The next installment in the international spins and suds series, a space dedicated to the global community of vinyl and craft beer lovers, covers the African country, Namibia. Namibia is nestled close to Africa’s southern tip, north of South Africa and west of Botswana. The driest country in sub-Saharan Africa is distinguished by the Namib Desert dominating its Atlantic Ocean coast and is home to wildlife like cheetah, rhinos and giraffe.
The country’s also known for its beer and has the highest per capita consumption of alcohol from beer in Africa (97%) – now that’s a fun fact! That stat shouldn’t be too surprising for one obvious reason – hot desert days pair well with cold frothy brews, and for one less obvious reason – freedom from German rule has led to a transformation heavily influenced by beer.
As reported in a national publication, The Namibian, when German South West Africa was formally established in 1884, a growing number of Germans and other European settlers found their way to the south-western coast of Africa. Beer drinking was a common leisure activity in the early days of the German Protectorate as represented by one-third of all its business licenses involving alcohol and Namibia’s capital city, Windhoek, having one bar for every 41 settlers.
It’s also important to note that the Namibian government had a special interest in alcohol or in this case beer, as governments often do, because of tax revenue, but in this case, politics played a key role too. Since so many people drank beer in Namibia, the South African apartheid state decided to use alcohol as a political instrument and legislated a prohibition restricting indigenous people from drinking; however, the racist liquor law was difficult to maintain, which led to many indigenous people brewing beers at home. In a failed attempt to control bootlegged beer in the 1950s, local authorities conducted raids to demolish home-brewing installations throughout the country. The oppressive ruling government’s efforts to control the nation’s blossoming beer scene proved futile and in 1969, the liquor law was repealed making beer available for everyone. The rest is history as Namibians rejoiced, continued to brew, and drank locally crafted beer to celebrate.
Despite the hurdles along the way, without question, Namibians still love their beer and should be proud of what their now independent nation has become – a beer country! To highlight some of Namibia’s, here are some of their best-known microbreweries.
Camelthorn Brewing Company, named after the curious and majestic tree Vachellia erioloba, better known as camelthorn trees, started in 2009 when the first brew was produced in Namibia’s capital city, Windhoek with a focus on high quality beer true to the traditional styles. This translates to Camelthorn having a steady dose of European classics on tap like lagers, Weiss beers and strong flavored, heavily malted bocks.
Next up is the largest independent craft brewery in Namibia called, Namib Dunes Craft Brewery, which opened in 2017 thanks to owners Du Preez Calitz and Andre Genis. Like many other craft beer brethren, the two got their start brewing in a garage, which started out as experimental but quickly translated into a blossoming brewery. Check out this audio interview with Calitz to learn more about their story.
As for Namibian music, prior to writing this article, I wasn’t familiar with any artists from Namibia nor do I own any vinyl from the country, but thanks to a little research, I know more and am better for it. Zamibian music is eclectic and has influences from various genres like kwaito, folk, rock, rhythm and blues, hip-hop and reggae. A wonderful Namibian reggae artist is named, Ras Sheehama who hasn’t produced any music on vinyl yet as far as I can tell, but maybe this shoutout will convince him to go analog on a future release.
Another impressive and well-established Namibian musician is Lazarus Shiimi who’s better known as Gazza. He’s one the country’s most commercially successful artists and mixes kwaito, dancehall, reggae and hip-hop into a unique sound. His albums and lyrics revolve around local communities and are popular with young and old people alike. Gazza’s won over 30 music awards and he’s now owns a record label. Check out Gazza’s catchy single, Chelete to get a better sense of his warm vibe.
As for Namibian vinyl, the pickings appear to be slim. The most widely circulated vinyl record from the country appears to be Onyeka The Torch – Namibia Will Be Free, which was produced and distributed by the International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa. Given that Namibia’s craft beer scene has expanded exponentially in such a short period of time, perhaps there’s hope for a vinyl boom in this well-kept South African gem too. One can hope. Either way, well done Namibia!