After previously featuring some historic writers, this week we turn the Spotlight of Amsterdam by Night on some popular singers, the so-called volkszangers. The city has been home to a group of artists that become known in the whole of the Netherlands and they wrote songs that will be connected to Amsterdam forever. Each in their own way left his or her impression on the city. Time to get acquainted with the volkszangers from Amsterdam.
Johnny Jordaan, Tante Leen, Manke Nelis, Willy Alberti and Johnny Meijer are just a few names that bring back good memories in the original inhabitants of the Jordaan neighbourhood. The Jordaan of the fifties and sixties was a real working class area and home to the singers of the "levenslied". Few neighbourhoods have been featured and romantized so often in songs as the Amsterdam Jordaan. The long workdays ended in the bars were local talents sang their songs. Thereby they created a feeling of solidarity that was expressed in the music. The "levenslied" essentially is an ode to the common and recognizable, usually a bit sentimental. They focus on the daily life in the neighbourhood and everything that happens there. In the first place, the volkszangers were local heroes that greatly contributed to the fame of the Jordaan.
A couple of the volkszangers have gotten sculptures at the Johnny Jordaanplein, where the Elandsgracht meets the Prinsengracht. The sculptures were made by Kees Verkade, Rob Cerneus and Dominic Grant. At the square stands also a decorated transformator house with sayings like "De Parel van de Jordaan" (the pearl of the Jordaan). The future of the Johnny Jordaanplein in its current form is unsure because of a large renovation of the Elandsgracht.
Andre Hazes is probably the most famous volkszanger from Amsterdam. He grew up in the Pijp during the fifties and sixties, also a typical working class district, and has a similar background as the singers from the Jordaan. His talent was recognized already at a very young age and he became one of the most successfull singers of the "levenslied". With hits like "Een Beetje Verliefd" and "Zij Geloofd in Mij" he achieved fame in the whole of the Netherlands. A large farewell was organized in the Amsterdam Arena after his death on the 23rd of September 2004.
A statue of Andre Hazes was placed at the corner of the Albert Cuypmarkt and the Eerste Sweelinckstraat. This is the location were Hazes was discovered at the age of only eight years old, while he was singing songs to collect money for a present for his mother. The rest became history.
Even today it is possible to experience the Jordaan-feeling in bars like Cafe Nol at Westerstraat and during the Jordaanfestival that will be organized for the 40th time this year. The Jordaanfestival 2014 can be enjoyed from the 18th till 21st of September at the square of Elandsgracht and Marnixstraat. Years after the hight of the "Levenslied" it is still kept alive by a new generation of artists.
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