I live in a region in Belgium, named Flanders. Here, we speak Dutch and a lot of artists also sing in that language. Unfortunately, the majority of Flemish sung music is quite infantile, suited only for carnival and nurseries, yes, even when the artist is trying to be serious. Many alternative music lovers frown upon the mind-numbingly dull qualities of the Flemish music scene, often collected in a program like 'Tien Om Te Zien'. However, there are some artists who manage to make delightful, beautiful and stunning songs in their native language. Here is a little overview...
Everyone in Flanders knows this song, since it is the most iconic piece of music to be found in this region. Luc De Vos, who sadly passed away in 2014, was an absolute genius with a mysterious charisma and a nag for writing strange, emotional lyrics. His oeuvre is impressive, and so were his stage performances. Sometimes it was a heavy rocking gig where even this 'Mia' sounded heavy and intense, sometimes he was alone on stage, armed with his acoustic guitar, singing as much songs as he received Duvels. Today, in the 52nd minute of each home match of football team AA Gent, the entire stadium sings this song in honor of Luc. He is severely missed.
This cover version of a Bette Midler song ('The Rose' - written by Amanda McBroom) is widely regarded as one of the biggest Flemish hits ever. Rivers of tears have been cried since 1980, when the song was released, and still at this very moment, somewhere in Flanders, someone is weeping to this tearjerker. Personally, I'm not always a big fan over cover versions, but this one gets me all the time.
My good friend and Merchants Of Air colleague Wouter told me about this band and showed me this video. I was intrigued pretty quickly because of what I heard. While, musically, these youngsters from Ghent and Antwerp would fit in perfectly with today's electronic pop scene, their use of Dutch is a bold and daring choice. Yet, as we've seen before, it's exactly because of their language that these guys are doing so well. Perhaps, in English this band would drown in the massive amount of acts in their genre, but in Dutch, they definitely excel. To be honest, I'm not a fan of all their songs, but this one certainly is a stand out.
Long before Dutch band De Heideroosjes would climb on stages allover the world, these guys from Keerbergen had already become legends. They've had massive hits with songs like 'Morregen', 'Het Is Gedaan' and this epic piece of work about an aging punk fan and his adventures in the retirement home. Blending hardcore punk with (mostly) Dutch lyrics, Belgian Asociality has been a headliner in this country for almost thirty years.
Another icon we Flemish people miss, is "kleinkunst" singer Zjef Vanuytsel. This song is just as iconic as 'Mia' by Gorki and 'De Roos' by Ann Christy. It still is extremely relevant today, as the world is getting crazier and more hectic each an every day. The title translates as 'the crazy morning' and it's simply a beautiful testament of Belgian music, tout-court.
The title of this song translates as 'Ace Of Spades', and yes, it does remind me a bit of a fairly recently passed away deity in the world of hard rock and heavy metal. Amörtisseur basically translates Motorhead songs into "Antwaarps", one of the most well-known dialects in our country. This surely is a hilarious tribute to Lemmy.
Also hailing from Antwerp, and usually also funny as hell, this band has been a constant in the Flemish music industry since 1977. With songs about beer, women, the catholic church and politicians, Katastroof has gained a loyal following in and around Antwerp. However, my personal favorites have always been the emotional songs, beautifully collected on 'Efkes Serieus'. They show a different, bittersweet, side of these drunken bards.
This band hailed from Limburg, just like me. Basically, Noordkaap was initially called 'Limburg's answer to Gorki, De Mens and De Kreuners' and eventually many of their songs have become instant classics. After the split, vocalist Stijn Meuris would go on to form Monza, which was quite similar and now he performs solo as Meuris, singing these massive Noordkaap hits (like 'Wat Is Kunst', 'Satelliet Suzy' and the Will Tura cover 'Arme Joe') again, much to the delight of the audience.
Now, don't try to translate this song, because you'll end up confused and slightly insane. Urbanus is an absolute cult figure in Belgium, starting out in a cabaret-ensemble called 'Anus' in the seventies and eventually evolving into a highly respected comedian. This particular song, initially from a performance in 1982, saw a massive outcome years later. While announcing this song, Urbanus joked "I wrote this song for the punk rockers De Heideroosjes'. Seven years later, internationally acclaimed Dutch punk rockers De Heideroosjes were born, crediting Urbanus for their band name. In 2004, Urbanus and De Heideroosjes performed this rocker together at the stage of Rock Werchter.
An environmental activist song from 1970, still immensely relative today. Perhaps that's what timelessness is all about. Kleinkunst singer Louis Neefs had a deep, kind voice and a nag for quality music that has delivered several classic songs, including 'Margrietje', 'Ik Heb Zorgen' and this epic tune. Neefs passed away in 1980, leaving a beautiful legacy of Flemish chansons.
Clement Peeters, the heavy rocking alter ego of musician/comedian.radio personality Hugo Matthijsen was initially a character in a radio show he did with Bart Peeters (Het Leugenpaleis). Soon after, the trio of Clement Peerens (Matthijsen), Vettige Swa (Peeters - later replaced by Dave 'Beast From Hell' de Peuter (Aram Van Ballaert)) and Sylvain Aertbeliën (Ronny Mosuse) scored massive hits with 'Dikke Lu', 'Vindegij Mijn Gat' and 'Foorwijf'. My favorite is 'Boecht Van Dunaldi', a song about disgusting wine in a carton box.
Maybe this is cheating a bit, since Stef Bos is actually born and raised in The Netherlands. Still, he moved to Belgium in 1988, started writing songs for Clouseau and Ingeborg and appearing in 'De Samson & Gert Show'. In 1990, he released an album with the title 'Is Dit Nu Later', featuring the hit 'Papa' and this tearjerker that gets me every single time. The song describes a highly emotional comparison between his life as a kid and as an adult, wondering 'Is This The Future'?
Earlier this year, the Flemish metal scene teamed up with a number of hip-hop artists to record a tribute to both 'Walk This Way' from Run DMC and the 'Judgement Night' tribute. Personally, I've never really been a fan of Dutch rap, but this thing is yummie. A few gigs followed before they put the project to rest, but rest assured, some tremendously blasting tunes came out of this cooperation.
Marcel Van Tilt is no stranger to absurdities and conflicts. According to a story I read somewhere, someone claimed he stole the band name from a brainstorming session to find a band name for the group that would eventually be known as De Kreuners. Furthermore, this song pissed off schlager singer John Terra who just released a song with the exact same title, which translates as 'The Day The Sun Didn't Shine Anymore'. In the end, Arbeid Adelt probably became most popular with the P.I.L. cover 'Death Disco'. Yet, for Belgian new wavers, this song still is a classic.
Another favorite of the Flemish black denim and leather wearing music lovers, is Aroma Di Amore, a band around Elvis Peeters and guitarist Fred Angst. Formed in 1982, Aroma Di Amore has been known for their socio-critical lyrics and gloomy new wave sound. This song was released as a single in 1983, and appeared on the album 'Radikal' ten years later.