Stef Bos, Karen Zoid and Nataniël bring their individual worlds together in two unique performances ̶ AFRIKAANS IN STYL . Familiar or unfamiliar, established or experimental, almost classical or brand new, the furthest poles are explored. As honest as possible, impossibly rare personal moments, sparkling surprises, gigantic notes and the longest stories. DIANE DE BEER discovers the bare essentials:
Take three diverse artists like Nataniël, Stef Bos and Karen Zoid, put them in a huge arena and anything can happen.
Especially with these three performers completely in control of the show. “It’s about three artists with links,” explains Nataniël, and by now we all know that he will give us the broad strokes, but not the intimate details of this particular show.
Surprises are a big thing because that’s what makes a show, he believes. “We will all be singing our own music,” he elaborates. And then adds that he will be performing one cover, “because both Stef and Karen have had hit songs, I haven’t. I want the audience to at least recognise one song!”
Stripped is how they want to present this arena spectacle. “I see Adele’s show as an example,” he says. They won’t fly any space ships or other gimmicks. “It’s not a musical. We’ll have one black backdrop with the lighting creating the magic.”
It’s the time of the artists, with 80 years of experience accumulated among them. “We all have our own strengths and that’s what we will be showcasing. No dancers, no frills, this isn’t a rugby match!”
He and Stef know one another’s music and Karen, whom he has dubbed the Queen of Social Media, has performed for him on her phone. And in that instance, she went the full extravaganza with musicians and lights, he says approvingly.
Even though ̶ or because ̶ they’re complete opposites, they work well together. She loves chaos and he thrives on lists. “I’m the head girl and she’s the rebel!” They even approach song writing and their music differently. She has a memory while Nataniël learns his self-written songs as though someone else has penned them.
Luckily, they’re also talking marketing because they want this one to fly. Stef and Karen are used to singing in large stadiums, Nataniël not so much. But he loves the challenge, also putting together a 35-minute set that fits into a whole. “I’ve never done that before,” he says. He compares it to three mini-concerts within a concert.
Messing with their heads, it’s all about three artists rather than one. So one artist’s closing number will lead into the opening number of the next performer. “We have to think differently,” but then they always do.
They will also be doing some things together. This is where things get interesting. “I’m in Pretoria, Karen is in New York and Stef is in Belgium,” notes Nataniël. That’s how they’re preparing the show.
Referring to the name Afrikaans in Styl, it has nothing to do with the look -̶ but he can’t resist interjecting that even in that department, he won’t disappoint. Well, we knew that!
He identifies style as original music, theatre on grand scale, acoustic, artists with personal choice, no interval, no walk-abouts, no flashlights, short pants forbidden ̶ and an extravagant pop-up shop in the foyer.
Two unusual choirs will also be performing, with Akustika conducted by Christo Burger in Pretoria and the brand-new Voces Cordis conducted by André van der Merwe in Cape Town.
Focussing on the show, there are two factors that excite him hugely. “We all perform in theatres,” he says, which means that they can draw on that theatrical background, the intimacy of a smaller theatre recreated in a larger space, a connection with the audience.
They will also be establishing theatre rules. “There’s no walking in and out to buy drinks. In fact there’s no drink allowed inside the arena. If someone walks out, I will throw them with my mic!” Those of us familiar with his shows know he’s not joking!
He also loves that no producer is telling them what will work, and what won’t. “There’s no one shouting from the wings while we rehearse,” he adds. (Or telling them that something won’t sell.)
What worries him though is that Pretoria as a city doesn’t easily take to new beginnings. “You have to build everything from scratch,” he says. “I don’t know where our serious audiences have gone. Everything we try to do seems harder. It’s like pulling teeth.”
And as all three have proved in their stellar careers, they do shows that work for them – and then it translates to their audience.
That’s the other thing that will be fascinating – the audience. It will be my first time in this huge arena and I know quite a few fans for whom this will be the first time too. Still, Nataniël, with all his experience and knowledge of his fan base, is nervous. He describes it as the stress of uncertainty. “The five people who like me won’t come because they’re scared of a draft!”
The stage will reference what the show is about – the music. It will be filled with musicians and the solo singers. The musicians will be under the guidance of Charl du Plessis (keyboards), Juan Oosthuizen (guitar), Henry Steel (guitar), Brendan Ross (keyboards and voice), Werner Spies (bass), Rixi Roman (bass), Peter Auret (drums), Marlon Green (drums), and a string orchestra with singers Nicolaas Swart and Dihan Slabbert – as well as a few unexpected performers to complete the extravaganza.
Don’t be fooled by the word Afrikaans in the title either. Already Nataniël has written songs in four different languages – but he has made one concession; his first Afrikaans song in 10 years.
And he remembers, there’s something else that excites him ̶ no master of ceremonies. With those three personalities, who needs that anyway.
They’re also not filming the show. So the singers don’t have to worry about a camera up their nose while singing their most difficult note. “It doesn’t really work when something is staged for theatre, to put it on film.”
If you want to be part of this exciting experiment, you will have to see it live.
And if you’re a fan of any of these artists, you would be mad not to go.
Saterday 27 August:
Sunbet Arena, Time Square, Pretoria
Saterday 3 September:
Grand Arena, GrandWest, Cape Town