Born in Worcester in 1951, he matriculated at Worcester Boys High School and received a bursary to study textile design at Leeds University , UK where he graduated with an Honours degree in 1974.
He began his music career as a singer/songwriter, performing at folk clubs and campus concerts across South Africa in the mid 1970’s, singing satrirical songs.
Releasing his first album BAKGAT! in 1980, which was immediately banned in its entirety by the SABC because of it’s political satire, the use of coarse language and the mixing of languages. David pioneered the use of Cape Afrikaans and South African English in his lyrics, sometimes switching between the languages in the same song. He focussed on small town South Africa and employed a gritty realism and dark satire to tell his stories and describe his characters.
In his stage performances he portrayed himself as a rural everyman who travelled the dusty roads of small town South Africa with an old bicycle and a cheap guitar. He sang in the Boland patois of his youth and told stories and sang songs in both English and Afrikaans.
He rocketed into the public eye with a number 1 hit, BLOKKIES JOUBERT a portrait of a has-been Springbok rugby player, closely followed by another huge Top Ten hit, ROYAL HOTEL. Many hits were to follow. MONTAGU, BOGGEM EN VOERTSEK, BUDGIE, MATCHBOX FULL OF DIAMONDS, DRUK MY VAS, STOKSIELALLEEN, HANNE, MEISIE SONNER SOKKIES and the hugely popular SO LONG SKIPSKOP which tells the story of forced removals from a fishing village in the Cape. Most of his album releases have gone gold and the six musicals he has written along with Taliep Petersen over the past 18 years have all been enormous box office successes.
In 1983 David was contracted by Volkswagen South Africa to link his idiosyncratic South African image to their microbus. This was the beginning of a television and print campaign that won the hearts of South Africans, made David Kramer into a household name and was to continue for the next thirteen years. Probably the longest running celebrity endorsement this country has seen.
In 1986 Taliep Petersen and David began collaborating on their first musical project called DISTRICT SIX. It was produced by the Baxter Theatre and Renaye Kramer and opened in April 1987. This production was to prove to be another milestone in David's writing career.
In 1990 David collaborated with Paul Slabolepszy in THE EYES OF THEIR WHITES, a portrait of the right wing psyche in South Africa. It was directed by Bobby Heaney. In this production Kramer performed many of his songs including Going Away, Mambas in the Gutters, Driver Driver and Suburban Dream. They performed to critical acclaim on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and it was filmed by the BBC.
In 1990 he and Renaye Kramer became partners in an entertainment complex housed in a historic building in Cape Town’s Waterfront development. Here they opened the DOCK RD THEATRE. Ninety percent of the work staged during the six years of its existence was original South African writing and this vision was pursued without any state subsidy or grant.
FAIRYLAND was the first musical production to be staged at the Dock Rd Theatre. It won the FNB Vita Award for Best Musical and played to capacity houses all over South Africa. More than a 1000 performances and three and a half years later it closed in Cape Town.
While Fairyland was running David and Taliep wrote a musical called POISON which tackled the serious social problems of gangsterism and drug abuse on the Cape Flats. In a more light-hearted vein David and Taliep also wrote a musical about the singers of District Six that impersonated famous Americans, called CROONERS.
KAT AND THE KINGS was the next winner. In 1997 it was invited to the Tricycle Theatre in London and then transferred to the West End where it won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical. It opened at the Cort Theatre on Broadway in 1999 and was nominated for three Drama Desk Awards and a Drama League Award. This was the first musical from Cape Town to be staged on the West End and Broadway. One of the many highlights for David was having then President Mandela attend a performance while they were on the West End.
In 1999 David received an award from the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees called Afrikaans Onbeperk, awarded annually to someone who has made a significant contribution to the Afrikaans language.
