|26||April 1st, 2004|
I have my absentee ballot request here on my desk, but I feel a certain lethargy when it comes to filling the thing in. I’m jaded by the fact that John Kerry, just another Washington insider, has been chosen as my party’s candidate, just as I admit the disheartening truth that I’m more concerned with who can beat Bush than precisely whom I want to see as the US President. But most of all, I think my lack of zeal simply hasn’t recovered from the exhausting experience of the last presidential election, November 2000. I had just returned to Tallahassee, Florida, from a sojourn in Holland and was eager to participate in the pinnacle of amerikanisme.
Selection At Gate
As from the next academic year, secondary school pupils who want to follow a popular course such as Psychology or Law in Leiden will probably have to take an entrance exam. The intention is that a negative result for such an exam will only have actual consequences as from 2006.
Flemish Against BaMa
A Flemish union of university staff has started a law case to have the introduction of the BaMa system declared unconstitutional. The union feels that, in particular, the uncertain status of the bachelors degrees go against the grain.
Dawkins in Leiden
Richard Dawkins, one of the most important evolution biologists of the twentieth century, will give the Niko Tinbergen lecture in the Pieterskerk on Wednesday 19 May. The Briton Dawkins is particularly well-known for his books, including The Selfish Gene (1976) and The Blind Watchmaker (1986) in which he contends that natural selection only takes place at the level of the gene. In his lecture, Dawkins will speak about the behavioural biologist, Niko Tinbergen, the Dutch Nobel Prize winner, who had a great influence on Dawkins during his studies at Oxford.
Eyse van Terwisga
Mare wanted to ask Frans Bauer if he had ambitions to conquer the English-speaking world, too. But he was too busy, having just won the Edison Award for best national, male singer last week. Why won’t the kings and queens of the smartlap sing in English? Probably because it will lose the charm of this cultural-linguistic based music genre.
The smartlap came into existence at the beginning of the 20th century. Eduard Jacobs and Koos Speenhof composed sentimental songs about life and its saddest moments. When the LP and record player became common features of Dutch households in the ’50s and ’60s, the smartlap began its first golden age. Willeke Alberti sang some duets with her father, Willy Alberti, and had a solo-hit with Spiegelbeeld (Reflection). Most of the songs of the ’60s are lost to memory, although some of the smartlappen from the ’70s are still memorized by heart. Vader Abraham’s classic Het kleine café aan de haven (The little café by the harbour), for instance, is still sung at the top of everyone’s voice. Other smartlap-hits written by Vader Abraham are ‘Manuela’ for Jacques Herb, and Huilen is voor jou te laat (It’s too late for you to cry) for Corry en de Rekels. However, Vader Abraham’s image went down the drain when he started singing the Smurfensong for the cartoon series, The Smurfs.
Another hit-factory of the ’70s was Johnny Hoes, who wrote most of his smartlappen for Zangeres Zonder Naam, such as Ach Vaderlief (Oh, Sweet Daddy) and Keetje Tippel (Kate Streetwalker). The early ’80s produced the first smartlap band, Drukwerk. Koos Alberts sang Ik verscheurde je foto (I shredded your picture), before he landed in a wheelchair after a car accident, which made him a national symbol of sadness; and André Hazes first became famous with a Christmas album, and his first hit, Eenzame Kerst (Lonely Christmas) in 1976: “I sit here all alone, celebrating Christmas/I serve the time I deserved/I stole for our family/But there’s no point to that/Because you celebrate Christmas with someone else, now.”
But his greatest classic (and he has many), is ‘De vlieger’ (The kite): “Here I have a letter addressed to my mother/who lives high in Heaven/This letter I will tie on my kite/So she can receive it.”
The popularity of the genre is increasing, even in the new millennium. Still, when you go onto the streets and ask people if they know any smartlappen, about seven out of ten people will pretend they don’t know the lyrics by heart (but they do!). It’s seen as ‘low culture’ and people are ashamed to admit that they know these songs. The fact remains, paradoxically, that if you don’t know the smartlap classics, others will label you as a ‘culture barbarian’. The smartlap and its many varieties are an important heritage in Dutch culture, as Theo Willemze suggests: “We must still be liberated from the Romantic thought that heritage can only be ‘high cultural’ heritage.”