Camille Van Niekerk – Hier Het Ek Jou Gevind
“Hier het ek jou gevind” is Camille van Niekerk’s first album. Her first two singles, released in 2018, “Proteas op die tafel” and “Hier het ek jou gevind”, also feature on this album, along with many well-loved Afrikaans classics. The song on the album of the same name is about her husband Jaco – he’s the “jou”. Although the couple met in California, the song is about meeting and falling in love in beautiful South Africa, and sharing a love across continents. Camille chose it as the name of the album, not only because Jaco inspired her learning and singing in Afrikaans, but because South Africa (the “hier”) features so prominently in many of the songs. “Blouberg se strand”, “Skipskop”, “Proteas op die tafel” – almost every song specifically references a beloved place or feature of South Africa, which speaks to the great pride South Africans have in their land, and how much the country itself inspires artists to write and sing about it. Camille says that a few years ago, she would never have guessed that she’d have an album out at all – much less an album entirely in Afrikaans. As a session singer, she sings on other people’s projects, not her own. Until late 2019, she was not writing her own music, so the idea of her own album was not on the horizon. She feels really blessed to have been given the opportunity to create this album and have the opportunity to collaborate with wonderful people and saw the process from the inside. Camille is excited about what the future holds and to compile new albums in future, but she feels “Hier het ek jou gevind” will remain very special to her. It represents a lot of firsts for her: her first time flying solo (literally), first tour (and an international one at that!), her first time playing an instrument on stage and sharing her first original songs.
Most songs on the album are Afrikaans classics that family members and friends on Facebook introduced Camille to – songs like “Lisa se clavier”, “Kinders van die wind”, “Skipskop” and “Blouberg se strand”. “Her introduction to “Stuur groete aan Mannetjies Roux” was years ago on a road trip with Jaco and she could only remember one line, “my oom drink koffie en my tannie tee”. With some of the songs she instantly fell in love with upon hearing them, like “Breyten se brief” (Jan Blohm) and “Stiltetyd”, the third Gian Groen song on the album. Every song on the album is one that she found beautiful and love to sing. Tertius Human, the musical producer worked closely with Camille to create arrangements that would pay homage to the original artists while providing a fresh, unique sound. Sometimes that meant basing the arrangement on her solo ukulele cover (like “Skipskop”, where Camille play ukulele on the final track as well), or taking inspiration from Gian’s bandmates Guy Feldman (guitar) and Alex Powers (bass & keys), who recorded demo instrumentals for pre-production. Other times it meant using electric guitar instead of acoustic for a different vibe (“Breyten se brief”), singing the melody in more than one octave (“Lisa se clavier”) and at times staying very close to the original (“Dobbelstene”).
After graduating from college and earning her teaching credential in music, Camille planned to get a job teaching high school or middle school choir. But just a short time into classroom teaching, she realized that her passion for singing that she needed to pursue. Jaco and Camille bought her first mic, along with software to record and edit. She began singing with a choir, attended sight singing classes and went to workshops on session singing; She then recorded a demo reel at home and began posting cover songs on YouTube.
Her first Afrikaans cover, which went viral, was a cover of “Sonvanger” by Valiant Swart that was posted on Facebook in November 2017. She visited South Africa (Jaco’s home country) in 2016 and enjoyed learning Afrikaans through music as she prepared to hear and speak a lot of Afrikaans with his family and friends. Jaco especially loved “Sonvanger” and he knew that the Afrikaans-speaking community would enjoy seeing an American singing in Afrikaans, especially with such a beautiful and heartfelt song. Following the success and positive response to “Sonvanger”, Camille continued to post Afrikaans covers and live videos on Facebook. A cousin of Jan Blohm heard her cover of “Breyten se brief” and connected Camille to Jan, who put her in touch with Kobie Koen of Vonk Music. They began planning towards a full album, starting with an original song in Afrikaans. Gian Groen first wrote “Proteas op die tafel” and later “Hier het ek jou gevind” for her. Vonk produced both singles, with Camille recording vocals in California. Last June-July (2019), Camille visited South Africa to tour with Gian and meet more of the awesome folks at Vonk. In between live shows, interviews, and spending time with Jaco’s family, she also recorded lead vocals for her full album.
Camille says she experienced a few career highlights last year: In addition to touring in South Africa and making this album, she sang on her first film session (for a sci-fi movie) and sang in a 12-voice ensemble backing up Jónsi (of Sigur rós) at the Orpheum.
She finds inspiration in musicians and writers who know who they are, who have something honest to share, and who stay humble and true to themselves along the journey of creating and sharing their art. She is especially inspired by people who have a niche, who make something small and specific that might not reach millions of people, but that will impact a smaller number of people in a profound way. Although she has been writing poetry for years, song writing is a new discipline and creative outlet and for that reason, she is now more than ever inspired by the songwriters she grew up listening to who shaped her musical sensibilities from the start: James Taylor, Bob Dylan, and the many musical theatre composers who wrote the soundtrack to her childhood.