In 2001, Kramer presented a small show at the KKNK, called Karoo Kitaar Blues. It was a concert presenting the eccentric guitar styles of the Karoo - unique finger-picking and tunings of a marginalised people who live in isolated and impoverished areas and play the “ou liedjies”. This show has now been seen all over South Africa, where it has been performed to sold out houses in every venue. A live CD of the performance has been recorded and the show was awarded 2 FNB Vita Awards. A 90 minute documentary directed by Liza Key about these musicians and David's work with them has been made and has been shown at film festivals in Europe, the UK and the USA. KAROO KITAAR BLUES recently won the Golden Reel Award for Best Musical Documentary at the 2006 Tiburon International Film Festival in California. It has now been released on DVD.
David has written an Afrikaans musical, DIE BALLADE VAN KOOS SAS, which explores the trade in “Bushmen” skeletons during the early 1900’s, and won the De Kat Herrie Award at the KKNK festival for this production.
He has worked with the very popular stand-up comedian Marc Lottering for a number of years, having directed 3 of his shows: From the Cape Flats with Love, Big Stakes and Slap Chips and most recently HALLELUJAH!.
The CD HUISTOE was recorded in 2005 and is essentially about roots music
that has evolved in the dry and desolate areas of the Karoo. It also explores the lives and history of people that live there.
He received a GMT Lifelong Achievement Award in 2005 for his contribution to Afrikaans music. He has also been honoured by SARRAL (South African Recording Artists Assoc. Ltd) and entered in their Composers Hall of Fame.
GHOEMA was his last collaboration with Taliep Petersen in which they explored early South African history and celebrated the musical heritage of the Cape. It was written and directed by Kramer, with musical direction by Taliep Petersen. The production was nominated for 7 Fleur du Cap awards . David won for Best Set Design and shared the award for Best Lighting Design with Gert du Preez. At the 2007 NALEDI Awards in Johannesburg, GHOEMA won 3 Naledi's: Best Production of a Musical, Best Choreography (Loukmaan Adams) and Best Musical Direction (Taliep Petersen)
As a tribute to his 20 year partnership with Taliep Petersen, and to honour his memory, a production called the Kramer Petersen Songbook was staged at the Baxter Theatre for the Dec/Jan summer season and ran to sold out houses from the very first performance.
In Dec 2007 David was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Cape Town.
In January 2008 David was able to restage Ballade van Koos Sas as a full scale musical. This was as a result of it being commissioned by the Suidoosterfees which takes place annually in Cape Town. David won the Suidoosterfees Skouerklop award at the festival for his work on this production.
In March 2008 David performed concerts at the KKNK to launch his CD Hemel & Aarde and received a KANNA award for Best Contemporary Music Performance.
In the summer of 2008/2009 David directed Marc Lottering, Nik Rabinowitz and Riaad Moosa in
3 WISE MEN at the Baxter Theatre. A mix of stand up comedy and sketches created specifically for this production,
it included a 4 piece band headed by saxophonist Don-veno Prins.
In 2009 he performed 10 STORIES at the Woordfees in Stellenbosch and BALLADE VAN KOOS SAS at the KKNK
festival in Oudtshoorn, before it transferred to the Tricycle Theatre in London, where it became the first Afrikaans musical
to be performed in that city.
A follow-up to the success of 3 Wise Men was presented at the Baxter Theatre in 2009/10 starring the same
3 comedians, this time called 3 WISER MEN.
In January 2010 David directed the Adam Small play, KRISMIS VAN MAP JACOBS for the Suidoosterfees held annually at Artscape Theatre
in Cape Town.
He received the ATKV Woordveertjie Prestigetoekenning, as well as an award from the Innibos Festival "vir sy besondere bydrae tot die
The LIVE CONCERT of KAROO KITAAR BLUES, recorded in 2003 at the Baxter Theatre was released on DVD for the first time.
DAVID KRAMER'S BREYANI was staged in the Baxter Concert Hall in December 2010. Earlier in 2010 he received a KANNA award from the KKNK
for his Exceptional Contribution to a Contemporary Music Production for this concert.