Your songs make use of Afrikaans and French. What does this allow you to do?
Singing and composing in two languages allows me to switch from one persona to another on stage, which is a lot of fun.When singing in French, I think it’s possible to come across a srather mysterious because South Africans don’t always know what you’re singing, whereas when I sing in AfrikaansI feel rather exposed. It’s also a very stimulating intellectual exercise to try and find the most appropriate equivalent for specific idiomatic expressions in the translation process – from Afrikaans to French or vice versa. And then I think it makes the music I perform accessible to a wider audience [compared to] when I [sing] in one language.
What can people expect from your music?
My Afrikaans music is rather alternative- meaning it isn’t “sokkie” music. I’d describe the genre, at this stage, as rather experimental and lyric driven. Two of the songs I’ve released over the past 2 years, “Ewewig” and “Son trek soutwater”, are more electronic in nature – a sound I’d like to explore more. Then the French music I write and cover could be seen as the “palate cleansers” to the “arty” Afrikaans music – so I’d like to think that I strike a balance between easy listening and intense music.
You recently won a national award at the Vrystaat Kunstefees for your production “Twee Hartstale”. What was that about?
Yes. We were so stoked winning that prize for our debut musical production, which won the national Vrynge prize for best production at the VrystaatKunstefees 2016. The Vrynge is a creative platform for upcoming artists at different arts festivals nationwide.
Adelle was one of your students at UP. How did the two of you end up working together?
Adelle was one of my second year creative writing students in 2014. At the end of every year, I encourage students to participate in a voluntary creative writing/musical project – and she was one of the students in the group. The next year we stayed in touch and decided to start working on a shared French and francophone repertoire, which, finally came together in 2016.
Willemien, your music videos are very beautiful. Can we expect more of them?
Thank you/Merci, and Yes!/Oui. I’ll be releasing a music video for the song “Je t’aime, je t’adore” which I sang on the soundtrack of the“French toast” film which was released nationwide in 2015. Machiel Roets wrote the music and I wrote the lyrics. It’s a beautiful, classic French style love song. Adelle and I are also in the process of recording one of her songs that we collaborated on lyric wise.
Can you tell us a bit about the Creative Expression Program offered at UP?
For the purpose of my Masters in French I developed this creative expression programme for the second year students at Tuks. Students listen to a mixture of French and African francophone music as inspiration in the creative writing activities. One of the motivating factors for the use of francophone songs is my belief that French programmes in South Africa should ideally comprise African francophone cultural content in order to equip the learner with a more inclusive understanding of the French language. I also invite students to get involved in different creative projects on a voluntary basis. We’ve written French songs together, performed together, and most recently, worked together on an international francophone project. For our short [documentary], we interviewed South Africans and asked them what their interpretations are of a bunch of French words they have never heard before were. For our animation, we wrote a story in which we explore a world where “no translation is necessary”. The story has a strong South African flavour.
Do you have plans for any future shows?
Yes, our last show for the year will take place at the Foxwood Theatre, in Houghton (Johannesburg) on Sunday 13 November. I’ll be collaborating with three talented guest artists- Adelle Nqeto (guitar, voice), James Robb (percussion) and Pieter Bezuidenhout (accordion, harmonies).