Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Protea stage productions 2013 committee

This Sunday, 27th January, the Protea stage productions held their AGM and elected their committe for 2013. The very experienced Bob Stone was re-elected as chair with Lynsay stepping up for the vice chair position. Congratulations to everybody who were elected. I will serve on the committee in a non-executive position as general committee member.

This year we will enchant the East Rand with a great program.

You can read more about Protea Stage Productions at the web site. Be sure to support us with our program this year!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

A matter of import, part 2

Tyler and Melissa arrives in London. They go straight to the South African High commissioner. Here they meet Manual.

Manual tells them that they had a big celebration party for the 10 year celebration just a few days back. And yes, one of the guests was his dear friend, Hugo. In fact, Hugo still regularly attends their Sunday brunch meetings.

They sit down and Manual tells them all about Hugo and  where he is. He however cautions them not to put hopes on him returning to South Africa. Hugo has a new life in London and seems quite happy.

After almost feeling hopeful, doubt is once again settling in with Tyler. Maybe he should not have been so bold as to come all the way, just to mess things around for somebody, who obviously do not care about him.

Melissa is not unsettled that easy. She convince Tyler to keep going and visit his father. They get the address from Manual.

Will they just open scars best left forgotten?

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Fighting from afar

Back to our story. Last time that we have seen Tyler, he and Melissa started their search for his father, Hugo. Melissa's dad, Neil, could not help them, but he recalled the good and bad times of the struggle.

If you do not know the story of apartheid, you can read all about it all over the Internet. Wikipedia is usually a good start. Our story is however not a political rant. The part we are mostly concerned about here is the role that those in exile played.

Neil and Hugo went to London, where they joined the struggle movements that were being established over their. Whenever South African visitors came to London, representing the country, the struggle movement organised protest marches. Eventually they succeeded in banning South African sports teams from participating in international events.

The students had lots of fun, streaking unto the rugby pitches, getting painted purple with large water cannons and getting arrested. It all paid off for them after many years in swaying the opinion of general public against the South African government, bringing about sanctions, and eventually democratic elections.

Fast forward. Tyler is still looking for his father. As Neil gives them all these details, it does not give him hope about finding his father.

They decided to take a leap. He now knows that his father is somewhere in London. If you want to find somebody, you will have to go to where that person was last seen. Sounds good.

So Tyler and Melissa get on their crusade. Tyler do not have a whole bag of money, but lucky he knows somebody who can sponsor him.

In the next scene, they arrive in London, but where do they start? Well, that can not be so difficult, can it. Start at the obvious place. Where would ex-South Africans be?

We will find out in the next scene, "a Matter of import, part 2".

Until next time, happy blogging!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Do you know what is behind the Ghost town?

Earlier this week we've given away a free mp3 of the song Ghost town.

This song is full of imagery and metaphors. Follow the lyrics on our web page (or scroll further down). The song makes ample use of lyrical detachment as discussed by Axeman Jim in his excellent book about songwriting.


Did you you know that the ghost town is a real place? Can you find the clues? It is a place I have visited probably more than 100 times. Easy? How many places have I been to that sports a forsaken beachfront? And with storms pouring violently down? Gee, Grisilda on Point road. Now it is a give away!

Now that you figured out where it is, can you figure out the rest of the riddles? Do you know who or what Samara is? Can you find all the clues? Who is Lilith? The blight? Who are the cave-men and what are the rat-holes?

Ghost town

Music and lyrics by Eric Swardt
(Vocal by Jeanette)

Verse 1
The cave-men are escaping from the rat-holes
The sun is down on this desolated town
Through the mist the lights shine down on no-one
As the storm pours violently down

Verse 2
Ghouls crawl along the forsaken beach front
On point road Merrow performs her rite
A patron talks to Griselda about a quick one
Then sped off into the misty night

Free me from this coast town
Where the gloom will drive me insane
Save me from this ghost town
Free me from this strangling chain

Verse 3
A beast in rags begging on the beach front
For a desperate grit a scrap of food is fine
He will sweat for bread or drinking water
In the blight of fear Lilith resigned

Verse 4
In the dark I can hear the demons talking
With a tongue of people gone and dead
The smell of the dread and loneliness overwhelming
As pictures of my death runs through my head

