Rock Symphony: South Africa’s The Parlotones

I seem to have a thing for Rock Gods who end up blending their music with symphony orchestras…

I’ve already talked about the wondrous Tea Party Science of Rock video, where the band played with a symphony orchestra in Quebec City (BTW, they are about to do this again in Sydney and Melbourne Australia – check the links for dates and tickets – wish I was there!).

Well, the Parlotones, my favorite South African Rock Gods, just released their own brilliant  Orchestrated Live DVD and CD, recorded during their 2016 tour with a chamber ensemble.

I was first introduced to the Parlotones’ music in 2008 or 9 when I lived in Johannesburg. A bunch of my friends and I went to celebrations for one of the civic holidays – it might have been Freedom Day – and they were one of the bands playing. From the moment they stepped on stage, I was immediately in love. Dressed in black with red skinny ties, they just have that stage presence where you know this is gonna be good. Of course, the love from the audience was palpable as well. And then they started playing. They are another band that are phenomenal live. Emotive, high energy, strong connection with the audience, and superb music.

I probably would have loved them anyways if I had heard them on the radio first, its the type of music I connect to – they have been compared to Coldplay, the Killers and U2 – and the lead singer’s (Kahn Morbee) voice has a beautiful, haunting tone. Love his voice! Love the melodies of the songs. Love the lyrics.

But, as luck would have it, I saw them live first. There is just something about live music by bands that do live music well. I guess its mostly the connection between band and audience, the tangible quality and the charisma and personalities of the band that are more evident in person than in recorded music.

And this band is stock full of charisma and personality. Down to the Clockwork Orange inspired eyeliner, they make a statement. I mean, just watch this video for Overexposed… Now that’s some seriously fun personality there, mixed with some poignant lyrics.

And lyrics they do well… Smart, meaningful lyrics. Lyrics with an edge and perspective influenced by growing up in South Africa during and after apartheid. Yes, they do some beautiful lyrics about love and loss, human experiences stuff, gorgeous songs like Disappear Without a Trace and the rocking Giant Mistake (see the two videos below); but they also offer songs with the socially conscious, political, this is our world element I love so much. The song featured in the orchestra teaser above, Should We Fight Back, was inspired by Nelson Mandela’s autobiography “The Long Walk to Freedom.” Stand like Giants is a massive call to action that just may be more timely now than ever before:

The cure is amongst us, our collective energy
There’s a billions of souls, yet we all feel so alone
Together, together we can stand as giants

So, back to the Orchestrated CD and DVD, I just bought the CD on iTunes – it was a quick impulse based on knowing three things about myself and my Rock Gods:
  1. I will love anything by this band for the reasons above;
  2. I love symphony music; and
  3. I loooove when you put them together…

I’m listening to the CD for the first time as I write this, I’m seconds into the first song and all I can think is “Ah mannnn, why oh why didn’t I get the dvd instead so I could actually be watching this magic! Crap Crap Crap….”

It is beautiful. The Parlotones’ music is MADE for orchestra arrangements. I’m gonna pretend I know what I’m talking about here and say that the production is remarkable – as I learned in the Tea Party Orchestra video, there is a science to mixing the many symphony instruments with the rock band so that one does not overpower the other. It is well done here. Soaring, gorgeous. Kahn’s voice is flawless, lovely.

I am comforted by the fact that I am back in Canada now and I can’t seem to find the video version on iTunes (yet?) and I am not sure the SA physical dvd would play in this region… Plus I would have to wait for my friend in SA to mail it to me and, as also mentioned in that Tea Party post, I do like instant gratification when it comes to my Rock Gods. 😀  I guess I will just have to wait until they tour in my neck of the woods to see them live again.  Not so instantly gratified on that level, but I do like the slow burn of waiting impatiently to see my Rock Gods live as well…

In the meantime, I am loving this CD and just bought the other 2 CDs that I’ve missed since I left SA… I am one happy camper!!

Categories: Music ReviewTags: , , ,


  1. dont forget Jeff Martin playing with Ritesch Das and the Toronto Tabla Ensemble


  2. there's magic there too 🙂


  3. indeed there is… so much magic.


  4. I love reading good reviews for South African bands and The Parlotones are one of my favourites. They are make wonderful music and are great guys in real life too.

    Liked by 1 person

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