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Being involved with one’s community – and in this case as patron - normally comes last on the list of activities reflected on a CV. For me, things are different: my involvement with MES has been so enriching and rewarding, that it has moved right up to the top of my list of worthwhile activities. The past year has been no exception. The wide range of MES activities which one inevitably becomes involved with, lends a wonderful meaning to one’s life, and mine in particular! Whether it is the Christmas walk through the streets of Hillbrow, or the talents harnessed for the Unplugged concerts every year; whether it is spinning for the annual Aids day Spinnathon, or decanting soup on Thursday nights – the selflessness of the MES team and the difference the organisation makes to the heart of the city, makes my life worthwhile in many, many ways. It is rare to find people so dedicated to doing good without the ego’s that sometimes go with this kind of work. This team exists in MES. So whenever they thank me for my involvement in my own small way, I always have to smile to myself: the thanks should be to this incredible team for doing what they do, and ultimately giving meaning to my life!
Coenie de Villiers was born and bred in the Free State where he completed his post-graduate studies in Communication, Media Science and Marketing at Free State University . He studied classical piano and played his formal keyboard exams through UNISA.
Coenie is known as the foremost writer/performer in Afrikaans, and critics universally regard his lyrics as being of a world-class standard. He has performed on virtually all of South Africa 's major stages, and has shared shows with the likes of Sibongile Khumalo, Gloria Bosman, Sipho Gumede, Laurika Rauch, David Kramer and a brace of other South African artists. Likewise, many South African artists have performed with him on his twelve albums, inter alia Jonathan Butler, Sipho Gumede, Gloria Bosman, Amanda Strydom, Afrika Mamas, Leslie Rae Dowling, Steve Newman, Amampondo, David Kramer, Brasse vannie Kaap and Karen Zoid.
He has performed abroad in New Zealand , Canada , England , Holland and Belgium . Coenie has won numerous awards for his music including twoSAMA awards for musical excellence. He is universally acknowledged as one of the most challenging and original singer/songwriters in South Africa , and has for many years bridged the musical divides between cultures in South Africa .
Musically his career began in the late seventies when he released a single for which he wrote the music through EMI. The record went on to win a SARIE award for Most Promising Artist. As first and foremost a songwriter, Coenie found the experience creatively unsatisfying, and resolved not to record again if he could not hold complete creative sway over the product.
At the beginning of the eighties, he met Paddy Lee Thorp of Mountain Records who afforded him the freedom to write, arrange, produce and perform his first album, the seminal Skoppensboer , which was released in 1982/83. The album featured Coenie's writing and performance skills as composer, lyricist, pianist and vocalist. The lyric of one song was by Pieter-Dirk Uys, and featured David Kramer doing a duo with Coenie. The album caused a furor in the conservative, mainstream Afrikaans market and most of the tracks were subsequently playbanned by the SABC.
This album was followed by Die Reisiger , which featured, inter alia, Jonathan Butler and Steve Newman on guitars, and which went on to win two SARIE awards and a SCOTTY award. As with Skoppensboer , the album was engineered by Kevin Shirley, currently the producer of, amongst others, the band Aerosmith in America . Coenie again produced, wrote and performed the album. The SABC again playbanned several of the songs.
Kruispaaie followed, an album steeped in the unrest of the middle to late eighties. The title track (referring to the Crossroads squatter camp) included live recordings of squatter evictions during a period where lyrics reflecting the unrest were not allowed. The album also included several live recordings of songs set to the text of award-winning author Hennie Aucamp. Coenie once again wrote, produced and performed the album, and infused it with a clean, crisp production quality that was as yet unheard in the mainstream Afrikaans market.
Coenie lived on the island of Cyprus during the cusp of the eighties and nineties. He wrote, recorded and produced the album Amper Alleen in Cyprus and in Athens , Greece . Amper Alleen was the second SA album to be released on CD. On this quiet, introspective album, Coenie plays with some of the best Greek and Cypriot musicians, notably the bouzouki player Elias Elias.
Coenie and his family returned to South Africa after the release of Nelson Mandela and the unbanning of the ANC. He released Hartland , an album which looked at the dark heart of South Africa , and which included an exceptional vocal performance by Leslie Rae Dowling.
With over 14 albums to his name, his commitment stays unquestionably to South Africa, and to helping MES Change the heart of our cities...