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Visit the active LitNet platform at www.litnet.co.za

Menings | Opinion > Rubrieke | Columns > Afrikaans > Anton Goosen: Met liefde ... van die Liedjieboer

Oor Idols, 'De la Rey' en deesdae se jong rockers ...

Anton Goosen - 2009-05-26

Anton Goosen het hierdie toespraak gelewer tydens die opening van Rondebosch Boys' High se Afrikaans-week in Mei 2009. Op die foto regs verskyn hy saam met Adriaan Louw, voorsitter van RBHS se Afrikaans-klub, AFRRO.

In May 2009 Anton Goosen delivered this opening address during Rondebosch Boys' High's Afrikaans Week. In the photo, Goosen appears with Adriaan Louw, chairman of RBHS's Afrikaans club, AFRRO.


Good Morning

Or rather, in more appropriate Mzansi-speak: Hello! Heita! How are you! Kunjani, Lekai, Goeiemôre ...

It is a privilege to have the opportunity to speak to you this morning about the language in which I not only communicate, but in which I think and dream and express my music.

As South Africans we are in the fortunate position of living in a multicultural, multilingual society where diversity is a natural part of our everyday lives.

It never crossed my mind that this is not how things are everywhere else in the world until recently when an American I met expressed his awe at the fact that most South Africans speak more than one language. In America, he said, it is a big deal to know more than just one language - and some of them cannot even speak one language properly - whereas here it is an everyday thing and that is the thing that impressed him most about the people of this country.

And it's true. We assume multilingualism to be the order of the day and the fact is that we are lucky to be able to make such an assumption.

The basic premise of Ubuntu is that we are who we are because of the people around us. We derive our character from one another and therefore we need to embrace not only that which we have in common, but also that which distinguishes us from one another.

That is why I am amazed and grateful to find an English-medium school celebrating Afrikaans.

Die taal wat ons praat, is in die eerste plek 'n kommunikasiemedium, maar dit is ook een van die elemente wat ons kulturele identiteit beklemtoon. Dit is ons keuse of ons dit wil beskou as 'n verdelende faktor wat skanse tussen ons bou, en of ons dit wil omarm as deel van ons nasie se unieke, kleurvolle karakter.

Ek is in die bevoorregte posisie om van tyd tot tyd die geleentheid te kry om saam met kunstenaars van ander kulturele agtergrond as ek op te tree. En sonder uitsondering het ek elke keer beleef dat ons gretig is om mekaar se manier van doen te leer ken en was ek verras om uit te vind dat mense soos Vusi Mahlasela, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, wyle Gito Baloi en Lucky Dube, Isaac Mtshali en andere wat in my bands gespeel het, net so gretig was om in my taal te sing as ek in hulle s'n. En dit is wat maak dat ek weet niks gaan ons onderkry in hierdie land nie.

I am a musician. I don't really know where Afrikaans culture or the taal or the art of the Afrikaner is heading ... I can only speak about Afrikaans music over the past three decades.

More than three decades ago, Afrikaans music consisted mostly of oompah tunes imported from Europe with badly translated lyrics churned out for an unsophisticated audience. Afrikaans singers could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Mediocrity and indifference about quality and the advancement of original music in our mother tongue was the norm.

Everything changed in 1979 when the Musiek en Liriek movement shifted to quality lyrics. This movement was also referred to as New Wave Afrikaans music, and it was initially driven by a series of programmes, directed by Merwede van der Merwe, which promoted original Afrikaans music on television. It involved not only Afrikaans musicians and songwriters, but also prominent Afrikaans poets and writers.

The movement marked the start of a new era. Some people embraced it and some were threatened by it - as is always the case when change rattles the cages of comfort we tend to imprison ourselves in.

Musiek en Liriek changed a lot of things. As more and more artists started recording authentic material, it certainly educated the traditional audience that Afrikaans music consisted of more than oompah oompah oompah. In retrospect, however, I think that while it opened the door for modern progressive indigenous music, it could have been more than it eventually became.

The impact would have been stronger had it not been for constraints imposed on artists by the political dynamics of that era. It was the heyday of apartheid and the height of the so-called total onslaught; and everything that did not conform to the status quo and the norm dictated by the authorities was seen as subversive.

Several of my and my fellow artists' songs were branded as undesirable and consequently banned from the airwaves. Not being able to be heard on radio made it difficult for a professional musician to build the audience one needs to make a living. But there comes a point where principles cannot be negotiated. We scavenged for what gigs so-called "subversitives" like us could land and somehow we made it.

I was lucky to be spared the need to compromise my music for the sake of making a living. But many were not. There were compromises, understandably, and it cost the Afrikaans music industry dearly. The price of that repression can only be truly calculated now - in hindsight.

Afrikaans music lost a lot of potential and momentum because of the stifled voices of some of its best artists. But through it all, and especially during the protest era of the eighties, Afrikaans music managed to gain some self-respect and a decent reputation.

Now, over the past few years, another challenge has been rearing its head.

Commercialism and instant media-driven trash music is flooding our business and quality is bending its knee to an artificially created popular demand as moneymongers manipulate the industry to fill their coffers at the expense of the music and its legitimate artists.

We still have progressive music in Afrikaans, but the commercial media-driven side of Afrikaans music has grown immensely since the early eighties, and especially since the inception of reality programmes such as Idols with its string of mostly one- year wonders it is threatening to eclipse quality fare in music - not only Afrikaans music, but music in general. The Afrikaans music industry is just more vulnerable because its audience is smaller.

What is happening here is very similar to what happened to the so-called Big Brother stars, where the only real famous one after all these years is Ferdinand Rabie. He has a nice personality and possesses leadership qualities, but is really remembered for using the garden as a toilet!

