Hanru Niemand album review:
Opgrawings vir ‘n Lugkasteel
Review by Duzzy Clayton
Photos by Dee Lou
Having previously loved mainly English music, I hadn’t quite got into Afrikaans music until I heard the music of Hanru Niemand. Of course, I do like a large number of other bands and musicians and I will always champion much of South African music; but it is only once I got to interview Hanru Niemand and had a conversation with him about Afrikaans music that I gained a new interest and respect. He mentioned something that I had never really thought about: He said Afrikaans music isn’t a genre but it’s a language of the music being sung. And that sort of really hit home, because when I thought of Afrikaans music before, I immediately pigeon-holed it along music such as Baby Chocolates from Kurt Darren etc., and although I do respect Kurt Darren and what he has achieved, that is something that I’ve never really been into. But after thinking about what had Hanru said, I realised that there is much more to Afrikaans music out there, other than songs like Baby chocolates. Thinking about it furthermore, there are some cool Afrikaans rock bands such as Fokofpolisiekar; and Karen Zoid’s Afrikaners is Plesierig is a legendary anthem in the South African music industry.
So, after listening to Hanru Niemand’s new album with this new mindset, I realised that it is actually a great well-written album with some good lyrics and song arrangements. Now, I must point out that not all the songs are in Afrikaans; for example, there is a track on the album called Freaky Joe, which I often play on my radio show and sometimes find myself singing it while in the bath or doing dishes heh heh.
Niemand’s new album is called Opgrawings vir ‘n Lugkasteel which loosely translates to ‘excavations of an air castle’ (‘air castle’ is a term used for ‘pipe dream’ in Afrikaans).
The album is made up of a Side A and a Side B, which hints to it being a mixed tape.
Hanru Niemand explains “The A Side (Voetstoots) contains songs that I perform live quite regularly. The idea was to record the music in a way that’s true to my live sound. As such, the guitar and vocals were recorded simultaneously, contrary to the current approach, which calls for tracks to be recorded separately and layered together afterwards. Some of these tunes have been recorded on previous albums, but I wanted to lay down versions thereof that capture my live performance sound – solo, just me, my guitar and my harmonica,”
The songs that were recorded in this way are ‘Kreeftegang Wals’, ‘Avis Tannie’, ‘Gert Vlok Nel’, ‘Land van Kaïn’, ‘Worcester Woorde’, and ‘Verlange’. Hanru’s loyal fans will recognise these songs as those that are requested by audiences on a regular basis.
“The B Side (Ruïnes) brings something completely different to the table. It contains four brand-new tracks – ‘Freaky Joe’, ‘Morsige Momsen’, ‘Tiran’, en ‘Die prinses se lied’. Each of these songs is centred around a protagonist who finds themself in some sort of trouble. Here I play alongside a series of wonderful musicians who each bring a special dimension to the music,” Hanru enthuses.
On the B side of the album the following musicians perform with Hanru: Wilken Calitz on violin, Riku Lätti on piano, Mark Ellis on base, Jean Marais on drums and Jacobus Grimm on backing vocals. The cover art for ‘Opgrawings vir ŉ Lugkasteel’ is an original painting by Evert Esterhuizen that was digitally arranged by graphic designer Corli Sadie.
The whole album is awesome from start to finish and each song takes you on a journey and this is to a great extent because of great songwriting by Hanru Niemand. Listening to side A of the album and, as mentioned earlier, most of the songs on there were recorded live; you can hear that in the music where I really like the rawness of the music and Hanru’s voice. One of my favourite songs on Side A is Avis Tannie and what I like about the track is that it starts in Afrikaans but every now and again Hanru throws in an English word or sentence; you might think this is confusing but it actually works well.
This technique of switching between Afrikaans and English can also be heard on track two with Gert Vlok Nel which has a nice chilled out acoustic track with good guitar sound and also a harmonica.
I could go through each song on Side A and tell you which ones stand out for me and why, but I can honestly say each song is awesome. I think you should particularly listen to tracks Avis Tannie, Gert Vlok Nel, Land van Kaïn and Worcester Woorde.
I can definitely see myself listening to side A of the album, while having a few friends over for dinner, playing softly in the background or around a fire at a braai. Or even while I am just sitting in front of the computer doing work which is actually what I did today as I caught up on my emails.
Moving on to Side B of the album consisting of four songs, I can automatically hear the difference in quality compared to side A, but I find myself still into it and enjoying it from the first song.
The first song on Side B is called Die Prinses se Lied and you are met with calm finger-picking of the guitar which can be heard throughout the song backing Hanru’s beautiful singing.
Track 2 on side B is one of my favourite tracks on the album and it is the English song I mentioned earlier called Freaky Joe. It’s a more lively song with drums and even some violin play in the song. It has a clever story line lyric-wise and it is just an awesome catchy song
The next track is called Morsige Momsen and it starts off with a catchy whistle play; and the track itself is very lively and catchy, and once again the violin sound is strong after each verse in this song.
The last song of the album is called Tiran and once again you are met with cool guitar work and awesome vocals from Hanru, backed by drums and bass. It is such a cool radio-friendly song and I can definitely picture it being on the playlist of a well-known Afrikaans radio station like RSG. The violin once again makes an appearance in the song, taking the role of a lead guitar solo.
After having the album on repeat, my conclusion is that it is a well-arranged album with great instrumental work and vocals. You will be taken on a journey with each song and, dare I even say, you will be put in a good mood after listening to it. I suggest you get this album and add it to your playlist, you won’t be disappointed.
Listen to ‘Opgrawings vir ŉ Lugkasteel’
Hanru Niemand Social Media: