Karoo guitarist nominated for Grammy

ct spoon done TEASPOON TUNES: Guitarist Hannes Coetzee during a recent performance at the Baxter Theatre. A rendition of one of his songs is on an album nominated for a Grammy Award. Sitting in the background is David Kramer. Photo:Jesse Kramer

Aziz Hartley

HE is a humble, introverted musician from a small town near Mossel Bay. And now, at the age of 69, a rendition of his song has made it on to an album nominated for a Grammy Award.

He is guitarist Hannes Coetzee, from Herbertsdale in the Eden district. His music style is unique – so unique that a song he composed features on US folk band Carolina Chocolate Drops’ album.

Coetzee’s song Mahalla went viral on YouTube and in no time the US band heard it and played it themselves. They then included it on their album Leaving Eden last year.

Coetzee, 69 plays his battered guitar in a pick up and pinch style, sliding out the melody with a teaspoon in his mouth. He was one of several guitarists songwriter David Kramer had presented in the show Karoo Kitaar Blues – a concert presenting eccentric guitar styles of a marginalised people from rural areas. Coetzee also featured on Kalahari Karoo Blues, Kramer’s most recent production which showed at the Baxter Theatre last week.

“I’m not sure how they (Carolina Chocolate Drops) got Mahalla. Maybe they got it from YouTube. It’s okay for them to use it like that,” Kramer said about Mahalla being included in Leaving Eden.

He said royalties for use of Coetzee’s song had already been negotiated with a US record company.

“We are hoping it will be a Grammy-winning album. It is not the first time Hannes did well. His song Die Hannetjie en Die Hennetjie was on television,” Kramer said.

He was not aware of Coetzee’s style of music elsewhere in the world, Kramer said.

“He is the first as far as I’m aware. When I saw it for the first time I immediately saw it as unique. When it went on YouTube everybody was so struck by it,” said Kramer.

“We are so proud of him and really happy for him. Hannes used to work in our garden as well as the church’s garden. His music is extraordinary. He played for church bazaars and community functions. On several occasions I took him to play at birthday parties,” said Tokkie Oosthuizen, a dairy farmer from Herbertsdale.

He described Coetzee as a well-mannered, kind and humble man who loved his guitar.

“He is part of the community and whatever his achievement it will also be recognition of where he comes from,” said Oosthuizen.

With the Grammy Awards being held on February 10, excitement was building for the outcome, Kramer said.

Carolina Chocolate Drops walked off with a Grammy in 2010 when their album Genuine Negro Jig won best traditional folk music album prize.

Coetzee was heading home from Cape Town and could not be reached.


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