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Sugar Man: The Life, Death and Resurrection of Sixto Rodriguez by Craig Bartholomew Strydom and Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman

“I remember her tongue sliding into my mouth,” a friend tells me, his eyes sparkling, mischief playing on his lips. A pause follows while everyone around the table is trying to recall their first French kiss. “Yeah, ‘Sugar Man’ was playing in the background,” he says eventually, snapping us out of our respective reveries.

“I wonder how many times you had sex”, Sixto Rodriguez sings in “I Wonder”, one of the songs on his debut album, Cold Fact, which was released in South Africa in 1971. The South African release is the beginning of one of the most incredible stories. Ever.

Years of enthusiasm and dedicated research, countless unbelievable coincidences, and an Oscar-winning documentary later, Sixto Rodriguez has risen from decades-long obscurity to enjoy the world-wide recognition he and his music deserve.

Sugar Man coverAnd now, the two men who refused to give up on a crazy idea and started it all, Craig Bartholomew Strydom and Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman, have written a fascinating book chronicling the quest.

Many of my South Africa friends have a Rodriguez story to tell. Like Strydom and Segerman, most of them first heard the music in the army. All believed the rumours that Rodriguez had committed a spectacular suicide. But unlike the authors of Sugar Man: The Life, Death and Resurrection of Sixto Rodriguez (2015), they did not set out to find out what exactly had happened to the singer with an astounding cult following in South Africa.

I’d never heard of Rodriguez until I saw Malik Bendjelloul’s remarkable documentary Searching for Sugar Man (2012). The soundtrack immediately crept under my skin. I shed tears of unbelief and joy watching the amazing story.

I cried again every few pages while reading. With infectious passion, Strydom and Segerman offer an incisive behind-the-scenes look at the Rodriguez Saga. Divided in four parts – The Mystery, The Man, The Music and The Movie – Sugar Man: The Life, Death and Resurrection of Sixto Rodriguez is full of gems Rodriguez fans will love, including two generous photo sections. The writing is great, and the beauty of reading the story is that you can slow down at leisure and savour the magic of every step along the authors’ journey.

I met and heard Strydom and Segerman for the first time at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town earlier this month. Listening to them speak about Rodriguez and their involvement in his story was magical, reliving it all once more through Sugar Man: The Life, Death and Resurrection of Sixto Rodriguez even more so. Their generosity, die-hard dedication and integrity (there is no glossing over the difficult bits in the book) is truly inspiring.

Craig Bartholomew Strydom and Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman with Andrew Donaldson at Open Book 2015 (Photo: Books Live)

Craig Bartholomew Strydom and Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman with Andrew Donaldson at Open Book 2015 (Photo: Books Live)


Malik, who heard the news with Brittany by his side while on a trip to Los Angeles, was finally able to exhale. It was as if he had been holding his breath for four years. He was now only one step away from the moviemaking’s greatest accolade. Craig went for a long walk after the announcement, remembering his statement to his army friends in 1984: ‘I am going to find out what happened to Rodriguez.’ His words may have dissipated into the ether, but they had been the genesis of an idea. An idea that was later energised by the liner notes of a CD and eventually realised. Now, thanks to an indefatigable Swede and a young record dealer who literally begged for the rights to re-release the music of the rock star who never was, that idea, that story, was world-famous. And so, at long last, was the withdrawn poet-sage-musician-activist who started it all.
(Sugar Man: The Life, Death and Resurrection of Sixto Rodriguez, 234-5).

For all Sugar Man news: The Official Rodriguez Website

Review: My Mzansi Heart by King Adz

MyMzansiHeartReading King Adz’s My Mzansi Heart is like watching a reality TV show: drama, drugs, rock and roll, and rather longish ad breaks in-between. The book was almost too much for my senses and left me quite confused at times. I doubt, however, that nearing forty, still wearing shoes I bought a decade ago, and attending Metropolitan Opera live transmissions at Cinema Nouveau, I form part of the readership My Mzansi Heart is targeted at. Yet, King Adz and I have something crucial in common. We are both foreigners who have made our homes in South Africa, having fallen head over heels in love with the country and its people. Every love is different though. What matters is that your heart is in the right place, and King Adz’s beats for Mzansi.

King Adz is the pen name of Adam Stone, a Brit who grew up in the outer suburbs of London, arrived here with his family just after the changeover, and decided to stay. He started off at an ad agency and became a filmmaker, a writer (previously of Street Knowledge, The Urban Cookbook, The Stuff You Can’t Bottle: Advertising for the Global Youth Market), and most importantly a promoter of everything connected with street culture. Somewhere along his many travels he took the wrong turn and nearly lost everything to booze and drugs. My Mzansi Heart tells the story of his descent into the hell of addiction and his recovery.

