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Steve Hofmeyr interviewed

2009-05-05 13:58
Steve Hofmeyr

From bars in Pretoria to nationwide success, with audiences all over the world and straight-to-platinum sales, Steve is our platinum blonde, a national icon who rubs shoulders with politicians and sports heroes (and to the tabloids' delight, a few other parts of his body with certain others.)

How did he make his big break happen?

Well, he says, "I suppose I knew from the very start that I wasn't going to win over hearts and souls because of my musicianship. I'm not really a great musician. But I'm a fair one. And I learned the other thing."
The other thing? Steve explains that his argument with arts and movie festivals lies in their claims to be about "Entertainment". He explains that he always asks himself the same question: "Was I entertained? Did I forget time passing in that hour?"

Backtrack to many years ago, a bar in Pretoria, now Tshwane, and picture Steve singing cover versions in a bar.  Except nobody is listening to him. Being Steve, he takes action:

"I was singing Roger Whittaker songs in Sunnyside and some tables were full, and I took my last money, and I got two six-packs of beers. I put them next to me, I cranked up the volume and announced that I'm going to have a competition table against table and the winning table will win twelve beers. You know in those days Sunnyside was like Hatfield; there were just 1000s of students and you just saw dislocated necks as they all like SWUNG." Steve nearly dislocates his neck demonstrating and laughing.

"24 BEERS! And that's how it started. Raw competition. Violently under-the-belt competition."

Well he may not be able to count to 24, but Steve's ingenuity got him the job inside the venue, playing with people like Neil Solomon and the Passengers. Steve adds: "I don't know where they went…" Well we all know where Steve went, and that's to the top of the charts. But he doesn't reckon that's down to his musicianship. He says he did more or less the same thing as everyone else, with one crucial difference: "We entertained. And it started with 24 Beers."

That's why he sings Die Blou Bulle at arts festivals. "Because these things can't run without people." Because "…it's always so liberating to sing 'Die Blou Bulle' at an arts festival. Not typically modest, Steve adds that he could have the audience, arts festival or not.

So moving on to politics, we ask Steve about the recent Jacob Zuma, SABS-approved Afrikaner-is-now-black saga - what's his reaction?

"I kind of like Zuma under four eyes*. I like his charming character. I like when he relaxes and him and I share women problems. We both seem to have a lot of them of course. But it doesn't mean I like any of his policies. And just as I will not ask a white man to make me qualify as an Afrikaaner, I will not wait for a black man to make me qualify as a South African. It'll never happen."

So what is it about the FAK, and AK people, whoever they are, that actually makes them want that kind of authority and verification from somebody like Zuma?

"Well there's a lot of spiritual, national, patriotic dissolution out there in the heart of the Afrikaaner, so we are clinging to our groups. We are very active groups out there. If you take Solidarity, they should be a party, they are so active. I suppose… I suppose… I don't know how different people absorb the marginalisation. But it does seem that if you can get a single black man to stand up and say something singularly positive about the Afrikaner we all fall over backwards. Because we've got - we call it in Afrikaans "'n verginning". We've had nothing! 'Please don't change this name' Pwoah!  Please don't change this street name' Pwoah! 'Please don’t change that monument'… We've had NOTHING. I go to Freedom Park and I say 'can I have some of the people who died with me on the walls, who died for their country. Immaterial of ideologies. I mean the Cubans are up there, for fuckssakes. Can the guys who died with me on the border not be up there too?'"

Steve laughs at his own outburst as he shrugs and says, "So when Zuma says something nice, I can see why all the Afrikaners will do a back summersault. But please, if I can tell Afrikaners now, don't ever fall for the trick that you have to be welcomed in the place of your birth. That's ridiculous. Hey that counts for the English people, the Greeks, the Germans. Everybody… I'm not going to fall for that either. "

What, so Steve believes the losing side can be on a wall, celebrating the battle for freedom? Don't the victors write history?

"The important thing is not that. The important thing is that if you say we're going to put up a wall here of all the people who died for this country, immaterial of ideology, remember that the communists are on that wall and today we can hardly find a communist in the government. They're all Pooh! just gone. They jumped the boat of communism, SWAM to capitalism, and today when we ask "where's a communist", they just don't exist anymore. But they're on the wall. The Anglo-Boer War people are on the wall there. But our 20 years of people who didn't think of killing blacks … whatever. My reason was anti-communism. I really bought that. My reason for wanting their names up there is not because white people wanted to kill black people. White people stood up and fought for a country that called them to do so. Not everybody sits down and studied political philosophy and tried to work out who's right and wrong, you know. I want that distinction clarified and for that our names should be up there."

But shouldn't people question politics? Aren't they responsible for who they fight? Well, Steve says, "The propaganda was good. We are proof that it worked. I was dead sure I had to kill SWAPO. I didn't know about the ANC. They were banned. I had to kill SWAPO. Ironically, four years after the army, I toured Namibia and sang "Laaste Lag" with kids sitting in front, with SWAPO t-shirts on, knowing the words. I was like standing there going 'Must I shoot you, or must I write you another song?'

So that's our headline for Huisgenoot: "Steve says, must I shoot you?".

At this point, Steve spots Amanda Strydom, next to perform in the ABSA venue, arriving to set up, and shouts across the seating to her: "And I haven't had sex with Amanda Strydom!"

"Helloo!" Amanda shouts back mock-seductively.

"Ek maak gou a lys van al die mense met wie ek seks gehad het en jy's nie op hom nie."

"Ek's veel dankbaar!"

"Jy's fokken jammer!" teases Steve, laughing and chilling back down for the next question. "Ek maak mooi kinders!"

For the rest of the interview, including what Steve had to say about Koos Kombuis and other fellow-musicians he might like to shoot sometime, the media, and what it's like to date after divorce, watch the video.

For more on onse Hof, who he is, and what makes him the massive success that he's become, read this feature titled "Truth Teller"

Check out a photo gallery of the live show

Watch Steve in this live video

Buy Steve's book - 
Mense van my Asem - on Kalahari.net

* "Under four eyes": For the souties and uitlanders out there, this means "for serious one-on-one discussions." It's a direct translation from one of those idiomatic Afrikaans expressions that baffled you in highschool.

Interviewing Steve Hofmeyr isn't nearly as dangerous as some journalists would have you believe. Chris Roper asked the questions while we shot video - and everybody left there dry and unharmed. But Steve had so much to say that we've written up this interview, and included a short video of the highlights pertaining to his musical career and love life.

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