Repeat chorus

Verse 5
Taking refuge in the corner on a bar stool
Watching Samara play the bass guitar
A barrel of rum is all that I needed
To fall in love with little evils charm

This is not a nightmare, the truth bears down on me
This is not a nightmare, the truth has come to be
How is it that I could not foresee
How did I become a dead machine
Will my future be drowned in sadness
Do I have to stay in this affair
In this life of endless madness
I have to escape this nightmare

Repeat chorus

There are many through this before me
Many martyrs survived this ordeal
All too scared to cross the Red sea
While the kings will have their meal

Repeat chorus

At the break of dawn the skies are dull and cloudy
Slaves face the puke for one more day
A day in hell would be a mercy
As I send little evil on her way

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

A matter of import - part 1

During the 1980's, South Africa experienced what was known then as the "brain drain". Many young South Africans left the country to settle overseas. Favourite destinations were Australia and England. Many of those young people contributed a great deal to the eventual end to apartheid in South Africa. After democratic elections in South Africa, many of those who lived in exile returned to South Africa. These young people received good education at overseas universities and eventually helped to reverse the brain drain to some extend. Those who joined the 'official' struggle movement while in exile were rewarded with positions in the new government.

Meet Neil, one of those young men. Neil left the country with Hugo and settled in London, where he received a degree in law. While in exile, Neil met and married an English girl. They had one daughter whom they named Melissa.

When Melissa was about 8 years old, her family relocated back to South Africa, where her dad got a job in the new government and became a member of the new Parliament.

Ten years later, the day after the freedom day celebrations, Melissa, with her friend, Tyler, arrived at her home to talk to her father, who is in their lounge.
At the freedom day celebrations the previous day, Tyler made up his mind. He wants to bring his father back to South Africa. Melissa told him to stop talking and do something about it. She suggested that they should go see her father, Neil who might know where he is.
Track: A matter of import part 1
Album: Unpublished (From the musical, The exile)
Artist: Eric Swardt

With that background, the lyrics of this song is self explanatory. After the introductions, Tyler states his business and Neil offers to assist. In the last verse Neil reflects on his memories of Hugo, which is covered in detail in the song which follows immediately after this one.
Good day father. it is good to see you again
please meet Tyler, he is my dearest friend
he's the son of Pam and wish to talk to you
about a matter that you may know a thing or two
Good day young man, tell me what's on your mind
is there some information that you wish to find
and as your member of the parliament
I'll take your matter without any argument
Sir, the matter about which i wish to talk
is not of public import
I seek news of the one who made a stand
and sacrificed so much for this land

I am told that you are one
who joined my father on the run
but while so many have returned
my father never claimed what he earned
(5a Tyler and Melissa)
We know what fate befell on every one
(oh yes, we know)
of the heroes that were on the run
but as for Hugo we don't know how
he is doing now
(6c with Melisa)
Sir, the matter about which I came to speak
is of great import to me
I come to you as I am on the trail
of my father who is in exile

Monday, 21 January 2013

Ghost town

Today I'm going to break the tradition a little bit to make things interesting and post about other shows I am working on besides The exile. I'm also going to give away an mp3 to my blog followers.

I have been asked once: How many musicals do you have inside of you?

Some composers might have only one or two musicals, but for most - we have many. There are all these ideas that we are half working on. In a way it is good, as it gives our brains a break to concentrate on something different when we get stuck on a project, or it seems like a project does not move along fast enough because we are waiting for somebody else to catch up (book writers, producers, directors, publicists, etc)

I am currently working on four shows, including The exile. One of these shows is Ghost town. This one is only in the concept stage, with one concept song recorded, i.e. the Title track, Ghost town. Click on this link to download the mp3, or go to this page to stream. I am particularly happy with this version, which features a great vocal performance by Jeanette.


