Carving out a Post-Apartheid Identity
LeOui Janse van Rensburg
My project aims to provide an in-depth exploration of Afrikaans Art Song as a genre, looking not only at the existing repertoire and the cultural and historic context within which these works were created, but also at contemporary works and the trends in the genre’s continued development. The project also aims to form an understanding of the repressed and subjugated forms and dialects of Afrikaans and to examine the role thereof in the musical genre.
In doing so, I hope that my research will engage in some critical questioning regarding reconciliation and transformation through the arts in South Africa and in the world.
During this process, I am learning as many Afrikaans art songs as possible and getting to know the background and history of their poets and composers. I am also working through any relevant literature and conducting interviews with contemporary composers, poets and performers of Afrikaans art song. Over the course of the project, I am selecting specific works to record and include in upcoming programmes. As a part of my project, I plan to release a CD of Afrikaans art song.
As a classical singer, I perform a lot of different classical repertoire. My project, therefore, slots in quite comfortably with my professional work as it provides me with a wealth of exciting and unknown repertoire to share with audiences and colleagues. My project has also given me the opportunity to present at conferences and workshops. I was very proud to be a part of Song Fest’s 25th anniversary project, ‘Songs of Unity and Hope’, which featured songs and poems from all over the world. Later this year, I will also be presenting as one of the speakers of NATS’s 2021 Summer Workshop ‘Lighting the Spark: Inspiring Diverse Repertoire’.
The primary aim of my research is to pave a way into this repertoire for international audiences and performers. By looking at the historical background as well as exploring the cultural significance of recurring thematic material, I hope to create an understanding of the ideas that shaped them. I do believe the international canon would be gaining some truly significant works.
Additionally, I hope that my research will spur on the continual development of this genre through the creation of new works. I am seeking to promote Afrikaans poetry and make it more accessible to non-native speakers by providing translations and presentations and explanations of the material. I am hoping to collaborate with in the near future with some composers to commission new art songs using Afrikaans text.
I’ve been immensely privileged to collaborate with a couple of fellow RAM students and/or alumni. It’s been tremendously exciting sharing and exploring this repertoire with my musical partners and to be working towards the creation of new works.
The conservatoire environment at the Academy has enabled me to build up a network of fellow performers and future ensemble partners eager to collaborate. It is very important to me to be able to combine my abilities and talents as both a performer and a researcher, and I think that the RAM is one of the few places that provide excellent guidance in both of these areas.
Being able to perform and record works which are so unknown internationally has given me a lot of artistic freedom. Among the many things I have learnt at the RAM, this experience has really taught me to take ownership of my interpretation of music.