On Sunday evenings, Aandklas exchanges its usual head-banging and table-dancing for moody guitar riffs and husky voices as Pretoria’s fresh talent takes to the stage. Open Mic Night has been a regular event at Aandklas for a few years now and has firmly established itself on Pretoria’s social calendar. Here, one can expect to meet eager musicians, cold beverages and great commentary. PDBY caught up with Christo de Beer, the driving force behind Aandklas’s Open Mic Night:

Who or what exactly is Baas de Beer?

Baas de Beer is the public persona of Christo de Beer. If you see me on a stage, whether with a mic at a comedy night, a guitar at an open mic, a festival as MC or DJ… odds are you are looking at Baas. Christo, on the other hand, is a business owner who loves Music. A LOT.

Years ago I figured out that I am really not good enough to cut it as a professional Musician, so I channelled my passion for the industry into something that will hopefully help build a greater, stronger live Music scene in SA or, at the very least, help someone discover the joy of Music. On the business side of things, my company is involved with a couple of the most awesome events, venues and businesses in and around Pretoria. From the likes of STRAB Fest, Park Acoustics and Capital Craft to Blue-Chip Flight School and many more, I am privileged to work in a world where boredom isn’t a factor.

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What exactly is Open Mic Night at Aandklas and how did it all start?

It all started with a Francois van Coke show. He was playing one of his first acoustic shows at Aandklas, and Rudi (the owner of Aandklas) and I were standing there, having a drink and enjoying the Music, when he turned to me

and said that this is why he built Aandklas. He expressed his desire to have someone playing Music on stage, even if just an acoustic solo act, every day. To shorten a medium story, I proposed that we have an Open Mic Night. A (very) short while later, we had our first event.

The Aandklas Open Mic started on 17 May 2015, and I knew nothing about open mics, other than what I’ve seen in the movies. [It] took us a good 3 months to shape it into the format we are running today, and I must say, it works really well. At that time, as far as my knowledge goes, there were no regular open mics in or around Pretoria, so we quite literally had to reinvent the wheel. I couldn’t go to another open mic to see how it was done.

Without Aandklas, Rudi, the musos and supporters who were there from the start, Pretoria would not have the rich diversity in open mics it has today, as a few other similar events spawned from the Aandklas nights. Currently I run another monthly open mic at Capital Craft Centurion. But the coolest part is that some of the musos who were at my open mics, are running similar open mics at Hooters, Edge’s Corner and Tiger’s milk in Lynwood. It was my unspoken hope from the start that the little bit that I have done, could inspire others to do more.

Tell me about your best memories of “Open Mic Night”?

Obviously, discovering young talent, and seeing how they grow. The most amazing experience is to be part of a Musician’s journey, in whatever way you can. I have been honoured to see the likes of Lungelo Moyo, the boys from Zebra, Kenny Hughes and many, many more set foot on my stage, and make something of themselves Musically. To see the personal, not just Musical growth in individuals is a treat and I am privileged to be a part of it.

It goes so much further than just that. Open mic has created a space for people like my right-hand man, Obie Sicwebu (or as he is known at Aandklas, Obi-Wan Blacknobi), and guys like Jeandré Pistorius to find their passion for the industry, and live it.

I can keep you busy for days with epic moments – like songs that moved me and events that booked musos – but for me, the most amazing part of open mic is to be allowed to be a part of something bigger than myself, and take others along with me.

If a venue or organiser wants to start their own open mic; do you have any advice?

Yup. Most important, do it for the right reasons. If you’re starting it to make a quick buck or with the primary purpose of increasing sales, you will fail – miserably. Logically, it should make business sense, but I can guarantee you that there are more profitable ideas than an open mic. Your first and main reason for doing it should be the love of music, and the desire to invest in Musicians. This mindset will guide many of your decisions.

Then, also very important, this isn’t a solo show. Work together with venues, organisers, and like-minded individuals. For instance, it doesn’t make sense at this stage to have more than one open mic in Pretoria on the same night. Share the love and responsibility, work together, offer opportunities to artists. As an example, I am starting a monthly event with Klitsgras now that will offer young musos chosen from all the open mics in Pretoria a paying opportunity to play at this legendary venue, plus we are working on getting as much media there as possible, to give these guys proper exposure too! (Hint hint, hope PDBY will be there).

Why rock ‘n roll?

It’s real. It resonates with my soul. I see God in Music, the very nature and science of a string vibrating, made unique by the person playing it… it’s just something that can’t be replicated by the best computers in the world. There’s just something magical about humans playing Music together that can never be programmed.

I appreciate good Music and can recognise the value in good songs regardless of the genre, but rock will always be where my heart lies. If you can listen to an epic guitar solo without feeling something, or be unmoved by the poetry that becomes lyrics, you probably need professional help. For me, my professional help is rock & roll.

Who are some of your favourite up and coming South African musicians?

I would be doing a disservice to many great upcoming guys to say this is my definitive list, so I will just tell you about a few.

Zebra, Soundwarmer, Kenny Hughes as mentioned above, bands like Poeselig, Treble Bypass, Zen Garden, amazing ladies who will go far – such as Nicola Mcleod, Shot at the Moon, Kaiti Faul… Ag no man! I can’t possibly list them all. Rather just come to an open mic and meet them or go to a gig where you don’t recognize any of the band names. Who knows, 30 years from now, when someone like Stanley June is a household name, you can say that you bought him a shot at an open mic one night, years ago, and your kids will be seriously impressed.

Describe Aandklas to someone who has never been there:

For me, Aandklas has always been a home-away-from-home. I would legit not have been who, or where I am, had it not been for that place and its people, so you might say that I am a bit biased when describing it. Aandklas is where Musical dreams are born, drunken memories are made and best friends are met. It’s honest, it’s real and if you look carefully, between the bottles, smoke, dark corners and cheap bars, you will see joy. You will also see some pretty epic bands, let’s not forget to mention that.

Image: Aandklas Pta Faceboook Page

Dani van der Horst