Sunday, 20 January 2013

Singing comes cheap (to those who do not pay)

After Pamela told Tyler all she knows about his father, Tyler returns to the main room, where Anthony and his friends are having a rave of a party. Anthony is drunk and swears at Pamela for not bringing drinks fast enough.
Tyler has to control his temper and turns around again and enters the kitchen. Melissa notice Tyler's mood and follows him into the kitchen. Melissa starts the next song.
Track: Singing comes cheap
Album: Unpublished (From the musical, The exile)
Artist: Eric Swardt


I hope you will not be offended
by what I am about to say
for singing comes cheap
to those who do not pay
and all this is done at the cost
of one who has done so much
to dedicate his life so we can be free today

In the first verse Melissa addresses Tyler about the bad behaviour of Anthony and his friends.


If this man here were to see
my father come back to me
he would pray for longer legs
to carry him away


And soon you all will see
my father coming back to me
You will cry for singing comes cheap
to those who do not pay

Tyler states that he wish his father to return.



Your father is still far away
Some doom is keeping him in that place
against his own will
a prisoner of ill fate
I do not know if this ends well
It is your story that you have to tell
It's in your hands
to make your father come home

Melissa is the one who points out to Tyler that his father is not about to come back all by himself. It is up to Tyler to take control of the situation.



If he really loves this country
so much that all can see
he would pray for the first plane
to come back home again

Tyler is considering Melissa's words and contemplates that Hugo must surely be wanting to come back to South Africa. After all, he has been fighting for the freedom of the land and he is a national hero.


Anthony just wait
soon we'll set things straight
You will cry for singing comes cheap
to those who do not pay

Now he addresses Anthony (who is drunk and rowdy in the other room) and states that he will set thing straight. Tyler is kicking into action.


I wish I knew where he is
and if he think about me
I wonder if he will
come back if I ask him
And some will say he is their hero great
but to me he is just a name
He left us all alone
without a house or home


I know not what chains of steel
is holding him away from me
Far away all while this man
is feasting on my land


I wish my father could stand
here to give me a helping hand
You will cry for singing comes cheap
to those who do not pay

Now that Tyler has made up his mind that he will do something, he starts to think about how he is to do it. He wants to find Hugo, but he has no idea where to start.


To me it seems you do
want your father to come back to you
It is in your hands
to ask him to return
You know that you can be free
from your mother's and your misery
It's in you fate
to go and make yourself a name


Just get up and be on your way
There is so much more to gain
My father was there
on that day when they went away

Melissa states her support for Tyler. Melissa is the daughter of Neil, who also went into exile. Neil returned to South Africa after the democratic elections and now has a senior job as a member of parlaiment in the new government. Melissa is suggesting that this could be a good place to start looking for Hugo.

And soon you all will see
my father coming back to me
You will cry for singing comes cheap
to those who do not pay


So Anthony you'll see
this house will soon be free
You will cry for singing comes cheap
to those who do not pay

Melissa has given Tyler hope. He is now determined to follow up on the lead that Melissa has given him.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

From the Odyssey to The exile - part 2

In part 1 of this series, we saw how the Odyssey by Homer was the initial inspiration behind The exile. Now, let's get some insights into how the story was changed from a 2,000 year old tale into a modern story.

I decided to cut it all down to the spline of the story. Many of the scenes in the Odyssey can form the basis for some scenes in my story, but we there will not be enough time to dwell too much on them. I had to become ruthless about changes to the story. I could not let the Odyssey get in the way of a good story. Whenever it suited me, I made changes. After all, I am a story teller, not a journalist, and there are no real truths in a story that does not exist yet.

The chapters of the Odyssey can be grouped into three sections, 1) the search for Ulysses 2) Ulysses's journey into exile and 3) Ulysses's return. The exile will follow a similar outline, i.e. Tyler's search for his father, Hugo's back story of going into exile, and Hugo's return home.

In the Odyssey, Homer has the war hero, Ulysses. I have Hugo for this role. We had the Trojan war in the Odyssey to form the backdrop of the story. In modern South Africa we had the fight against apartheid. In the Odyssey, Ulysses was in exile on an island. In South Africa, many people left the country to live in exile on an island overseas. The two most popular destinations were, Australia and Britain. I had to make a choice there, and chose Britain. Australia would have worked as well, as the anti-apartheid movement was just as strong over there.

Homer starts the Odyssey with Zeus, the great god, calling on the muse to tell him about Ulysses, the war hero who never returned home. He then gives Minerva permission to free Ulysses and allow Ulysses to return home.

