Friday, June 24, 2011

Song of the week: Kommil Foo - Ruimtevaarder

Yet another song of the week that was discovered in my textbook for Dutch. (The lessons are going great, by the way.)

This week I give you a tender moment from brothers Raf Walschaerts and Mich Walschaerts. Born and raised in Essen in the province of Antwerp, the two brothers formed the cabaret duo Kommil Foo in 1987. The name is a twist on the French comme il faut ("as it should be").

Kommil Foo playing live in Ghent, 2006. Photo: Michel Vuijlsteke/Wikimedia

This song is music as it should be. "Ruimtevaarder" (literally: "space traveler") is the Dutch word for astronaut. The lyrics are in the form of a letter to a schoolmaster from a young pupil who has found his real purpose in life.

The song was released on the 2002 album Lof der Waanzin. The video was directed by Rembert Evenepoel.

Lyrics (original Dutch):

Meester Frank, ik kom waarschijnlijk morgen niet naar school
En ook overmorgen zal wat moeilijk zijn
En evenmin de week die komt, ja zelfs de maand die volgt
De kans dat ik nog ooit verschijn is eigenlijk klein
't Is niet, meester frank, omdat u mij zo vaak straft
En mij één keer zelfs domkop heeft genoemd
Het is alleen iets hier vanbinnen, 't heeft geen zin dat ik ontken
Meester frank, ik voel dat ik een ruimtevaarder ben

Zeg nu zelf, meester Frank, wat ben je in 't heelal
Met de tafels van vermenigvuldiging
Ook schoonschrift, blokfluitspelen, woorden met "dt"
Dat snapt u toch, dat heeft op Mars geen zin
't Is dus zeker niet, meester Frank, omdat u mij zo vaak straft
En mij voor de hele klas domkop heeft genoemd
Nee, 'k moet planeten gaan ontdekken, in de hoop dat daar iets leeft
Meester frank, 't is de plicht, die elke ruimtevaarder heeft

Doe de groeten, meester frank, aan de rest van de klas
En zeg dat ik hen nooit vergeten zal
Geef mijn vulpen aan kleine peter van de laatste bank
Hij blijft m'n vriend al woon ik dan in 't heelal
Zo, meester Frank, alles is zowat gezegd
Vaarwel, en dat het u nog goed mag gaan
En wat die kleinigheid betreft dat u een domkop in mij ziet
Meester frank, dat deert een ruimtevaarder niet

oh, en voor ik het vergeet, Linda van slagerij Van Gool
komt waarschijnlijk ook niet meer naar school

Lyrics (English translation):

Master Frank, I'm probably not going to school tomorrow
and the day after tomorrow will be somewhat difficult
Nor the coming week, even the coming month
In fact, the chance that I will ever return is small
It is not, Master Frank, because you punish me so often
And even called me a simpleton once
No, it's just something here inside, it makes no sense to deny
Master frank, I feel that I am an astronaut

Tell me, Mr. Frank, what are you in the universe
With the multiplication tables
And handwriting, playing the recorder, words with "dt"
You must understand, that doesn't matter on Mars
It's certainly not, master Frank, because you punish me so often
And called me a simpleton in front of the whole class
No, I have to go and explore planets, in the hope that something lives there
Master Frank, it is the duty of every astronaut

Send my greetings, master Frank, to the rest of the class
And say that I will never forget them
Give my fountain pen to little Peter on the back row
He remains my friend even if I am in space
So, Master Frank, everything is nearly said
Goodbye, and I wish you well
And regarding that little thing about you thinking of me as a simpleton:
Master Frank, that doesn't bother an astronaut

Oh, and before I forget:
Linda from the butcher shop Van Gool
Will probably also not come back to school


  1. So beautiful... both the song and the video :)

    And yet another great translation! I admire your writing skills :D <3

  2. I saw Kommil Foo back in the nineties when they did a theater tour called "Plank". Our school teacher took us to a performance, which was very nice :) They're doing some really nice stuff, but as is the fate of many Belgian performers, are very underrated. Kudos to them that despite that, they have been going strong for quite a lot of years now. I wish the Belgian media would promote the artists deserving promotion rather than keeping those annoying "schlagers" alive ...

