Review

Hanru Niemand taps into the poetic beauty of Afrikaans in his discography

By day he’s a clinical psychologist but by night Hanru Niemand hones in on the rich heritage of Afrikaans poetry and folk-music to tell extraordinary stories about ordinary people.

Niemand’s music is defined by easy-listening acoustic guitar and home-grown stories that everyone can relate to at one point or another – so much so that it’s already been translated into Finnish and Russian.

Despite being largely unknown within our borders he’s released three albums, Roepwoorde (which was listed as one of Die Burger’s top albums of 2010), Tot Stilte, and most recently Kreeftegang.

“Pelonomi” opens Kreeftegang and immediately reminds you of how beautiful Afrikaans can be. Through the clever weaving together of simple but evocative language, Niemand tells the story of a man who’s let himself be beaten down by life.

“Gert Vlok Nel” carries on in the same easy-listening vein as the opening track as Niemand begs the Ingrid Jonker Prize winning poet to write just one more poem, before “Verslaggewer” takes a page out of the Bob Dylan play-book with its sweeping violin breaking up the lyrics.

“Piper’s Tavern” is a nostalgic number that yearns for simpler times and mourns the ever-changing nature of the world. “Kreeftegang Wals” has a different kind of nostalgia as it waltzes through memories of a love lost to circumstance and sighs with the thought of what might have been.

Rather than going the flamboyant, overly poetic route Hanru Niemand uses simple, every-day language to tell evocative stories of love, loss, and longing that gently stirs one’s emotions which, ultimately, is what any folk musician aspires to.