In the first draft of The Exile I had Zuma (Zeus), the president of South Africa, calling the journalists (modern day muses) to fill him in on the detail of the war hero Hugo (Ulysses). After hearing the story, he grants permission to Melissa (Minerva), to go find Hugo. This introduction to the story however soon got canned. There are too many caveats in that scene, and besides, it did not really add anything to the story. The basic test for any scene is: if I leave this scene out completely, would it change or hurt the story in any way? This scene could not pass this test, and was therefore canned. It only added the need for extra characters and extra stage sets, which will not be needed anywhere else in the story. That just adds cost, even though, admittedly, it woulds have made an interesting introduction.

In the Odyssey Homer moves on to Minerva meeting up with Telemachus at a party at Penelope's home, and telling him to get off his backside and go search for his father. This scene is very important, as it provides the real kick-off to the rest of the tale, so I decided to use this as my opening scene. As we dismissed the original opening scene, we needed to get some connection between Melissa, who get the story into action, and Tyler, who is the one who must take the action. The Odyssey sowed enough seeds to allow for a love story between Telemachus and Minerva, so I decided to use that angle and make Melissa Tyler's girlfriend.

In the initial drafts, the occasion for the party was the first democratic elections celebrations in South Africa. Later on we changed this to become the 10 year celebrations. That gave us some space to add some extra plot elements to our story.

From that point onwards the story started to fall into place. Calypso became Cathy in The exile. Menelaus became Manual, Penelope became Pamela and we did away with a whole lot of extras.

Many side stories from the Odyssey were canned for the sake of relevance and to shorten the story. In the Odyssey, the back story is made up by many chapters about Ulysses's travels from Troy until he got stuck in exile. I brought all of that back story down to the only a few songs. I needed enough back story to make my audience understand why he did what he did and how he came to be in exile. There was not enough space to give all the saucy details. All the war scenes and protest march songs got canned.

The back story is broken up in a few short passages, and spread them around. First we give Pamela a chance to tell her side of the story in "I recall" and "Into Exile". We'll have Neil telling us his story in "From afar", and later on will Manual take the story further in "A matter of import". Finally, Hugo will give us the final crucial details in "A long long time" and "Memories long forgotten".

So, until next time....

Friday, 18 January 2013

Into exile

In the fourth song of the musical, The exile, Pamela starts to fill us in on the back story. As we will see throughout the musical, we have not cramped the whole back story into one shot. The story is being unravelled, one bit at a time.

Even though the title may suggest that this song is about Hugo going into exile, it really is about Pamela's back story. In the previous song, I recall, she gave us her viewpoint on Hugo and their love story. This time we want to know her life story.

Track: Into Exile

(Click song name to listen on soundloud)

Album: The Exile, concept album recording
Artist: Eric Swardt

The song is a standard AABA song form, i.e. it has 2 verses, a bridge and then a verse repeated. No Chorus. Though pop music lovers may find this strange, this form is fairly common in musicals.


You were still an unborn child

when he went into exile

and left me here on my own

When he went to the unknown

I wondered why he left so quick

There was no time to try to understand

ever since that dreadful time

All that I could do was sit and cry

ever since he went into exile

The lyrics of the first verse speaks for itself. Pamela is addressing Tyler directly in this song. The lyrics is in a very direct style and no real attempt was made to hide subliminal messages. Throughout this song you will however have to listen carefully for some very important hints about Pamela and Hugo. In the first verse, take note when Pamela is innocently telling Tyler "I wondered why he left so quick". In a song much later in this story you will get some further insight into those words.



From that day he spent his life

to dedicate to discord and strife

for the freedom of this land

while I was left here on my own

I knew that he would not return

Day after day and years were rolling on

I had to care for my child

but I was still a child myself

on that day he went into exile

This verse starts off telling us about Hugo and how he became a freedom fighter, but once again she turns the attention back to herself by telling us about her own suffering as a young teenage single mother.



