From 16 to 26 January, Afrikaans singer/songwriters Gert Vlok Nel and Rian Malan will perform in various theatres in the Netherlands.

Gert, well known in the Netherlands because of the Walter Stokman documentary Beautiful in Beaufort-Wes, will bring his unique poetry and songs to the Dutch audiences. Rian, author of the riveting novel My Traitors Heart and writer for the Radio Kalahari Orkes will sing some of his trans-boer songs.

Gert Vlok Nel

Within a week of the broadcast of the documentary Beautiful in Beaufort Wes on VPRO Dutch national television, the two disc CD/DVD set by South African singer and poet Gert Vlok Nel entered the National album top 100 at number 59. This impressive and moving documentary, with music by Gert Vlok Nel, reflects the daily life of the poor black and white community of Beaufort West, a sleepy little town in South Africa"s Western Cape. Gert Vlok Nel is a maverick in his country’s literary scene, and a cult figure in the South African music scene. He studied English, Afrikaans and history at Stellenbosch University and worked as a guide, bartender and watchman before publishing a single collection of poetry, which made him famous. Om te lewe is onnatuurlik (To live is unnatural) contains a number of beautiful, personal and poignant poems, for which he received the prestigious Ingrid Jonker Prize. His fellow countryman Etienne van Heerden, a South African author, best known for the book Die Swye van Mario Salviati (The Long Silence of Mario Salvati), praised Nel as ‘one of our finest talents’. The Dutch poet, Gerrit Komrij, included eight of Gert Vlok Nel’s poems in his anthology of South African poetry in Afrikaans De Afrikaanse poëzie in 1000 en enige gedichten, (African poetry in a thousand-and-some poems), a selection from 350 years of (South) African poetry. Om te lewe is onnatuurlik was followed up by a CD, Beaufort-Wes se Beautiful Woorde. Some people say he is a travelling bard with a guitar, comparable to Bob Dylan and the renowned South African troubadour, Koos du Plessis. He himself says he admires Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen (‘Tom Waits, he messes about, just like me’). In his début collection of songs, Nel paints a personal portrait of his childhood in Beaufort-Wes, a rural part of South Africa with a predominantly poor-white population, his father a railway employee. Nel writes songs that are of a haunting, bewitching and almost hypnotic quality, in an unusual and innovative Afrikaans, comparable with, if anything, the language experiments of Antjie Krog, a prominent South African poet, academic and writer.

Rian Malan

Rian Malan rose to notoriety on the strength of My Traitor’s Heart, a “premature obituary” about himself and his harrowing uncertainties regarding the destiny of whites in Africa. Published in 1990, the book was variously hailed as “a tragic masterpiece” (TimeOut London); “truth-telling at its most courageous” (John le Carre); and “a work of darkest reaction dressed up in the language of the left” (The African Communist). In the years since, My Traitor’s Heart has remained constantly in print in several languages, and recently made the BBC’s list of 100 books all humans should read before dying. Unhinged by his unexpected success, Malan spent the 1990s drinking, writing screenplays for the likes of Mick Jagger, and otherwise misbehaving. Once rated one of the planet’s most eligible bachelors by Cosmo magazine, Malan devolved into a “debauched and cynical old hack” best known for his attacks on Thabo Mbeki, Robert Mugabe and the “scandalous” waste surrounding Aids in Africa. Later, he embarked on a years-long crusade on behalf of Solomon Linda, the illiterate Zulu labourer whose music forms the basis of the evergreen pop hit The Lion Sleeps Tonight. The latter episode in Malan’s checkered life is chronicled in the Emmy-winning documentary, A Lion’s Tale (SABC 2004). Brought low by booze, baldness and “the irrevocable loss of my boyish charm,” Malan set out a few years ago to reinvent himself as an Afrikaans song-writer. His funny and satirical songs propelled Radio Kalahari Orkes’s Stoomradio to a surprise hit in 2005, whereafter Malan lost his head and launched an ill-fated attempt to become a pop star in his own right. Malan described the resulting album – Alien Inboorling, (released by Sony BMG) – as “a collection of political diatribes and suicide ballads.” Critics hailed it as a dark masterpiece, but consumers were less impressed and Malan the musician remains a minor cult figure in his native country. Now aged 54, Malan lives in Johannesburg, where he grows vegetables and plays guitar in The Side Effects, Jim Neversink’s “loserbilly” rock band. He is also a member of Le Hot Club de Afrique, a Django Reinhardt-inspired cocktail jazz outfit. He is working on Bridges of Our Own Dead, his long-delayed second novel.

Tour dates and venues:

16 January Den Haag Paard van Troje
17 January Venlo Perron 55
18 January Ottersum Roepaen
19 January Austerlitz Beauforthuis
20 January Deventer Theater Bouwkunde
22 January Tilburg O13
23 January Groningen Oosterpoort
25 January Nijmegen Lux (seated)
26 January Amsterdam Panama
27 January London Aardvark Pub