The ’Karoo Suite’ productions are the collaborative work of Deon Meyer and Coenie de Villiers, pictured centre, as they tell stories of the region accompanied by music and imagery. | Supplied
The ’Karoo Suite’ productions are the collaborative work of Deon Meyer and Coenie de Villiers, pictured centre, as they tell stories of the region accompanied by music and imagery. | Supplied

Sounds and sights of Karoo celebrated at Suidoosterfees

By Sam Spiller Time of article published Nov 29, 2020

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The small Karoo towns are filled with stories of ordinary people who mostly have done extraordinary things.

Like Oom Ben Bruwer, who saved a coffin from the flood, and Jan Hugo, who built a real, honest-to-god castle in a desert town.

Afrikaans author Deon Meyer and Afrikaans singer and song-writer Coenie de Villiers will tell these stories in the show Karoo Suite at the Suidoosterfees at the Atlantic Studios drive-in theatre in Montague Gardens from December 10 to 13.

The proceeds from the show will be used to expand Suidoosterfees and support the Jakes Gerwel Foundation’s lyric writing programme, which provides workshops to aspiring artists and lyricists to develop their skills and perform at national events.

For Meyer, the productions are the passionate result of his long-standing friendship with De Villiers. “I write crime novels, I know nothing about creating music concerts,” he said. “But, Coenie and I have been friends for 40 years, so I trusted him, and after a few weeks of perspiration, realised that the best I could do was to write stories about Karoo people. Real stories, about real people. Stories that touched me. So that’s what I did. And Coenie wrote the most beautiful music to go with the stories, which lifted the whole thing to another level.”

The ’Karoo Suite’ productions are the collaborative work of Deon Meyer and Coenie de Villiers, pictured centre, as they tell stories of the region accompanied by music and imagery. | Supplied

First performed at the Klein Karoo Natiosale Kunstefees in 2017, Karoo Suite is a collection of stories written and narrated by Meyer, set against the backdrop of landscape imagery from the region taken by NASA and photographers from National Geographic, as well as Meyer himself, read while accompanied by De Villier’s compositions. The show also feature animation by artist Diek Grobler.

“All the stories are about ordinary people from the Karoo who mostly did extraordinary things,” Meyer said. “Like Oom Ben Bruwer, who saved a coffin from the flood, or the two French boys who became men, working on a Karoo farm. Or the beautiful love affair between a war scarred farmer and his lovely wife. Or Petrus Hendrik Hugo from Pampoenpoort near Loxton, who became an ace fighter pilot during WWII. Or Jan Hugo, who built a real, honest-to-god castle in the Karoo.”

The follow-up to the production, Karoo Suite 2: Karoonagte, debuted earlier this year at Woordfees in Stellenbosch in March.

Coenie de Villiers and Deon Meyer. | Supplied

“The Karoo Suite concerts are our love letters to the Karoo, and that’s what we want people to take with them: a love and a sense of wonderment for this exceptional part of our country, and its people,” Meyer said.

Joined on stage by guitarist Mauritz Lotz, keyboardist Jaconell Mouton, and percussionist David Klassen, De Villiers made use of different genres and audio techniques to create a distinct sound for the Karoo.

“It’s hard to describe the soundscape of both productions,” De Villers said. “Some of it is quite ambient, some of it perhaps sounds like the love-child of Vangelis and some of our indigenous instruments, including the kalimba. In the second production we used the actual magnetic audio signal of different planets and mixed it into the score, inter alia Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus. Some of it is quite symphonic and classical in tone, but then again in both productions it veers into blues territory.”

De Villiers added the production could speak to all audiences thanks to music being a universal language. “Where the finer nuances of the stories might be lost on an audience who are not fully versed in the language, the music makes up for the lack of verbal understanding,” he said. “And, of course, the audio visual support is incredibly visual and keeps audiences enthralled.”

Tickets cost R400 per car, VIP tickets cost R300 per person. VIP ticket holders will be seated inside Atlantic Studios. For more information, see www.suidoosterfees.co.za

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