In all those years things went astray

when the government put our leader in jail

and they were on their way

to take this place down the drain

We were the scum of humanity

Slaves in our own beautiful country

We could not even walk

free on the street or free on the beach

In the bridge of this song we turn the attention away from Pamela's personal life a bit and start to fill you in on the political situation. The leaders were jailed and the country was headed for disaster. The reality of the apartheid policy was that they were not treated as equal human beings.



Through all these years I gave you a home

even though I was all alone

In all these years you were the one

who gave me strength to carry on

The years went by I worked each day

a simple job as the master's maid

and all I had I spent upon

the schooling of my only son

since that day he went into exile


In the last verse Pamela turns the attention back to her again. The story she is telling here is a very common story in South Africa during those times. As a single mother, to survive and send her child to school, she had to work as a domestic worker for a below minimum wage.


From the Odyssey to The exile - part 1

The story behind how the story of The exile developed has almost as many twists and turns as the story itself. In this series I will take you down the road how The exile started off, what the inspiration behind it was, and how it got to where it is.

Even though The exile is an original idea by myself, it did not magically one day pop out and came to be. I got help from a lot a people to get it where it is now.

My first attempt to write a musical was to adapt Homer's classic, the Odyssey. In case you do not know, the Odyssey is a 24 book poem that tells the story of Telemachus, the son of Ulysses (sometimes also called Odysseus), going on a long trip in search of his father. Ulysses was living in exile on an island far away, under the the spell of the goddess, Calypso. The goddess Minerva was given permission by the great god, Zeus, to help Telemachus in his mission to save Ulysses and bring him back home. Seeing any connection here?

In The Odyssey, Homer goes into great detail about Ulysses's journey. He left his home just after Telemachus's birth to join the war against Troy, where he became famous for building a big wooden horse, inside of which they hid. When the Trojans took the horse inside their city walls, Ulysses and his men popped out and sacked the city. Heard the story somewhere? This has been the basis for many movies. If ever you wondered where the term 'Trojan horse' came from - now you know?

There are many more stories of Ulysses's travels in the Odyssey, which you may recognize. What about the one where Ulysses met this one-eyed giant who started eating his friends. Ulysses gave the giant some wine to drink, to make the tasteless humans taste better. As the giant got drunk and fell asleep, Ulysses whacked a huge burning spike into the giant's eye, blinding him and giving them the chance to escape.

You may also have heard the story about the Sirens, or by many believed to be mermaids, who sang this most beautiful song. Whenever sailors heard the song they abandoned the steering of their ships, which had disastrous results as the ships ran into the rocks. Note, I am not talking about a certain Italian casino cruiser here. There is also a story about an island of the living dead, which Ulysses had to visit to get directions back home. This could be the origin of all zombie movies today.

Here are some good links if you are interested in reading more about the Odyssey:

Just as I would regard Tolkien as the father of many modern legends, Homer can be be regarded as the father of many classic tales and legends. Homer lived only about 2,000 years before Tolkien.

You may not find it difficult to see why this epic tale inspired me. Trying to adapt this epic tale to a musical would however have been be a life long venture. A honorable goal to be pursued indeed.

I started writing songs based on each of the books of the Odyssey. The initial songs were just instrumental pieces. I started writing what would have been the first of 24 half-hour musicals. Each musical would have covered one of the books from the Odyssey. I soon realized that I have to get more realistic. Nobody is going to sit through a full 12 hour musical. Wagner almost pulled a similar trick off, but he was kind of already famous by that time. This all had to be brought down to no more than 2 to 3 hours. Next thing was to make this more relevant for people today. I had to find a way to make this story fit into a modern world. Stories about boys with winged sandals, who changes into pretty young ladies whenever they feel like it may not touch the souls of many people today.

This was the start of The exile.

In part 2 of the journey from the Odyssey to The Exile, I will tell you how I shortened the 12 hour story down to a 2 hour story.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

CD released!!!

Have I mentioned I love you?

The nest news is that the album is now available online at CD baby.

Show the love and like it on facebook and youtube, retweet it on twitter.

Eric Swardt: The Exile the Musical: Concept Album Recording

Monday, 14 January 2013

Elders in freezer and Post-apartheid South Africa

Many of you may have seen the story in the newspapers.


