Hanru Niemand is a clinical psychologist by day and an Afrikaans folk musician by night.
He has released two albums – ‘Tot Stilte’ (2006) and ‘Roepwoorde’ (2010) and his works have been translated in both Finnish and Russian.
Hanru is thoughtful with his music. He is the type of musician who wants to learn his craft, and spends time developing and honing his skill as an artist.
You are a psychologist and always the one helping others, so how does the music help you?
“Music is my therapy. It is the way I find my balance. Singing and performing live is especially therapeutic. But even sitting alone, playing, helps me unwind. It definitely has that function for me.”
Tell me about your journey through your first album, Tot Stilte
“Tot Stilte is almost like an exception in a way – at that stage in 2006 I had already been playing live gigs for a number of years; about 4 years. So by the time 2006 came, I had a good idea of what worked. I took the best 12 songs from my repertoire, the hits so to speak. I thought if I want to make an album, these songs had to be on it. I was in my middle 20s at that stage, but the songs were about my teen years and early twenties – so a lot of the songs were mainly love songs from then.”
How was the approach different for Roepwoorde?
“It was a very different album. I wrote a one man cabaret concept show called Roepwoorde – I wrote the stage piece and then recorded the album so that we could have a record of the songs from that show. So it is actually a very different concept – unlike Tot Stilte, all the songs are connected.”
“In the old days, an album had one idea, like Pink Floyd, Radiohead, etc. The songs are coherent together – you have to listen to the album in one go. Tot Stilte is almost like a compilation, it’s the same kind of concept.”
“Musically it is also different. Both albums are almost in two different styles. Every now and again I get the urge to write something more melodic, more piano driven. In Roepwoorde, it was more piano driven. Then I go to a more guitar driven idea, more folky – like in Tot Stilte and a later album. I don’t prefer the one over the other. It is all about how I am feeling today.”
You’ve had your works translated. How did this come about?
“One Russian translator took an interest in the works; my song lyrics. I really enjoy writing and when it comes to song writing I don’t publish a great deal, because I spend a long time on my lyrics – it is pain staking. If it is not working, then it waits until I find a line that works. When I was younger it took me longer to realize if something wasn’t working but nowadays I can censor things quicker. I can tell if something isn’t working earlier on in the writing process.”
“I am uncertain how he came across the songs. I received this perfectly written Afrikaans email from this Russian guy. He is so great at languages. He sent me an email in almost perfect Afrikaans saying that he liked the songs and would like to translate them. And I was definitely fine with it.”
Do you think they can get the essence of your writing, because sometimes when you translate something directly you can lose the feel of the piece.
“My Russian is non existent so I usually Google translate. I saw some of it, from Russian to English and it was really pretty. For instance, their translations aren’t direct, they are almost idiomatic translations. Which is great. The one song that he translated was Tot Stilte and the one line in Afrikaans is ‘my vriende ek dra jou hand Tot Stilte’. Directly translated into English it means ‘my friend I recommend you keep quite’. His translation was ‘my friend, consider, silence is not harmful’ – this was the Russian to English translation. So I think this is a wonderful take on it.”
Have you sung in Russian ever?
“No – it’s an extremely difficult accent to get right. I would rather attempt another language, like German, which is closer to how I talk. I am over flattered that they did this. It is wonderful for me.”
Plans going forward?
“I play regularly with another band and I always get a slot with them as well. It is kind of like a double bill. We play at wine farms, brewerys, etc. I am quite lucky that I have a regular slot. Album wise, I am close to finishing a new album – I am recording it with another musician, an incredible musician and he plays with us. Now I just need to find the time to put some finishing touches to it. I don’t have an album title yet. Once it is in the bag, then I will decide when we release it.”
If you were trapped on a desert island?
“This is difficult. It would either be Ok Computer from Radiohead – which is an excellent album, or else it might be an Anthology from Koos Du Plessis, which is music I grew up with. But there are so many others.”
Follow him everywhere:
Apple Music: https://itunes.apple.com/au/artist/hanru-niemand/275343460