Music in their blood

Top row, from left, are brothers Riaan, Jacques, and Francois Steyn and in front are parents Riaan and Petro Steyn.

Take a pair of musical parents and three sons who have free reign over a house filled with musical instruments. The results are inevitable: a family where music is (excuse the pun) the key word.

The Steyn Family Band trace their roots back to Kraaifontein 40 years ago, so it’s a fitting tribute that their latest show, Elvis on My Mind, will take place in the Kraaifontein Town Hall later this month on Friday August 26.

Jacques Steyn is one of the three brothers in the band – Riaan and Francois are the other two in the trio, and they were born and brought up in Kraaifontein, went to school at Aristea Primary, opposite the town hall, and with prominent church-going parents, the family were, and are, well-loved members of the community in Windsor Park.

Jacques, who as an adult moved to Durbanville, where Riaan also lives (Francois is in Johannesburg), proves not only to be a musician of note, (again excuse the pun) but a man with a dry sense of humour that comes out frequently during our conversation at a coffee shop in Canal Walk where we met last week.

The brothers have frequently gotten together to perform but their show on Friday will be their third “formal” tribute show – although, as Jacques explains, they have all performed individually.

Last September, they performed their first tribute to Elvis at the Hillcrest Quarry, with Nicholis Louw crooning and belting out some of the King of Rock’s best known numbers. According to Jacques, the Elvis Presley Fan Club of South Africa was so impressed they posted the show on their Facebook page as “the best Elvis tribute ever”. And the brothers were so happy they decided they just had to do it again.

Francois is a producer, who incidentally works with Casper de Vries, and when he originally came up with the idea of working with performer Nicholis Louw, it was his brothers who came first and foremost to his mind in providing the music.

Jacques plays bass guitar while Francois does acoustic guitar and Riaan is the drummer.

Riaan has played with cover bands in the northern suburbs and Jacques informs, rather modestly, that from 2000 to 2008 he was with the award-winning DNA Strings instrumental folk rock group that performed overseas at the Edinburgh Festival and the Royal Albert Hall. Francois also frequently plays for television shows and big festivals with all the big names in the music industry.

“Music’s always been in our blood,” smiles Jacques, adding his father was and still is, equally adept at strumming on the guitar, the banjo, acoustic and bass guitar and beating the drums, while his mother is a keen pianist.

His father, Riaan, was the musical director of the PPK church (Pinkster Protestante Kerk) in Kraaifontein where his mother, Pettro, played the organ.

“I used to say I grew up on the church organ. My mother used to play with the one hand and with the other would rock my pram,” laughs Jacques.

“We all kind of paired up to play when we were youngsters: Francois and I; then Riaan and I and so on.”

While they all went their separate ways they remained active musicians. Riaan is a friend of Mark Haze (Idols runner-up) and in 2012 they put on their first “official” performance in a Bon Jovi tribute with Hayes.

Jacques says the first Elvis show again “proved how great we sounded together”.

“While we always played together and were very certain of each others’ abilities, we didn’t really know how we’d sound.

“It was a very nice experience to really, really hear ourselves.”

For the upcoming show, Jacques says they have already started rehearsing individually and independently and via emails and WhatsAapp.

“A week before the show we’ll all get together and rehearse as a team. We are also putting a lot of effort into stage sound and lighting design.”

The Kraaifontein Town Hall is a large venue that seats about 1000 people. Jacques places great emphasis on the fact that this hall played a huge role in their lives – or is that the other way around?

“We did almost anything and everything you can think of in this hall,” says Jacques. “Our matric dances, school plays, church plays, and I took part in a body building competition. So, ja, I stood on that stage in my church clothes and in a striped speedo, while Francois yelled “Tronkvoë* ” from the crowd,” Jacques laughs.

Like father, like sons and daughter, and he adds the music is being carried on in the third generation with his children. “I want them to grow up as I did, kicking a ball and playing an instrument.”

The talent stretches to other members of the family, and his cousin, Ian Smit, with be performing in the forthcoming show playing the lead guitar (he is the musical director of the Biker’s Church in Brackenfell) and his sister-in-law Leandre (Riaan’s wife) will be providing backing vocals and playing the keyboards.

Finally, he says, he has to acknowledge the role Nicholis Louw has played in the performance and how he provided such positive reinforcement for the band.

“He was game to take a chance with us, and he was pleasantly surprised. It was a joy to work with him, and we also saw how much he enjoyed himself. We had such a lot of fun.”

For the show, expect all Elvis’s best-known songs from Dixieland to Always on my Mind and Blue Suede Shoes and more . . .

And watch this space, because this tribute band will be back …

* Nicholis Louw and the Steyn Family Band will perform in Elvis on My Mind on Friday August 26 at the Kraaifontein Town Hall. Doors open at 6pm and the pre show starts at 7.15pm. Tickets at R80/R100/ R120 are available from Computicket or call Francois Steyn for more details 072 495 7899.