Thirty years down the line, the effervescent Nataniël is constantly reinventing himself and always working on something new. There’s so much he’s done and he certainly demonstrated this in a high-speed phone interview, in which he somehow managed to cram a lifetime’s achievements, highlights and opinions into an hour-long chat.
As we ended the conversation he jokingly said: “Maybe you should make this a series,” as he had told me so much. Perhaps that’s the essence of this dynamic man who is a mini empire - he gives 100% of himself all the time.
Our conversation began with my somewhat predictable but necessary question as to how how he feels to have reached this milestone. His response comes quickly: “It’s very sad.” Sad, I ask? “Yes. You feel old when you start looking at the show when you celebrate and I realise most of my fans had not been born when all this started.”
But that said, he adds: “I still feel like I’m in varsity because of the way my memories are: vivid memories of school and those varsity days. I guess I am happy the way I am, sort of always hysterical and with this nervous energy.
“Sometimes it’s not healthy to keep up this pace, but there’s a saying that you can live till you are 70 or live 70 times over when you are 70, depending on how you spend your time. It’s a shock how quickly time passes.”
The question arises as to how he manages to look so good - virtually the same today as he did 20 to 30 years ago. “I’ve been using the same French cream for more than 25 years. You also have to start looking after yourself when you are young. I have stayed out of the sun. I also associate with people who make you feel younger. You also have to style yourself right. I am not Mr SA, but South African men don’t look after themselves enough.”
Nataniël Le Roux was born in 1962 and launched his career in 1987 with the release of his first single, Maybe Time. Among other things he’s managed a company specialising in lifestyle goods called Kaalkop; hosted Die Nataniël Tafel, on kykNET from 2012 to 2014 and, in the old days, because established agents and producers ignored him, he started his own record label and publishing house, Nataniël House of Music.
He’s performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London and his music repertoire includes soul, blues and classical jazz. There’s even a white rose created and named after him by De Leeuw Roses in Bronkhorstspruit because of his love of the colour white.
Nataniël says another factor in his youthful appearance and high energy is the fact that he stopped drinking coffee and alcohol. “I work very hard to stay healthy,” he says, adding that his day is very structured. He wakes up and spends an hour doing yoga before meeting with directors, preparing for shows and planning for future events. He is surrounded by a “very well-oiled team” who assist him. And he makes dozens of lists “that drive people crazy” to keep on track.
A lot of his time is devoted to giving speeches, writing and doing charity work.
Over to his life on stage, what are the highlights? “I am still waiting for Opus 1. I’m never satisfied, but there are unexpected moments, such as going to a very ugly hall and having an incredible show. But I am always reaching for another level.”
He says he’s sad to note how audiences have changed over the years, but has a firm following of devotees who have come to all his shows.
“People make the effort to have a bath, dress up and come to the theatre, so you must give them something in return and respect them.”
But he adds: “There’s a whole generation who don’t know how to behave in an auditorium.
“There is an etiquette in the theatre - these days many people don’t concentrate. They’re fiddling with chocolates and so on.
“Half of theatre is its sense of occasion - now people arrive in slacks and jeans and it’s devoid of all magic. I like all the trappings.”
One thing that annoys him intensely is people who don’t leave their cellphones alone in the theatre and he confesses he has screamed at audience members on occasion to remember where they are.
“You are rude if you are on your cell - there are always those who spoil it for an entire audience.”
Looking back, he says one of the things he’s enjoyed most about his career is the sense of freedom he has had by being his own boss. “If you love what you do, you are free. But of course I am not complacent and am never entirely satisfied Sometimes you look at your portfolio and think: this is a breathtaking portfolio, but that one thing has not yet happened.”
He says he’d love to be involved in a film - “not directing, that’s too boring” - and to do that one Christmas show. “You’re not a full-blown singer if you don’t do a Christmas show.”
On a personal level, one of his highs was climbing Kilimanjaro several years ago. “I never knew what suffering was until I climbed the mountain,” he admits.
He adds that trips to France (his brother Erik is a chef there) are one of his greatest pleasures and he now considers France his second home. “All the worry about the future here and our problems in this country evaporate in France. There seems to be different priorities there - I love being surrounded by history, which is ever present in France.”
He is very close to his family, and another of his favourite things is spending time with his godchild. “My mother lives in Kuils River and she’s a very active 80-year-old. She taught all of us to do our best, to be active and involved, and to be successful.”
Nataniël will perform at D’Aria in Durbanville from August 3 to 5. The show starts at 7.30pm and tickets are R265 (R230 pensioners and students) and includes a welcome drink from 7pm. For details visit www.daria.co.za
Nataniël will entertain fans as he celebrates three decades on stage in his latest show spectacular 30 years, 90 Minutes between August 24 and September 24 at the Theatre of Marcellus, Emperors Palace.
* Tickets are from R160 and can be purchased through the Emperors Palace Box Office on 011 928 1297/1213 or by visiting www.emperorspalace.com or www.computicket.com.
The show will start at 8pm from Thursdays to Saturdays, and at 3pm on Sundays. No children under 15.