On the musical side we witnessed a fiasco a few weekends ago with Idols when electronic votes that didn't arrive, undermined the selection of a legitimate winner ... but in the long run it doesn't really matter.

The point is that, in spite of the whole bruhaha and all the drama about there being two winners now, by next year the majority of people will probably have forgotten who they were anyway. The media, however, will still be satisfied with the number of sms voters whose spent airtime is undoubtedly divided amongst the commercial stakeholders, and the fact that they can repeat the entire exercise next year, and thereafter still make a fat wad of money.

They never stop to think what damage is done by this artificial elevation of a forgettable wannabe into a legitimate "artist". The thing is that a collective of quality artists who consistently deliver quality musical art cultivate an audience who learn to demand high standards. When you contaminate this process with something such as Idols, where most of the entertainment lies in the drama of a competition, the focus is not on quality or, for that matter, even really on the music.

Our music also suffers from the tendency by people with other interests using it to manipulate the audience for reasons that have nothing to do with art and music.

A good example of this is the media hype around the popular song "De la Rey". Here we have a Boer War general from more than a hundred years ago being sung about and a mesmerised audience of thousands with right hands folded over their chests, waiting for a leader that will lead them out of the wilderness they believe themselves to be in. And I have encountered people in towns all over this country thinking just that: that a leader will come to save them - because of one song with a very catchy tune and emotionally loaded and manipulative lyrics.

Last, but certainly not least, are the sokkie-sokkie boude-stamp albums singing about some meisie on a plaas holding a boy's hand in a cornfield or something. It is a mindless culture of meaningless entertainment - usually in cheap drinking-dancing places where "wys my jou muis, dan breek ons die ys" is the order of the day.

I am not saying that entertainers should only produce music for the audience to chew their wrists to, but it as if the entire Afrikaans audience has given up hope and have gone for the instant "I am in denial of my brain" vibe.

On the other hand, we have the MK TV channel where an incredible number of new Afrikaans rock bands are featured. And producing rock in any language can never be a bad thing. The problem here is probably musicality: the majority of them sound the same and by the time the chorus is reached, "angst" sets in. And the tuning is often optional.

If you want to be a musician, you should be able to play an instrument. The number of real musicians that can really play an instrument and compose an original song are few and far between and to boot are dwarfed by media hype which elevates the commercially packaged inferior artists into legitimate ones.

In the words of Daantjie Badenhorst: "Nee wat; ek glo dat dit tyd geword het om van Idols ontslae te raak. Daar is net een manier om tot die musiekbedryf toe te tree: jare se harde werk, wat gepaard gaan met optredes in vuil kroeë, en demo-opnames wat deur platemaatskappye verwerp word. As jy deur dit alles vasbyt en voortgaan om te sing, dan en dan alleen hoort jy in die musiekbedryf. Daar is buitendien soveel kunstenaars in die bedryf dat net die sterkstes sal oorleef."

Dis waar woorde, maar die magtige media help nie hier nie, en nog minder die sogenaamde kultuurverenigings.

Dit word aan die ware kunstenaar self oorgelaat om, gewapen met net sy of haar talent, in hierdie massiewe mammon-georiënteerde bedryf ʼn impak te maak. En dit maak dit merkwaardig wanneer werklike talent wel seëvier, en dan kry ek ook hoop, hoop vir die soetste taal.

Want Afrikaans, die soetste taal, is lank reeds bevry van die kettings wat hom vasgebind het. Daardie fight het ons gefight in die sewentigs en die tagtigs.

As ons ooit ʼn singende nasie soos die Iere gaan wees, sal die kommersiële gewin wat uit Afrikaanse musiek gemaak word, en gemaak kan word, eenkant geskuif moet word, en sal ons moet leer om musiek eerstens te maak omdat dit ons passie in ons eie taal is, en eers daarná te kyk na die kommersiële moontlikhede. En nie andersom nie.

Afrikaans is die enigste Europese taal wat uit Afrika gebore is, en dit is waar die respek en liefde moet lê: by Afrika en Suid-Afrika, en nie by ʼn nabootsing van die blink Amerikaanse glans nie. En sekerlik hoef ons nie na die boude-stamp of iemand soos Shane se rassistiese verwysings neer te daal nie.

Daarvoor kan Afrikaners gerus weer plesierig word - maar, soos Ierland, op ʼn wyse waarop die nageslag trots kan voortbou.

In Ierland sing almal: die busdrywer en mense in die straat. Dit is meer as net U2, Van Morrison, The Cranberries, Sinead O'Connor en The Corrs, dit is ook die man wat met ʼn graaf staan en werk.

Van volgepakte klubs in Dublin waar vier omies in ʼn hoek vir 300 mense sing en een met ʼn ghitaar, een met ʼn snare drum, een met ʼn viool en een met ʼn trekklavier, tot by die pub crawls waar hul informatief ou Ierse liedjies speel en verduidelik, onder andere, dat dit nie belangrik is om die lied se naam te ken nie; dis eerder belangrik om die lied te onthou. Dis waar ek geleer het wat die verskil is tussen ʼn reel en ʼn jig is: reel is vier letters; dus ¾-tydmaat, en jig-jig is ses en dus 6/8-tydmaat.

Onthou dat folk- en countrymusiek en ons musiek grotendeels uit Ierland kom. Dis ʼn wonderlike, vriendelike singende land.

Daar is geen rede hoekom die soetste taal dit nie kan doen nie ...

Afrikaans kan ook irie en funky en cool wees!

Baie dankie.