The story is in Afrikaans, which I know many readers can not follow. Just to give you the gist of the story: robbers broke into a house in Belfast and murdered the people. A number of things makes this specially horrendous. Firstly, the victims were elderly people who had no way to resist. Then, the way they were killed is horrific. They were stuffed into a freezer and left to suffocate.

Now, I know this blog is not about crime in South Africa. This blog is about musicals and The exile. There are three important connecting points here. Firstly, the victims were the in-laws of a very good life long friend of mine, advocate Deon van Wyk. I met Deon in 1979 when I went to University, and we are still great friends. We all feel for Deon and the family, having to deal with such a horrific ordeal.

The interesting important second point of interest here is that Deon is currently in exile. He is now living in the UAE. He left long after democratic elections. One of his reasons for leaving SA is the crime. Deon, we are sorry to admit that you were right. This place is not safe to live.

The third point of importance of this story for our blog here is that the story is about post-apartheid South Africa. We have already talked about the scene and song "Talk about democracy" at


In this song we had Tyler and Tony talking about how the elections in South Africa did not bring us what we expected. Crime is much higher. They sing:

"and it is not safe to walk the streets
The filth is lying all around our feet
This town is lying in the ditch
Politicians are getting rich"

Sadly, but this is very true.

Deon, out thoughts are with you and your family.

See you all next time.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

I recall

Track: I recall

(Click song name to listen on soundloud)

Album: The Exile, concept album recording
Artist: Eric Swardt

The party is going on. The guests are having a good time. Anthony is entertaining them, talking louder, as he gets drunker, and making less sense. Typical South African holiday scene! Pamela is cleaning up and serving the guests - with the help of Melissa.

Melissa is Tyler's girlfriend. She is by far the best dressed guest around. It is obvious she, or at least her father, has a little more money than the other guests. Tyler feels a little wounded after the episode with Tony. He opened old wounds, reminding Tyler about his father, or rather lack of.

Tyler takes his mother to the one side where he can talk to her in a little more privacy. He ask her about his father. She explains that his father, Hugo, left them before Tyler was born. He went to London during the apartheid times to join the fight against the regime from abroad.

When Tyler asks his mother if she still thinks about Hugo, she replies with this song.

"I recall the first time that I saw him
just like it was yesterday again
and I fell in love with him
but that love was doomed that day
we were from different worlds
different times, different roads apart"

She is telling him that the affair was not an usual affair. They were from different worlds.

"Yes, I do recall that day when we met
Yes I still recall his face
I can see his face each time
when I look into your eyes, my son
how can I ever forget
He was my first love I had
it's just like yesterday
I recall, I recall his face
Yes I do recall his face every day"

Pam is reminded of that love affair every day when she sees Hugo in his son's eyes.

This is more than just a love song. This song tells us more Hugo. In the opening song we first had a hint about Hugo, the hero. In the second song we heard that he left them. Now it is time for Pam to tell us her side of the story.

"He left us for the unknown
He left us for that place across the sea
He said there's only one way
that he could make a difference to anything
and that is by leaving this all behind"

In this verse we changed the melody a little bit. Take note of this melody. You will hear it again later on, as it will be used as a theme for Hugo, the exile.

In the next verse Pam takes us back once more to her feeling for Hugo.

"I recall he made me feel so special
He made me feel like a real woman
for the first time in my life
I recall his face, his touch
I remember his voice
I recall, I recall his kiss
on that fateful day
that day when we met"

She tells us about Hugo's motive for leaving them. He wanted to make a difference. He wanted to change things.

"Oh yes he believed that he could
make a difference to it all"

In the climax of this song (once again using Hugo's theme) Pam directly answers Tony's accusations against Hugo. In the previous song Tony said that Hugo ran away. Pam tells us that he did not run away, but rather ran into the heat of the fire.

"Your father was no coward
No he did not run away
he took the fight to a new stage"

In the first song we first hinted about the exile. He was a hero, but we did not know where he was, what he did or why was he not at the party.


Talk about democracy

Track: Talk about democracy


(Click song name to listen on soundloud)

Album: The Exile, concept album recording
Artist: Eric Swardt

In the second song of the musical. and also the second song on the concept album recording, we are developing our story further. In the opening song we have established the time and place. We also introduced the audience to our characters. At this stage you do not know who these characters are yet. We hinted to Pamela and her son, Tyler and we had a reference to Tyler's father, Hugo, as the hero of the story. Now we want to develop our characters a bit more.

