year! An incredible milestone for us on this amazing journey. This was also the year that our “spiritual guide” and friend, Piet Botha sadly passed away. His spirit is inextricably linked to STRAB and he will be sorely missed.
Co-founder Andries Burger, his wife Hanalie and Conrad has since taken the torch to continue as guardians of the true Spirit of STRAB, while taking it to the next level as a truly sought after festival. Rock on for the next 15 years!!
But this is not where the story ends…
In his song “Mozambique” from the Jack Hammer album “The Pilgrim”, Piet Botha sings of his love for the venue and about true reconciliation:
We must get back to the garden
And I beg of you
For forgiveness for all the deeds
Our fathers did do
Surely comes a time
Many years of peace and prosperity
Ah you beauty
Motivated by the sad lessons from the past and the sentiments voiced in the song “Mozambique” the event is not all about taking. Every year an investment is made to assist the local community. This is done with compassion and gratitude for the difference Mozambique has made in the lives of those who have shared the STRAB experience and for the kindness of the people we experience each time we return.
Read more about the STRAB Charity Initiative here.