We sit down with Afrikaans music legend Laurika Rauch in rare interview

Cape Town - It’s a cold and rainy Thursday afternoon as I make my way to GrandWest. I’m feeling honoured and nervous at the same time as I will be sitting down to chat to one of SA music’s greats, and a personal idol of mine, Laurika Rauch.

We’ve crossed paths previously, and by crossing paths I mean that I was once invited to be in the audience of a live DVD recording of her more than 10 years ago by a mutual friend. We know many of the same people, but I’ve never had the opportunity to interview her, until now.

Laurika is in-between rehearsals and soundcheck at the Grand Arena for the Liefde by die Arena show when I am escorted backstage. 

She greets me with a smile as I introduce myself and invites me into the dimly lit backstage room, offers me a bottle of water and puts me right at ease as we chat about our parallel paths in the music industry.

On collaborations

For the Liefde by die Arena show, as well as Liefde by die Dam which is happening in August, Laurika will be taking to the stage with an array of Afrikaans artists including Die Heuwels Fantasties, Loki Rothman and Jo Black. I have to ask: "How did it all come together?"

"There’s only one answer to that, and that is Pierre, Pierre Greeff. It’s his initiative and it’s just unbelievable to be part of it. I think his starting point is to try and crossover so you can put different styles together on one stage, which is a very big privilege to be a part of. It’s going to be a very interesting cross section of the music industry at the moment," says Laurika.

On how working with Die Heuwels Fantasties came about, Laurika explains that it all started when she was busy putting a repertoire together for her latest album, Die Reis, which was released in October 2016. "We started looking at songs which I could record again, as I’ve been quite successful with covering songs … So when my producer asked me which songs I would choose to do now if I could, I told him in passing that I really love Klein Tambotieboom. He then said okay, let’s record and ask Pierre if he will do it with you," says Laurika.

And as they say, the rest is history. Laurika’s most recent album features about six collaborations with different artists. And for her, it’s an organic process rather than a planned one. "Bittereinder’s Jaco van der Merwe sent me an e-mail five years ago and said let’s do something together. And when it came to this album I let him know, are you ready to do something together?" laughs Laurika.

"Is there anyone you still want to collaborate with?" I ask. "It depends on what crosses my path, rather than me initiating it. And sometimes the chemistry between you and a musician is just perfect and then you just go with it," says Laurika.

'Musical arrangement, that I can do'

This might come as a surprise to some, but in all of her years as a performer Laurika has never written her own songs. "I have a need in a way, and this is the first time that I am saying this to anyone… I did a few musical arrangements of poems long ago, and by long ago I mean late 70s, early 80s. I took Boerneef poems and did musical arrangements of them, and also quite a few Ingrid Jonker poems and so on. A few of them have made it onto albums, so musical arrangement, that I can do. But I haven’t done it in years and I’m quite keen to try my hand at it again," reveals Laurika.  

I’ve always wondered how Laurika and her husband Chris Torr work together in a creative space. Having penned many of Laurika’s hits, Chris and Laurika actually never really work together when it comes to putting an album together. "He will for example contribute a song, a maximum of one or two songs per album, because he has so much other work to do. He spends a long time writing one song, and that is why I respect him, because I think a song that is so well thought through is usually very compact and very neat and it has many layers. So yes, it is always a gift when Chris writes a song for me.

"It you take a good look back at what he’s done, he’s already left a wonderful legacy of about 26 songs or so. And they are so special," adds Laurika  

I just have to ask: "Do you still get nervous before a show?"

"Terribly! Yes, yes, yes, and also, it’s quite important for me to be nervous, because if I’m not then it feels like it doesn’t matter enough," says Laurika.

Laurika reveals that there’s a process she goes through before getting up on stage to calm the nerves. "I have a sort of thought process I go through. And what I normally do with my accompanist is that we will talk through the whole show beforehand. You go through every song and we say, oe be careful of that part, and that part and remember to do that there and so on. You get all those things out of the way and it’s filed in your brain, so by the time you walk on stage you actually do it for the second time," says Laurika.

'Less hectic than it was 10 years ago'

Looking at Laurika, she’s obviously doing something right – she looks amazing and youthful.

"What does a typical day in your life look like at the moment?" I ask.

"I don’t think you want to know that because it’s terribly boring!" she laughs. "A typical day is a quiet day, well not that quiet, as there is always office work to do. Once a day I will cook, and I like working out, so I go to the gym, I try and go three times a week. I try and plan my day more or less according to my diary. So the previous day I will look at the next day’s appointments and responsibilities, and I will pace myself according to that.

"Also, doing a show these days it’s not just going up on stage. I have to start preparing about two to three days beforehand. If you have to travel then it’s two to three days beforehand, and then its rehearsals. So I am very active in terms of what I do. My work requires a lot of time, you have to take care of yourself, you have to take care of your costumes, you have to rehearse, you have to plan your trip, and those types of things. So it’s mostly a full time type of thing if you still perform. But what I can say is that it’s less hectic than it was 10 years ago," explains Laurika. 

'I am not thinking of a cut-off point yet'

Having been a performer since the age of five, I have to ask: "What has been the best advice you’ve received during your career?"

"I received the best advice from two people. The one was Kris Kritzinger of Transistor Records, he’s advice was that if you record an album you have to record it so well that you still want to listen to it five years later. That is the most important thing, so you don’t just do something quickly, you literally have to put your all into it and the quality needs to be so good that you can still listen to it five years later. The other guy was Martin Locke from Gallo Records, he was at a corporate function where I performed and I sang amongst other things, Send In The Clowns. And he told me afterwards, ‘Laurika it was a good show, but I want to give you the following tip and that is, each one of the songs that you do in the show should have the power of Send In The Clowns.’ And after that I always tried to do that with every show and every album, there are no throw-away songs and they must all stand strong," says Laurika.  

And is she already thinking about the next album? 

"Yes, but it has to speak to me. Due to the fact that I am dependent on songwriters who write songs that appeal to me, I won’t just make an album for the sake of making an album, so I do like to say that it’s not done yet, and that it’s not yet enough…I am not thinking of a cut-off point yet at this stage, and especially when I‘m working with such young musicians then I just realise what an unbelievable privilege it is to be where I am now, it’s the best thing," says Laurika. 

And just like that, it’s over. I thank Laurika for her time. We say our goodbyes. Bucket list interview, check.

Catch Laurika live at the Liefde By Die Dam show in August.

Event details:

Date: Sunday 6 August
Venue: Emmarentia Dam, Johannesburg
Line-Up: Laurika Rauch, Die Heuwels Fantasties, Francois van Coke, Tresor, Riana Nel, Jo Black, Loki Rothman, Majozi and JR.
Time: 10:00 to 18:00
Tickets: R165 online / R200 at the gate / R600 PLUS / Under 12: R75
Tickets are available from Computicket.