Ricardo Teixeira

Aandklas, a place that is the epitome of rock ‘n roll, celebrated the third anniversary of their open mic night on Sunday 13 May. Since it started, Open Mic Night has been a platform for many aspiring musicians to get stage experience and necessary exposure. In a series of interviews, Perdeby spoke with the organiser and acts at the event.

The idea for Open Mic Night came in early 2015 when Aandklas owner Rudi Oosthuizen, and open mic night founder and manager Christo “Baas” De Beer watched Francois Van Coke perform at Aandklas during one of his first solo performances. After which Oosthuizen said to De Beer, “I wish we had something like this every day.” A week later De Beer approached Oosthuizen with the possibility of running an open mic night, because at the time there weren’t any open mic nights in Pretoria. For the first few months, the two co-managed the weekly event, until Oosthuizen gave complete control to De Beer. “He[Oosthuizen] said to me, ‘You know what, take it, run with it.’ So basically, it’s all thanks to Rudi, he made it all possible.”

Open mic nights like these play and important role for anyone hoping to build a career in the South African music industry. De Beer explained, “Musicians need a stage. No one is willing to give a musician a stage, unless he’s got stage experience, which he can’t get without a stage. Which is kinda f***ed up.” Acts that perform well at open mic night are given opening slots for other acts when possible, giving them more exposure and experience. One of the popular acts at Open Mic Nights, Zebra, was given an opening slot for a Jack Parrow performance, two weeks after their first open mic night. De Beer said that he has approached a few of the acts and brought them into his company, Activation Media, to help book them for other performances. When asked about acts that perform badly, De Beer defended them, saying “Some of them improve a lot. I’ll be honest, we get guys here that are not musicians and they want to try it out, but I believe [we should] give everyone an opportunity.” De Beer recalled a memorable performance, one he deemed the epitome of Open Mic Night, when a performer who had never been on stage before stepped on the Open Mic Night stage. “He had friends in the crowd who didn’t know he owned a guitar,” De Beer said, “and he blew minds. I honestly wish I could remember who the f*** he was.”

Zebra, a regular feature at Open Mic Night, first performed about a year ago. They got their start when lead singer Siphe Mashigo and guitarist Wildre Van Deventer were working behind the bar and sang “Little lion man” together and decided to perform together, “as a joke” said Van Deventer. Their first performance is self-described as awful but “two people clapped hands and we were like ‘Yes! Let’s do it next Sunday.’” A few months later the band picked up bassist Ivan Van Heerden, and now perform at Open Mic Night every week.

Ember is another upcoming band and Open Mic Night regular, made up of lead singer Allan Collins, guitarist Brenden Skibinski and bassist Danie Hechter. Together, they described Open Mic Night by saying “It gives us a place to communicate our music, what we want to give to the world, and to South Africa.” they added, “It’s a place to jam, where we [express] our passion.”

Lungelo Moyo, a UP student and Open Mic Night veteran recalled his first performance in February 2016, “It was quite nerve-wracking. I would start a song, and right in the middle of the song I’d stop because I made a mistake.” He credits the audience’s help in getting him through the performance, “They told me ‘Keeping going, it’s fine.’” Moyo went on to talk about the importance of the audience, saying “As an artist, as much as you’re doing it for yourself, you do it for the audience.”

A new set of faces with magnificent hair, known as Troon Road joined Open Mic Night in February 2018, made up of lead singer Christo Serfontein and guitarist Robbie Steyn. The duo spoke about their confusion when starting out, “We started out not knowing where to go, who to talk to, what to do.” The duo reinforced the open environment, “Anyone can come play here. I knew we’d come here and we’d be welcome.” Steyn went on to emphasise the importance of Aandklas and its audience by comparing them to a crowd at Wembley stadium. Serfontein added “They come here, they stay here and watch you play, they don’t have to. They choose to.”

Open Mic Night is not only frequented by upcoming musicians. Christiaan Baartman, formerly on Idols, can also occasionally be seen on stage. His first Aandklas performance was over ten years ago, and Baartman jokingly confessed what he remembered, “From 2007? Not much.” Already being an established musician, Baartman appreciates Open Mic Night’s platform as a place where he can be himself. “If I’m playing for a client, I’ve got to conform to the values of the venue, where at Aanklas, I can come in and just be myself and do what I want to do.” Baartman added that he is single, “And it’s always a good place to pick up someone that’s also single.” Baartman will also open the garden stage at the Capital Craft 2018 beer fest.

Open Mic Night’s aim, defined by De Beer is to help grow music in South Africa. His step number one, “Do what you can. I can’t necessarily sign a guy and give him one hundred million rand, but I can have an open mic. I can have a platform, a base for them.” His second step, “Support other people doing step number one.” Open Mic Night will continue every Sunday at Aandklas, starting at 19:30, with great acts like these, and many more.

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