South African Reggae Ambassador Andy Kasrils
Walking through Melville with Andy ‘Admiral’ Kasrils is like walking with a legend in his own right. People recognise the multi-faceted man from all angles.
If the name Kasrils rings a bell it’s because Andy is the son of anti-apartheid struggle veterans Ronnie and Eleanor Kasrils. His family, ANC exiles, left South Africa for the United Kingdom in the 1960’s and didn’t return until 1994 when his father accepted the position of Deputy Minister of Defence in Nelson Mandela’s government.
“It was magical; there was this energy that I’ve never felt before,” explained Kasrils on moving to South Africa. “This feeling of liberation amongst young people that anything could happen for anyone,” he said.
Kasrils would become one of the dancehall reggae pioneers in Johannesburg as part of the duo Jah Seed and Admiral. He was also key in the production of popular SABC1 talk show, the Phat Joe Show, which was shot on 4th Avenue in Melville from 2001-2004.
“The Phat Joe show was culturally significant because it was the first hype youth talk show on TV post-1994. Its viewership stretched well beyond its Generation Y demographic, everyone watched it.
“Filming in Melville was a lot of fun,” he said, “the Melville Koppies were often used as a location for our war movie skits, much to the surprise of local dog walkers. At first some locals didn’t like our revamped building and its mural [on 4th Avenue] but I think it grew on everyone.”
The one constant about Melville is that it has always attracted music lovers, foodies and artists.
“A lot of my friends from Yeoville had ‘emigrated’ to Melville in the 2000’s so there was a fresh buzz to the area. I have been coming here since the early 90’s, there have been a few phases to it but it’s always had good places to eat. I used to hang out at The Bassline in Melville, so it was fitting that when Bassline moved to Newtown, Jahseed and I would host our Thursday Reggae night there.”