Weekend in Riversdale – Part 4: Sonja Herholdt in Riversdale, performing “Heartbeat of a Woman”

On Saturday morning, we attended a delightful breakfast concert in the Riversdale Town Hall.

The event had been arranged by a local organisation known as DROOM. An Afrikaans word that means dream, DROOM is actually an acronym for Diens aan Riversdal en Omgewing se Ouer Mense, i.e.  Serving the Elderly of Riversdale and Surroundings. This is definitely a good cause to support.

The singer who performed was Sonja Herholdt, a well-known and much-loved South African singer.

She is known for Afrikaans hits such as Ek Verlang Na Jou, Waterblommetjies (‘waterblommetjies’ or ‘water flowers’ are used in a distinctively South African dish called Waterblommetjiebredie, which is a meat (usually lamb) stew made with the flowers of the Cape pondweet or Aponogeton distachyos), Umfaan, Oberammergau, Ek glo die son sal wel weer skyn, and Harlekyn … in fact, she has performed an impressive number of hits since she first hit the stage in the 1970s and 1980s. (Those are all links to YouTube clips, so click away! :-))

And there is Sonja on stage in Riversdale!

Turning back the clock

When I was little, and living in Swakopmund, Namibia, I remember that Sonja gave a performance in our small town on the west coast of Namibia. I cannot for the life of me recall whether I ended up going to her concert, or whether I was still too little, but I do remember seeing the posters up everywhere and feeling the excitement among family and friends who were going to see her sing.

Her songs were played a lot on the radio in those days.

She had an angelic voice – bright and clear and sparkling and full of joy. And she was gorgeous. What I remember most about her that she was friendly, sweet, kind-hearted – none of that stuck-up nose-in-the-air arrogance of some performers. When she was on stage, she glowed from the inside, and it shone through in her music.

Even though she is now a couple of years older, she is still as beautiful as ever, and her voice remains as crystal-clear and enchanting as it has always been.

She has recently brought out a new album called “Pêrels” (or Pearls), a double CD; the one CD contains some of her greatest and best-loved hits, and the second CD contains brand new songs written by her in the last couple of years. She has uploaded a video of the title song to YouTube here. Her son Simeon has a wonderful singing voice too, and they perform a duet of the song “Ons vlieg saam” (We are flying together) here. In fact, the two of them will be performing together at a venue in Durbanville called Die Boer (Afrikaans for “the farmer”) on 04 October 2011 – so guess what, I’ve just bought tickets to that show! 😉

Sonja singing at Matjiesfontein in December 2007

Jump forward to 2007

A couple of years back, I was leafing through the weekend newspaper, when an advert jumped out at me. It said something like: “Take the Train to Matjiesfontein with Sonja Herholdt: A weekend train journey from Cape Town to Matjiesfontein on Friday and back on Sunday.”

One of her most famous Afrikaans songs was “Trein na Matjiesfontein” (in English: Train to Matjiesfontein) (YouTube clip here: Trein na Matjiesfontein). In case you have never heard of Matjiesfontein, it is a tiny town in the Karoo, not much more than a blip on the radar; it happens to be on the train route from Cape Town to Johannesburg. Perhaps this intriguing description will tempt you to visit:

“An outpost of the British Empire and little piece of Scotland can be found on the plains of the Great Karoo.

This is Matjiesfontein a tiny Victorian village with a history richly spiced with tales of murder, mayhem and magic. This is all woven into a rich tapestry of gallantry, ghosts, fact and fiction. The Matjiesfontein saga brings the early Karoo, the Anglo- Boer War and Life in Queen Victoria’s England, vividly to life.

To visit is to step back in time.” (http://www.heritage.org.za/karoo/matjie.htm)

I can still remember how my heart skipped a couple of beats when I read the advert. I immediately rushed to the phone to find out whether there were still seats available on the train, and did a little happiness dance in the lounge when Andre, the organiser, confirmed that there were!

