With a band name like Karel Bester en die Kraaines Band (Die Kraaines) and a self-described genre like “psychedelic boere-punk,” you are here to flip the script. Karel Bester, frontman of this up-and-coming four-piece Afrikaans rock band, sat down with us to talk about his musical journey and how it led him to the formation of Die Kraaines.

Their most recent performance was with Willim Welsyn at one of the iconic Thursday Bohemia band nights in Stellenbosch, with their next one coming up at The Armchair Theatre in Observatory alongside Congo Cowboys on 21 October.

​​”Bohemia has always been an oddball place, and what is odder than Afrikaanse psychedelic boere-punk? Karel’s charisma and presence on our stage have been impressive since day one. Die Kraaines Band is full of unique characters, and uniqueness will always have a place at Bohemia and everywhere else,” says Henry Doyle, a manager at Bohemia.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

With his parent’s passion for music, especially rock — ​​and his dad not being afraid to bust out the guitar at a braai — it comes as no surprise that Karel grew up to love music. “[Being] exposed to Pink Floyd on loop when I was a baby definitely kicked things off. My parents had all their classic albums and would pretty much use them to put me to sleep,” he says laughingly. 

During Karel’s second last year of his law studies at Stellenbosch University, he made the decision to forego his studies and pursue music full-time. “The longer I studied the more I felt like I was wasting my time. I just innately felt like I was lying to myself not trying to do the music thing. Then at some point, I just woke up one day and decided fuck it — now or never, right?” says Karel.

Karel Bester en die Kraaines Band

[When he isn’t busy with music, Karel does a lot of charity work with dogs and cats. PHOTO: Pierre-Louis Bredenkamp]

In 2019, at his student digs in Stellenbosch, Karel recorded the first song he wrote himself. “My mate Danie [Holtzhausen], the drummer from Moskitos, and I lived together at the time, and instead of ever going to class we’d dick around with shitty field recorders and Audacity — which is the most basic recording software I can think of,” he says. For fun, they recorded many “lo-fi demos of some whacky tunes” they had written at the time. Someday, Karel says, he might try to properly record some of them. “There’s a lot of crazy stuff from back then,” he says.

Hier om koning te kraai

Karel’s understanding of the value of fostering positive artistic development within one’s own culture and art scene has expanded significantly over the past two years — as he delved into the history of alternative Afrikaans music. He is concerned about the lack of “rough-around-the-edges” or “skollie” bands, as he calls them, in the last decade. His goal in forming Die Kraaines at the close of 2021 was to create some “real, noisy and hopefully culturally fascinating alternative Afrikaans music”.

Karel Bester en die Kraaines Band

[For Karel, doing music full-time was the goal straight out of dropping out of studying law. “I feel that it would’ve been way harder to get to be a full-time musician If you don’t outright set that goal for yourself,” he says. PHOTO: Pierre-Louis Bredenkamp]

Die Kraaines have only been performing together publically for three months, but have already played alongside established local acts such as The Narrow and Spoegwolf. “One or two good shows does not a career make, but being able to test our mettle in very polarised crowds in terms of what sounds they like so early — and getting great reactions — really quickly drove home the possibilities of what this band can achieve going forward,” says Karel.

He met all three of his bandmates at different points throughout 2020 and 2021, but according to him, they all share a common love for art and Afrikaans in their own unique ways. “[However,] most of all each member is an entity in themselves. A personality. A real character. Some of god’s own prototypes were never meant for mass production — too strange to live; too weird to die,’” he says.

Guitarist Jeandré “Pikkie” Swanepoel says the most exciting part of being in the band is having the support of the other three members, who give him the opportunity to do what he does best: move an audience. “I am looking forward to getting people excited about songs in their mother tongue and a project they can believe in and starting a whole new movement,” he says.

Karel Bester en die Kraaines Band

[Karel and Die Kraaines guitarist Pikkie (above) also have a duo called The Senate, which has become a staple at Bohemia in Stellenbosch. PHOTO: Pierre-Louis Bredenkamp]

With a sound described in such a unique way as “psychedelic boere-punk”, it was imperative that we find out exactly what that entails. According to Karel, it combines elements of punk music’s energy, performance, and vocal stylings with the rhythmic and harmonic ideas found in traditional Afrikaans folk (or “boeremusiek”) and country music.

“Then some psychedelia is sprinkled for taste when it comes to the use of effects as well as the arrangements. Some tunes span into 15-minute territories so there’s a lot of weird woven into it all. The general progressive nature of the songs also fit into that psych thing,” he says.

They experiment with different, modern and outright unconventional styles that aren’t necessarily associated with traditional Afrikaans music, according to guitarist Marius “Kwagga” Vercuiel, who is most excited about the improvisation and psychedelic influences of their sound. “It excites me to try new things while still doing something for Afrikaans music,” he says.

[Die Kraaines guitarist Kwagga (above) also helps his brother Herman “Herki” Vercuiel run The Armchair Theatre in Observatory, Cape Town. PHOTO: Pierre-Louis Bredenkamp]

For Karel, the best thing about Die Kraaines is the kinship they have created among themselves. “We really play well off one another and the energy is electrifying when the live component comes into play,” he says.

When it comes to writing music, Die Kraaines has a really eclectic approach, according to Karel. Sometimes they will be inspired to write a song based solely on the harmony of a certain chord sequence. Other songs are built on a single memorable musical element, whether it is as a hook, melody, or riff.

“Sometimes I have this specific lyrical story that needs to have the whole song built around the words. That usually tends to be the hardest to sus out for me. Mostly it’s dicking about and throwing things against a wall until everyone in the room smiles and their heads bob,” he says.

As with many bands, they started through jam sessions, according to drummer Hanno Jansen van Vuren. “It’s the most fun part of the rehearsal, where you can do whatever you want,” he says, adding, “We sometimes can’t help ourselves to do an impromptu jam between songs when rehearsing our set. Die Kraaines’ dream is to have their own studio space one day where “the jams can go on forever”.

Karel Bester en die Kraaines Band

[Die Kraaines drummer Hanno Jansen van Vuren (above) is also in local bands Los Sueños, Die Bergies and Filthy Hippies. PHOTO: Pierre-Louis Bredenkamp]

Here to stay

Die Kraaines hopes to release new music soon. “We’re ironing out all our tunes live and in the studio — so hopefully at the end of the year we’ll have some delicious tunes for y’all to peruse at your listening pleasure,” says Karel.

He doesn’t have any lofty goals for himself for the next five years, except for making it through them happily and in reasonably good health. For the band, however, he has much more ambitious goals. “I’d like to start our own festival for local alternative Afrikaans to flourish at, and to help create a scene that’s sustainable and artistically always growing and innovating,” he says.

Karel ends off with a beautiful explanation of what motivates himself and Die Kraaines to create music — especially in Afrikaans, “When it comes to Afrikaans music, each era had its fight to fight. The Voëlvry Movement’s fight was political. With Fokof it was a cultural one. Our fight will be an existential fight.”


I can’t play any musical instruments or sing, so this is my contribution to the local music scene — which I love immensely. I can’t touch my toes, but that has held me back only slightly in life. My hobbies include reading, beer, bringing up Let’s Get Local when no one asked, writing, and surprising people with my pool skills. I believe somehow all of this will lead me to Dave Grohl.

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