In this song we are getting into the specifics. We are introduced in detail to Tyler and Anthony.

While we talk about democracy, let's talk about song form. This song is what I would call a conflict song. Though not all musicals have it, it is not completely uncommon. The purpose of a conflict song is to establish conflict. All good musicals have some conflict. There are many ways to establish this conflict. Here we are doing it in a dialogue manner. It is very common in new age musicals to use a song for characters to talk to each other. Some sung-through musicals makes liberally use of recitative to sing-talk through dialogue. This musical is not a sung-through, but it does have some recitative. Here we have opted not for recitative, but for another variation, i.e. the dialogue song. This is where the characters address each other, but through a formally composed and structured song.

The song is a standard AABA song form (The AABA refers to the melody structures). The form is repeated with another AABA and then we've added a coda, or C section at the end, giving us the full AABA AABA C form for this song.

Enough about the technical songwriting stuff. Now about the song. As mentioned, this is a conflict song with Tyler and Anthony. Here we develop the characters further. First we start with Tyler. He has been for an unsuccessful job interview.

"People talk about democracy
and all the wonders that elections bring
but I can not even find a job
Is this just a hypocrisy?"

Next we have Anthony chipping in. Anthony is living in Pamela's house. He does not have a job. He is a real slob, and is negative about anything.

"So what do you want from democracy
Do you want me to wipe your ass"

Tyler immediately answers back. He is telling us that he does not regard Anthony as any authority, even though he is living in the house with his mother.

"Oh well you are one to criticise
You do not have any class"

Tyler continues into the next verse. He tells us that he still have some hope for this democracy to work out fine:

"They promised us a better life
It is all not just a scam"

Next we have Tyler and Anthony agreeing on something at least. They both see where the problem with this new democracy lies:

"Politicians just want your vote
but they don't give a damn"

Tyler (with the rest of the company in chorus) then takes the character development further. They are telling us that they are not content with the situation. They takes control of their problems. Our purpose here is not to tell the audience what the res of the night's story is about, but rather to establish Tyler's character. Unlike Tony, who just complains about everything, he takes responsibility and declares his loyalty towards the country.

"I can not stand this anymore
We must find a way to end this strife
Our fathers brought us this democracy
I must protect it with my own life"

Now we are getting into the real conflict. We have established Tyler as a strong character. Now we have Tony swearing at him and telling him what he thinks of him. He obviously have no love for Tyler, whom he regards as a little brat.

"Tyler you big mouth and brainless fool
You do not know what is going on
and you think you are the one
but you are really not so cool"

Then Tony continues to tell us how negative he is. Unlike Tyler, who takes responsibility, Tony just moans and blames everybody else.

"and it is not safe to walk the streets
The filth is lying all around our feet
This town is lying in the ditch
Politicians are getting rich"

Now we have Tony continuing and telling us some more about Tyler's father. In the opening song we have already talked about him as the hero. Now we have Tony's viewpoint.

"Your father left you in this strife
and made a run for his life
and you will follow in his trail
In your life you will fail"

This is totally the opposite from what Pamela told us about Tyler's father. This confirms Tony as a negative slob, but also confirms that he is in conflict with everybody else, i.e. Tyler, Pamela and Tyler's father. Some of you would be able to see now how we are setting up an important plot element here.

Next we have Tyler again. He is now angry:

"I can not stand this anymore"

He is tells Tony that he is hurt by those words.

"Your tongue is cutting like a knife"

Then we have him giving us HIS view on his father. We now have hinted about Tyler's father a few times. We have done this through giving three different viewpoints about this man. By now we have also hinted clearly to who the exile is. After all. This is a story about an exile and we want to know more about him.

"I know my father left me on my own
to break out and find a better life"

In the last verse we are developing a plot point further. Tyler is angry. He is telling Tony that he will fight back. This is also moving the story line further. Musical writers talks about the "I am" and "I want" songs. here we have opted for the "I am" by developing the characters through the song. Now we establish the "I want" clearly. Tyler wants to get rid of Tony! This is what the rest of the night is all about.