Sonja's special birthday cake at Matjiesfontein in December 2007

Without further ado, I signed us up. Luckily, hubby, who had also grown up in Namibia, loved her music just as much as I did, and so we looked forward with much anticipation to our train journey with Sonja.

It was one of the most unforgettable and enjoyable weekends of our lives, and I hope to tell you about it sometime!

Sonja’s 2011 Concert in Riversdale

Anyhow, a couple of months ago, I happened to be scrolling through Sonja’s Event Calendar, feeling rather sad at the fact that she wasn’t performing her latest show “The Heartbeat of Womanhood” anywhere closer to my home in Cape Town, when the name of a town in the Southern Cape jumped out at me: Riversdale!


Riversdale! That was just on the other (eastern) side of Swellendam and Heidelberg, wasn’t it?

That’s not too far to drive!

In fact, we could combine this with a weekend getaway!

I couldn’t imagine a nicer way to celebrate Women’s Day in August!

So that is how we ended up at that delightful mid-morning concert in the Riversdale Town Hall on 06 August 2011.

We are all grouped around lovingly decorated tables

When we arrived at the venue on Saturday morning, there were beautifully set out tables and chairs distributed all around the main hall, with each table having a fynbos floral arrangement as the centrepiece. We quickly found ourselves two seats, and made ourselves comfortable. I struck up conversations with people as they joined us at our table. Everyone was so nice and hospitable!

The audience appeared to be mainly Afrikaans-speaking, which is quite understandable, as Riversdale is a very Afrikaans community and as Sonja performs most of her songs in Afrikaans. We didn’t mind – we were really loving the experience of immersing ourselves in some Afrikaans culture and history!

As we don’t speak the language much at home, though, it wasn’t always easy to find the right words to use, but it was a lot of fun nonetheless! It’s one of those times when I am really grateful that we were taught Afrikaans at school, in addition to German and English, because it definitely roots us more firmly in the culture and history of our country. Perhaps it is because Afrikaans is unique (well, it used to be) to South Africa; despite the negative associations of the language (particularly with regard to racial oppression and apartheid etc.), it awakens and calls on a strong emotional bond to the land, its people, its complex history… Hm… It is hard to explain.

After Sonja's inspiring show, we enjoy a perfectly scrumptious traditional breakfast

There were primarily women in the audience, many of them elderly, with only a sprinkling of men (most likely accompanying their partners). Sonja’s latest show is geared very strongly towards empowering and motivating women – it is called “The Heartbeat of Womanhood”. The posters on the stage said, “Vertel jou storie” (Tell your own story), “Luister met jou hart” (Listen with your heart), and “Courage is controlled fear”.

She weaves together songs, both her own and those of other musicians, and stories, in which she shares episodes of her own life. It is quite an emotional and heart-opening experience, and I imagine that it must be both quite draining for her to connect with us on such an emotional level, and also quite uplifting when we respond from our side.

After the performance, we were all ravenous – and just as well, because breakfast was served! We started off with portions of fresh fruit salad with yoghurt, and followed up with servings of traditional breakfast, which included toast, bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs and fried tomato-slices. Yummmm.

On our way out, I of course had to buy a copy of Sonja’s latest album “Pêrels” (Pearls) and a copy of her book, “Sonja – Meisie van Nigel” (Sonja – Girl from Nigel) – Nigel is a small gold-mining town in the Gauteng province, where Sonja was born. She very kindly autographed both for us. Yayyy!

We played the CDs on the laptop that night, while we were preparing the ingredients of our braai – singing along loudly, as we sliced and chopped the veggies and salted and peppered the toasted sandwiches!

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3 thoughts on “Weekend in Riversdale – Part 4: Sonja Herholdt in Riversdale, performing “Heartbeat of a Woman”

  1. Pingback: The train to Matjiesfontein | Finding Frohsinn - Living Now

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