Bok van Blerk and his “bende” will be landing in Australia in July 2009 to commence their tour Downunder. The tour will include four concerts that will be held in Perth, Melbourne, Gold Coast and Sydney on July 4, 5, 11 and 12 respectively. Hugo (also known for his song “Deur die Straights”) will be performing as the guest artist for this tour and promises to entertain with his sharp wit and jovial sense of humour.
In 2006 Bok van Blerk achieved overnight fame with the release of his song De la Rey, also the name of his first album. The song had such a dramatic impact on the South African nation that it made newspaper headlines all round the world including the NY Times, The London Times and The Washington Post and has led to the album having more than 200,000 copies sold to date. Bok van Blerk has been seen as a local hero in the eyes of many a South African in the way that he has been able to bring together a nation in a time of challenge and volatility.
Bok (31 years old) born as Louis Pepler inherited his petname at school when he used to mimic the mannerisms of one, “Oom Bokkoms”. “I was the proverbial joker at school and university, always cracking jokes and being the entertainer. It gives me great pleasure singingaround the camp fire, which I believe I may have inherited from my father.”
When you first meet Bok you will see that is he sturdy built with a calmness about him that doesn't budge for much; and that when he talks to you with his deep voice you find yourself starting to think “this oke looks maar a bietijie kwaai hey”, but then he manages to catch you off-guard with a naughty smile or an outburst of his warm laughter.
Bok started his career when he was working as a project manager at a construction company during the day and putting on performances most nights at gigs until late at night, however these days his only focus is that off his music and when asked about all the late nights he says “I get very little sleep but I'm okay with that. I'm still young and single although I must admit that lately I'm beginning to feel that it may be time that I find myself a girlfriend” he laughs.
It is always a diverse group of people that you will find rocking and singing along to the tune of “De la Rey, De la Rey, sal jy die Boere kom lei….” When asked what is it about this song that causes both young and old to be swept up? Bok replies “I don't really know,” he laughs. “It's a catchy tune and I think the people enjoy hearing a bit of history in Afrikaans again.” It apparently isn't only the staunch Afrikaners who enjoy the song either' Bok goes on to tell us that “My sister's gardener sings De La Rey word for word at the top of his voice.” At the time of release the song, De la Rey, was perceived to cast the notion of South African pride in a whole new light, causing it to instantly become an Afrikaner anthem. When asked about the political response surrounding the song, Bok denies any intention of it conveying a political message through the song or that the song was directed at the right wing. “I really don't understand where this perception comes from. The song speaks of the battle between the Boere and the British. I think perhaps that it may be because the word ‘Boere' is seen as having such a strong political connotation in South Africa”. Looking angry, he frowns. “We, as young Afrikaans artists fully support moving forward and leaving the past behind, all we ask is that we all be painted with the same brush as all other groups and be allowed to sing in our own language and about our own culture. ‘De la Rey' is a testament to Afrikaner pride. I'm part of this rainbow country of ours,” he said “but I'm one of the colours, andI'm sticking up for who I am. I'm proud of who I am”.
Afrikaans and the Afrikaans culture lie very close to his heart and although he has traveled all over the world he maintains that he wouldn't want to live anywhere else. Bok van Blerk was the largest selling artist in South Africa for 2007 and 2008 and this included his top seller (De La Rey) – of which 200 000 albums were sold. His album has gone both Gold and Platinum. In one year he has received 3 Huisgenoot Tempo, and 5 Vonk Awards including Song of the Year and Album of the Year, and in 2007 he was also awarded with the best music video award at the South African MK awards. Bok Van Blerk's new album “Afrikanerhart” was release on May 11 2009 ‘‘The album has lekker new, original songs, ''he says. ‘'I think that the lyrics and choruses are better than the previous album.'' He is especially excited about the duet “Pa en Seun”, featured on the album, which he sings with Steve Hofmeyr.
This song comes out of the music compilation, “Ons vir Jou”, and Bok and Steve have already made a music video out of it. ‘'I would like to feature this album in my upcoming tours and make a success of it. I hope and dream it will fill the boots left by De la Rey. There are a few lekker songs including “Seilvis Skoffel” that is about a visvang-liegstorie and “Brandewyn Sonder Brieke” wat net ‘n lekker kuierliedjie is,'' he says.
Does he feel as though he is famous? “Yes. Sometimes people will ask: “Hey, are you Bok van Blerk?” I reply: “No, I'm Jan de Klerk, a blockman from Benoni. I'm here for the annual meat sawing competition.'” Bok is always quick with a joke and a serious supporter of fun. Having him play in Australia's backyard will allow all those South Africans living in Australia the opportunity to savor the taste of home.