The in-your-face narrative, punctuated by slang and a lot of French, is a rollercoaster ride across South Africa. It includes King Adz’s encounters with some famous locals such as the photographer Roger Ballen, the fashion stylist Bee Diamondhead, or writer Rian Malan. Along the way he also sniffs out potential future stars of different industries, whether it is fashion, media, photography, food, or music. King Adz roams the cities from Soweto to the Cape Flats looking for talent and promoting his heart out for places, institutions, products, and people (himself included), he believes in.

Towards the end of the book he writes: “There was a second there, typing the above words in, that I stopped and thought of the enormity, the stupidity, and the restlessness of the egocentric and Warholian act of self-promotion, and how it consumes a lot of my life. One moment it seems worthwhile, the next pointless and empty.” The statement captures my sentiments about his project. My Mzansi Heart offers many great flashes of insight into present-day South Africa, but one has to wade through a lot of fluff and bling to get to the gritty, good stuff.

Perhaps surprisingly, though, King Adz selling techniques worked on me. I’m looking forward to taking out a friend to lunch at Beijing Opera. As a lover of dim sum, I was intrigued by the mention of the “pop-up” restaurant in My Mzansi Heart (King Adz knows the owner Yang, and they have a copy of his cookbook on the wall). And I am not ashamed to admit that I’ll be looking out for Jack Parow Braai Sauce at my local supermarket.

First published in the Cape Times, 26 September 2014, p. 31.

Review: Bloody Lies – Citizens Reopen the Inge Lotz Murder Case by Thomas Mollett and Calvin Mollett

Bloody LiesInge Lotz, a Stellenbosch student, was found brutally murdered in her flat in March 2005. Her boyfriend at the time, Fred van der Vyver, was put on trial for the deed. Anybody who has ever held an opinion about what had happened to Lotz the day of her death should read Thomas and Calvin Mollett’s shockingly revealing Bloody Lies: Citizens Reopen the Inge Lotz Murder Case.

h its suggestive cover and brilliant title, the book not only profoundly questions the justice of Fred van der Vyver’s acquittal but the entire judicial system involved in arriving at the verdict. In times when high-profile court cases are becoming staple media spectacles in which many of us feel the need and right to participate, it might be of utmost importance for all concerned to consider what is at stake. The authors of Bloody Lies present compelling evidence that a serious miscarriage of justice took place in Lotz’s case. However, it is commendable that they do not try to sell their findings as gospel truth. All they ask is that readers think for themselves.

As the title of their book suggests, during their research the Mollett brothers uncovered some mindboggling discrepancies between the manifold interpretations of the evidence collected at the crime scene. One by one, they examined the available pieces of evidence – fingerprints, potential murder weapons, blood marks, autopsy report etc. – and in the process developed methods for analysis which have the potential of revolutionising such procedures in the future. Throughout they kept an open mind. They emphasise that their investigation sprung from their own fascination with the case, nobody hired them. Their meticulous scientifically-grounded experiments and revaluations are carefully presented and illustrated within the book (some of the visual footage is not for the faint-hearted).

In all the vital points the authors reached radically different conclusions to the ones presented to the court by so-called expert witnesses. Tasked with assisting a just ruling, instead expert witnesses are often called upon to intentionally mislead the court to affect a favourable outcome for one of the parties. Bloody Lies exposes a flawed system where the court more often than not is faced with negligence, indifference, or worse, ruthlessness and malice. During the Lotz trial careers of hard-working and well-meaning people were thus ruined.

It is impossible to cover all the relevant bases of this case in a single book, thus some niggling questions remain unanswered. But the authors have set up a website (Truth4Inge) to which they refer throughout the book and where interested readers are encouraged to address them.

Bloody Lies shines a penetrating light into the murky procedures of how evidence is collected and examined. People in the respective fields would be wise to re-examine both processes and to implement regulations which will make them less prone to error and misinterpretation.

Inge Lotz’s senseless death had tremendous impact on the lives of those who knew her and all who were involved with the investigation. Nobody walked away unscathed. Apart from the murderer perhaps.

Bloody Lies: Citizens Reopen the Inge Lotz Murder Case
by Thomas Mollett and Calvin Mollett
Penguin, 2014

An edited version of this review was published in the Cape Times on 11 July 2014, p. 10.

Interested in receiving a free copy of Bloody Lies? Please take part in my BOOK GIVEAWAY this month and stand a chance of having it (among others) sent to you. Good luck!