That awkward moment in the café that all Dutch people start to sing a melodramatic song and you don’t have a clue where they’re actually singing about. Don’t worry, it’s not too late, the content of these songs is not very hard to understand. ‘Smartlappen’, in English we say tearjerkers, are a tradition in the Netherlands. A tearjerker can also be described as a sentimental song about life. This weekend (20-22 November) Utrecht is under the spell of the tearjerker with the 25th edition of the Smartlappenfestival.
Let’s start with some education about Dutch tearjerkers and its legends. A name you must know when you spend your time living in the Netherlands, is André Hazes. Met bloed zweet en tranen, in English with blood, sweat and tears is probably the one you heard the most. Other examples are zij gelooft in mij (she believes in me), mama (your Dutch should be on a level that you understand this), bedankt mijn vriend (Thank you, my friend) and wees zuinig op mijn meissie (be careful with my girl). Hazes was first discovered as a 8-year old straatschoffie (street boy) from the Jordaan, while singing on the famous Albert Cuypmarket to earn money for his mother’s birthday present. Unfortunately, his success as a child singer didn’t last. Hazes worked as a factory employee, seaman, bookbinder, construction worker, butcher’s assistant, bicycle repairer and waiter. In 1976 he was rediscovered in the pub by Willeke Alberti, another famous female singer of tearjerkers. Through the years, he became the figurehead of the tearjerker tradition. Hazes died in 2004 of a heart attack.
Another example of a Dutch tearjerker is ‘Doctor Bernhard’ by Bonnie st. Claire, a song about a (hot) girl whose husband is in the hospital and the doctor is trying to ease her. Also ik voel me zo verdomd alleen (I feel so *** alone) from Danny de Munk is a successful tearjerker which is played over and over again in pubs.
Anyways, more about the festival. The tradition of tearjerkers is celebrated every year in Utrecht. Not only in Wijk C, the Jordaan of Utrecht, but all over the city the pubs are in theme of the tearjerkers. Entrance is free and the pubs offer several activities like live performances from the Triesto’s, Pure Ellende (sheer misery) , de Utregse meisjes and many more, smartlappen karaoke and DJ ‘s like Wij snikken (we sob). A perfect opportunity to celebrate and cry all your tears out!
P.S. finish your homework before you go: check out the lyrics of the songs mentioned in this blog on www.songteksten.nl . You can find more information on the site of the festival: http://www.smartlappenfestival.nl/