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Interview: Coenie de Villiers

2011-03-17 08:45
I am going to interview Coenie de Villiers... I am going to interview Coenie de Villiers... I am going to interview Coenie de Villiers. How does that saying go? If you repeat it long enough you’ll start believing it. Well, in this case I had to face the music, literally, and as a starved musician this was just the fix I needed.

To most of you, Coenie de Villiers is synonymous with the kykNET TV show Kwêla , which is natural seeing that he has presented the show for the last 13 years. But those of you who are familiar with songs like Karoonag and Namakwaland will know that Coenie de Villiers is first and foremost one of South Africa’s most accomplished singers and songwriters.

So I was on my way to D’Aria wine estate to see Coenie de Villiers perform with Afrikaans band Die Heuwels Fantasties at their CD launch. Say what? Yes, you heard right. Coenie and Heuwels in one sentence. Very intriguing indeed. So how, when and where?

Well, Coenie says he listens to a wide range of music and in the process he also got to hear Heuwels. "I really liked what I heard, I'm a big Heuwels fan, I think they're amazing and I then asked them if I could cover their song Tambotieboom in my shows, but we didn't know each other yet, and they said 'yes you can play it.'"

Coenie with the leadsinger from Die Heweuls Fantasties, Pierre Greeff, at their CD launch.

No newbie

Naturally, Coenie then invited Die Heuwels to appear on Kwêla which led to the inevitable question: "Dude, wil jy 'n colab doen?" And the answer? "Yes, that will be very nice." After some writing time, recording time and travelling time... Wonder Bo Wonder was born.

Interruption. Coenie gets harassed by fans to sign their CDs. Well, not really harassed, because Coenie is just the nicest person, so moving on...

Accompanying Coenie and Die Heuwels Fantasties live on stage was the amazing Solms-Delta choir from the Solms-Delta wine estate, which added to the song's charisma. The song felt very relatable. Coenie explained: "The song is basically about relationships, because everyone struggles with relationships at some point in their life and every time you think it's going to work, it tumbles to the ground. You get to a point where you have so many scars, that you think 'I am finished now', and then you meet someone that makes you believe again."

Having recorded with rock chick Karen Zoid and Cape Flats rappers Brasse Vannie Kaap, Coenie is no newbie when it comes to collaborations across different genres. Other bands he would still love to work with include Fokofpolisiekar, aKing and "there are many black artists who are very exciting, like Jeff Maluleke, Judith Sephuma, I know her well, so hopefully something will happen".

Another interruption. As I'm looking at more fans talking to Coenie and asking for his autograph I just realise again that the way an artist treats his or her fans is such an important element of being in the public eye. I mean let's face it, who wants to be nice to people all the time? Popular musicians unfortunately don't have a choice.

Die Heuwels Fanasties on stage with the Solms-Delta choir.

'There was nothing'

In the 1980s Coenie lived in Cyprus and all of his first albums were banned by the SABC. A controversial move perhaps, but Coenie explains: "I didn't think it was very controversial, the apartheid regime apparently thought it was controversial, and they play-banned me. I also thought that I'm not going to let people tell me who to play with, I didn't really try to make a big political statement, I just thought, I will say what I want to and I won't let people tell me who to perform with. And I still feel that way."

Coenie was already making music before the Koos Kombuis and Johannes Kerkorrel Voëlvry tour days, when according to him "there was nothing. We did a show at the market theatre, Koos du Plessis, me, Laurika Rauch, Mynie Grove, and then we had sold 10 tickets, and we thought "It's amazing!" 10 tickets sold. Now, 32 years later, to see this, in Afrikaans, is absolutely amazing, and people think this is how it is, but there was a time when there was absolutely nothing."

Coenie is busy with a new album which will featureWonder Bo Wonder as well as a second version of the song. Coenie elaborates: "I’m going to use the same vocal track, the vocal recording, chorus, Hunter, Pierre, but I'm going to do a different mix underneath that. So it's going to be Heuwels mix and my mix, but I don't know what it's going to be yet."

Recording in Cape Town with award-winning Murray Anderson at Milestone Music, the new album will be finished in June. Coenie is very excited to be working with arranger Jeremy Lubbock for the very first time. Jeremy has won three Grammy Awards and has worked with Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Celine Dion.

"Jeremy wrote two  beautiful songs for me, I wrote the lyrics and he wrote the music. And we are recording with a full philharmonic orchestra, so I'm broke!"

It's hard to believe that TV presenting and music are just hobbies for Coenie. For his day job he's a marketing director of a company and wears a suit to work everyday. Wow - respect. Having given up music for the last 15 months after being a full time musician for four years, I was left inspired, to say the least.

Starting a band, baby... starting a band... well, again.

*Jean-Marie Korff was once the milky part in Afrikaans band Die Melktert Kommissie. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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