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Jonker’s poetry set to music

Fifty years after Afrikaans poet Ingrid Jonker vanished into the ocean off Three Anchor Bay, her daughter Simone and her spouse Ernesto Garcia Marques began creating a tribute to Jonker by setting her poems to music.

Jonker was immortalised by Nelson Mandela in 1994 when he read her poem Die Kind at his inauguration. She wrote it after witnessing a black child dying in his mother’s arms after being shot by soldiers in the Cape township Nyanga. The 36-song tribute Die Kind Is Nog Jonger draws its name from this poem.

In recent years Jonker’s short and troubled life has been the subject of several films, plays, books and albums. “Through her beautiful poems, in her mother tongue Afrikaans, Ingrid Jonker evokes profound images that are the heart of her culture,” writes Simone. “She wrote from the heart to the heart, and from personal experience. That puts her amongst us. I am humbled by the immensity of her spirit that lives in her poetry, and I feel there are powerful messages of hope, a sense of comfort, a questioning mind and an eternal spirit within her poems.

“My mother used to sing to me when I was young, and I felt like singing to her in return by asking musicians, particularly from the alternative Afrikaans musicians, to set her poems to music.”

Once the idea of the tribute took hold, the process of putting poetry to music began. Ernesto says: “I started contacting all the bands I knew and many were friends. Simone chose the poems randomly and we emailed these to them and told them they could do whatever they wanted, as long as they used all of the words. The response was incredible and bit by bit the poems came back as songs. Each band or artist did their own recordings, at their own expense, at the studios of their choosing.”

Once the music had been collected, it was mastered by top soundman Peter Pearlson, but the problem of getting it out to the public remained. Enter Paul Blom of Flamedrop, who raised funds through a successful Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign and sorted the song order, cover artwork and helped to organise promotion and distribution.

The compilation has songs ranging widely in genre and style, from delicate, haunting renditions to hard-hitting, heavy grooves.

Renowned artists such as Anton Goosen and the Kalahari Surfers are listed next to a number of relatively unknown artists by comparison, some even Google and YouTube have no record of. On some of the tracks, there’s the added bonus of Jonker’s own voice ringing out across the years.

The tribute is also available in vinyl format. For more information visit flamedrop.com/ingridjonker/

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