‘Song Night’ Ends 2019 On High Note- Director Lize Ehlers Reflects

Song Night is one of the longest-running live music shows in Namibia and it is thanks to the varied acts the bi-monthly show has been offering since its debut in April 2011.

Song Night and its offering have grown over the years. On Wednesday, 4 December, the final Song Night for 2019 was held at the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre (FNCC) in Windhoek. On that morning, Song Night’s Lighting and Sound Technician, Karl Ehlers had to prepare the show after spending 10 hours on a plane from Berlin and Founder and Director Lize Ehlers says such dedication is the substance that makes Song Night work every time.

The show saw 2019 Song Night Ambassador, Treza Cooper ending her reign with two performances, including her very own Afro-Pop single, Déjà Vu. Keeping to Song Night’s tranquil vibes, Treza performed the song alongside award-winning vocalist, Bradley Anthony. Host Adriano Visagie introduced Zikii as Song Night’s 2020 Ambassador, Zikii, presenting a promising 2020, performed her Kanangui & Ii Mindu Wange.

Supported by backing vocals, the night saw performances by Nena + Dee (Jingle Bell Rock), Arthur (South of the River & Happy), Scharlarco (That’s What I Like), Asheeqa (Hamba Nawe), Nadine (Falling & Deeper), Shiruka (Afeto), Radostina + Dee (Life & Superman), BNT (Adrenaline & Swilili) and Dolar (Party Tonight & Karolina).

“We will keep Song Night alive and kicking till we shapeshift it into a festival that is supported by tourists who want to come and experience Namibia in the form of a proudly Namibian music festival.” – Lize Ehlers

Reflecting on the Song Night experience, Lize talks about 2019, the ups and downs of putting on a show like this and the future of Song Night:

When you first started Song Night and looking at the growth and influence the show has earned over the years, would 2011 Lize imagine the show growing the way it has?

I had really high hopes for Song Night because it was created from a need. There was no space or platform for new singers to express their voices. Spoken Word was there for poets. Free Your Mind was there for comedians. But singers didn’t have a place. I created that place with a feeling and vision of growing voices into their potential, with the support of professionals. To me, this has always been about inclusion, mentorship and opportunity. I am over the moon at the response and the support, especially by our professional band.

 

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Nena and Dee opening the final Song Night of 2019 (Images: Martin Amushendje)

Song Night has served as a career booster for numerous musicians. What are your personal highlights from your 9 years on the show?

Every singer that takes the stage with us has their own idea of what they want at that specific time in their lives. We applaud every single person that has used this platform to elevate their sound. I am so happy that singers like ‘Die Ongesluipte Diamant Van Die Suide’, Chris B, (2018 Ambassador), Priscilla The Namibian Dessert Queen & Bradley The Falsetto King (2016 Co-Ambassadors), have been creating non-stop and have been taking the industry by storm. Frans Marti our 2017 Ambassador, just released his latest amazing single called Whomst Are You and he is pursuing his musical career with the support of guitarist, Tad. Another highlight includes Miss H from the Fate of Miss H, who is hands down one of the most incredible Namibian musicians, and she also found her feet on the Song Night stage, years ago. I cannot mention everyone, but Song Night is very proud of it’s 2019 and 2020 Ambassadors, Treza and Zikizee, for respectively putting themselves out there and for moulding their sound authentically.

Song Night is one of the very few well-curated music platforms Namibia has to offer and the show has been consistent if not, in a sense, transcendent, how do you do it? What is the recipe?

The recipe is passion, truth and rehearsal. I communicate with each singer, explaining the process and expectations. We talk about the importance of working on your craft and believing in yourself. Song Night has never promised fame. It promises experience on stage with the support of professionals. And this is why it works. We focus on the work, not the shine. But of course, now with the support of a vocal trainer namely Emily Dangwa from ED Music Academy & Stylist Martina Pieper from Styled by Martina, Makeup by Miss Jey Arts, Wardrobe by House of Poulton and Nails by Fantastic Sam – the shine is also part of it! We also thank our MC Adriano Visagie who took over the ropes from our previous hosts Mercedez Von Cloete and Tulimelila Shityuwete. Without HEC supporting with rehearsal space and equipment we would not be where we are. We are very grateful for our team.

Was there ever a moment where you felt the road for Song Night should come to an end, if there was, what has kept you motivated to continue?

There have been many moments when I wanted to give up. But then I just changed the formula; instead of ending it, I made it more plausible. It is a lot of hard work. It is a lot of financial and time investment. But when someone hits the right notes, when someones feel like themselves for the first time on stage – it is the best thing to witness and experience.  My passion is to see people make it in life. I cannot explain it. But it gives me incredible joy, peace and excitement. That is why I keep doing it. With the support of my amazing family and team, we will keep Song Night alive and kicking till we shapeshift it into a festival that is supported by tourists who want to come and experience Namibia in the form of a proudly Namibian music festival.

Song Night has concluded for 2019, can you reflect on the highs and lows for the show throughout the year?

The highs include having hit after hit shows at our mother venue Warehouse Theatre Windhoek. The lowest low was the Warehouse Theatre closing down, and we had to move. But we found our new home at FNCC. Other highs include Song Nighters releasing hit singles like our 2019 Ambassador Treza, who is in the top 50 singles on DONLU with Dejavu. The music is always a highlight, giving us new hope in our everyday lives. Song Night sees Alvara launching her debut self-penned album, FIN, at the May Identity Concert as one of the top highlights of 2019! We have had to push through very personal painful realities and the show still went on, so we see Song Night as a highlight in itself.

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Alvara at the May Identity show.

Song Night has recently been renamed as RMB Song Night. What lies ahead for the show in 2020?

Our main sponsor is Rand Merchant Bank (RMB), without their support, Song Night would not be able to afford a professional band, professional host, venue and photographer. We owe our success story to RMB and therefore we renamed Song Night to RMB Song Night for as long as they are our main sponsor. We look forward to their continued support and we thank RMB profusely. Our other loyal support includes 99FM who just joined hands with Energy 100 FM – to spread the word of RMB Song Night even further. This is a highly anticipated media partner collaboration. With our new venue FNCC, we hope to pull an audience of culture seekers from across Windhoek. We salute our team and will be challenging singers to create more original songs for the show.

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Song Nighters at the Warehouse Theatre.

Before we go, as an artist and mentor, have there been any difficult lessons learned in 2019?

Never Give Up! It might seem difficult and painful to be on an endless path of personal investment not only into our own journeys but the journeys of others but creating positive legacies is what we must stay focused on.  Let’s continue to build and mould and mentor the next person. Namibia is in a breakthrough time and we must be the examples.