Archive for November 22nd, 2012


Movie Review: Searching For Sugarman

sugar_manOn Friday last week, J-Rab and I decided to forego our usual routine of rocking out together in our flat, playing music loud, making supper, drinking whisky and passing out stone-cold by 10.30.

Instead we caught the 9.40 show of Searching For Sugarman because my close friends Peggles and Graumpot had both seen it and said it was life-changingly good and I hold their opinions on movies in high regard.

Simply put, Searching For Sugarman is a documentary about the life of Rodriguez and how his music has influenced South Africa over the last forty-odd years.

So powerful was Rodriguez’ appeal in South Africa that two men in particular, Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, dedicated a great deal of their lives to unravelling the mystery around this phenomenal and hugely enigmatic artist.



What they discovered is a story that is so heart-breaking and yet so incredibly uplifting and inspirational that it defies all logic and rationality that it actually happened.

More than that I really can’t say because a huge part of the charm of this movie for me was the fact that I went into it knowing so little about it and so little about the story of Rodriguez’ life.

What’s important is how I came out of it which I can only explain by relating the following story.

When I was 11 years old, I signed up for classical guitar lessons at my school because, like every other angst-ridden kid back in those days, I wanted to play like Kurt Cobain.

In that instrument I found shelter. I found a place that I could shut the world out of completely, I found comfort in loneliness, I found belonging in alienation, I found purpose in meaninglessness.



I got good fast because I played obsessively. The first guitar I had was on loan from the school and God knows I knocked so many dings and dents into that guitar that I was surprised the school even agreed to take it back when I sheepishly handed it to them before leaving for highschool.

I played that much. I wrote songs throughout my teenage years and played in various bands all doomed to failure because the Johnson electric guitar I bought was a total piece of junk and I couldn’t afford anything better.

My parents were also dead against any ambitions I had of becoming a rockstar, so that effectively put an end to that dream in highschool.

However, the minute I got to varsity, the dream came alive again and my playing kicked into overdrive.

It became a ritual for me – the gunshot sound of the latches on the case springing free, the fresh scent of rosewood I would breathe in through the sound hole before I began playing.



The deep-down jangling sound of the first chord I would bang out – E minor, always E minor, my favourite. I could write you a novel about that chord.

I left varsity having played a number of live solo gigs that went about as well as you could expect considering my audience was blind drunk and had never heard my material before.

But once in awhile someone would come up to me afterward and say how much they enjoyed my stuff.

This probably happened five times over the course of my “career”, but it was an amazing feeling to know that what I was putting out there had resonated so strongly in a complete stranger that they felt the need to come up to me afterwards and say, “Hey man, great set.”

Music has that power. The power to unite people from completely different times and places, completely different religions and creeds.

It’s inside us and has been since the first heartbeat thundered inside the first homo sapien. It is as primitive and imperative to the survival of our species as fire, only it burns with an intensity no inferno could ever match.



Even if you destroyed every scrap of music ever written and smashed every instrument ever made, you could never stop it. It is a force of nature made human.

Searching For Sugarman reminded me of the power music has to change lives and affirmed one of the only truths I have ever found that I know will never change no matter how old I get or how fucked up this world becomes.

Music will save us.

For that reason alone, you have to see this movie. I don’t think it’s on at the cinema for much longer, but even so, rent the DVD when it comes out, it’s an incredible affirmation of the benevolence of the human spirit and will make you unbelievably proud to be a South African.

Final verdict: 9/10