"One day you'll fall
There shall be no one to share your load
or cry a tear for you
as your blood flows down the road"

In the nest song we will go into the backstory of the song. Who is this man we are talking about. Why did he leave us? Where did he left us to?

Untill next song!


Freedom day

Track: Freedom Day

(Click song name to listen on soundloud)

Album: The Exile, concept album recording
Artist: Eric Swardt

The opening song for the musical, The Exile, is Freedom day. This song is also the first song on the concept album, now available from CDBaby.

This song is a 'scene setter'. In a musical you want to set the scene as soon as possible. The idea is to introduce your audience to the basics of the show. In what time is the play? Where are we? Who are the people.

This song sets the time for the show firmly ten years after the first democratic elections. It sets the place as South Africa. It introduce the audience to the first important characters, i.e. Tyler, Anthony, Pamela and Melissa.

When the song starts with an instrumental section, Pamela invites her friends into her house. It is a simple, small government sponsored economic housing scheme house. The occasion is the Freedom day celebrations. South Africa had the first democratic elections and the people are now getting used to being free. Not only are we celebrating democracy, but we are also paying specific tribute to the people who sacrificed their lives to bring us the democracy.

The first three verses tells us that we are having freedom day celebrations:
"We are gathered here as free men
to remember the war
We celebrate those who fought
to set us free

We are gathered here as free men
to celebrate freedom day
Our country was set free
ten years ago

We are free, free to go
We are free and live as one
Now we stand as a nation united
so we'll remain, united and free"

These are typical "company numbers", ie. the whole ensemble sings together in a sing-along fashion.

In the 4th verse Pamela introduces us to Tyler, her son. She gives us the first hint what the story is all about.

"Son you have the blood of a hero
running through the veins of your heart
In these footsteps one day you will follow
In our future you will play your part"

Tyler's father is a hero and she believes that Tyler will stand up to the legacy and follow in the footsteps of the great man. She hints to the plot of the story by telling him that he is likely to change their destiny.

While everybody is happy for the democracy, not everything is as rosy as they wanted it to be. Ten years have gone by and people have not magically became rich. Even though democracy has made political life easy in South Africa, it has not yet created enough jobs. There are more than 5 million unemployed people in South Africa. Democracy is fine for the 1 million who did get jobs, but the others have not seen any benefits from democracy yet. We are introduced to one of them, Anthony:

"And now we stand as a nation free
free to live in poverty
What did we get from democracy
Why don't I feel so free"

Clearly Anthony is not feeling all that happy. Democracy did not give him what he expected. We are only hinting to it for now. The next song will tell us much more about Anthony.

While Anthony is trying to put water on the fire, the rest of the company is trying to ignore him.

"We are free, free to go
We are free and live as one
Now we stand as a nation united
So we'll remain, united and free"

This verse is a repeat of the second verse. In pop music we often see sections being repeated. We usually call it the chorus. In musicals we often get the chorus as well. In many modern musicals we have however done away with the verse, chorus format for a song.

Greats like Lloyd-Webber and Sondheim, who established the modern "mega-musical" concept rarely repeats sections in their songs or have choruses. The reason for this is simple. In a musical we want to move the story forward. Repeating a verse or chorus is not moving forward. It is repeating.

Then, why are we repeating a verse here?

The answer is simple. By repeating this verse, we are moving the story forward. Makes sense? Let me explain. We have already established the happy democracy feeling of the crowd. Ten we want to tell you about the minority who are disillusioned. We however do not want to establish this play as a political play about the problems of the new South Africa. By repeating this verse, the crown is dismissing Antony's complaints. They are here today to celebrate freedom and not complain about it.

Are we however trying to say everything is rosy? No. Everything is not rosy. People do have a lot to complain abut. That is exactly what we will be discussing in the next verse.

Until next time.


Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Concept album recording

What better news can we have for the new year?

The Exile, the Musical is taking a huge step in the first month of 2013. The concept album will be released on CDBaby, Amazon.com, iTunes and many more on the 14th of January 2013.

You can buy this CD as mp3 download, or order a physical copy from CD Baby.

Visit our new web site at www.dog-on-blues.com