  3. @Bika: Thanks! <3
    I'm starting to think that cabaret/kleinkunst is the biggest musical discovery I've made since I started listening to R.E.M. ;)

    @Gerrit: I couldn't agree with you more about the schlagers. There is a similar tradition in Scandinavia, and I can't decide which I hate the most: schlagers or dance-pop/eurodance.

  4. Some Eurodance is accaptable just because of teenage nostalgia, but it doesn't make it good music, it's more good memories popping up. As an early teenager I did listen to Erasure, Army of Lovers, Ace of Base, KLF, ... Luckily my style of music changed quite drastically afterwards, but sometimes hearing those old songs back is a nostalgia trip. That said, this does still not make it quality music, it's more the nostalgia. And don't forget Belgium has a very rich tradition in Eurodance!

    If you like REM, check The Connells. They started in the same era, both are from the southern US, and they're both very good. The Connells had one huge hit with 74-75 but are painfully ignored with the rest of their work, some of their songs such as Darker Days, Seven, Scotty's Lament, Lay Me Down, Slackjawed, ... are brilliant but often ignored. Some true gems await once you dig into that band. Sadly enough their catalogue is out of print. I was extremely lucky that a very well hidden record store in Barcelona still had 1 single unsold copy of their album "Ring" in their basement, but if I want their other records I guess second hand sales on eBay will be my best bet... :(

    PS: Scotty's Lament is an epic even if only for the brilliant chorus line "I delight in my despair" :)

  5. Oh, forgot to mention, my mother is a big fan of Dutch cabaret singer Robert Long, if you like cabaret you should check it out. Some are intimite ballads (Ach Liefde, Thorbecke Plein, Ederveen, Liedje voor als ik er niet meer ben, ...) and others very satirical and filled-with-venomous-sarcasm cabaret pieces (Jezus Redt, Toe Maar Jongens, Jacob, Omspres, Beschaafde Tango, Weet Je Nog Gent, ...). He's very famous for being openly gay since the sixties (when it was still taboo) and for criticising society, politics and church in his music. "Ach liefde" is however a beautiful lovesong that proves he can also write some very low-key ballads:

    "Ach, liefde is 't mooiste wanneer je nog jong bent
    Als hartstocht een naam krijgt en passie ontwaakt
    Wanneer je haast elke romantische song kent die blijkbaar voor jou en je schat werd gemaakt
    Als 't af en toe lijkt of je zou kunnen zweven tot boven de wolken, de zon tegemoet
    Als je alles wil doen, als je alles wil geven
    Je hart, je lichaam, je ziel, en je bloed
    En al gaat het weer over misschien
    Jonge liefde ontroert me nog steeds,
    'k vind het mooi om te zien"

    From "Toe Maar Jongens":

    "Toe maar jongens, de beuk er in, toe maar lui, zet 'm op
    Blijf maar trouw aan elk gezag dat niets presteert maar alles mag
    en heb maar niet te veel kritiek op heel die ouwelullen kliek
    vol oorlogszucht en machtsmisbruik, kwaadaardig en gemeen
    En met schijt aan iedereen"

    Boudewijn de Groot is also essential in the kleinkunst style, check out songs such as "Meester Prikkebeen", "Testament van mijn jeugd", "Verdronken Vlinder", ...

    From "Testament van mijn jeugd":

    "na 22 jaren in dit leven maak ik een testament op van mijn jeugd
    Niet dat ik geld of goed heb weg te geven, voor slimme jongen heb ik nooit gedeugd
    Maar ik heb nog wel wat mooie idealen, goed van snit, hoewel ze uit de mode zijn
    Wie ze hebben wil die mag ze komen halen, vooral jonge mensen vinden ze nog fijn
    Verder niets, er zijn alleen nog een paar dingen die ik houd omdat geen mens er iets aan heeft
    Dat zijn mijn goede jeugdherinneringen, die neem je mee zolang je verder leeft"

    Depends on what style you like I guess. I'm more for the type of music that slaps you in the face with its rawness rather than trying to make the truth less painful by adding humour to it. Probably that explains why I'm so much into bands such as God Machine, Sophia, .... Those are my biggest inspirations when writing poetry as well.

    The Connells are somewhat in the middle, very melancholic but never too dark (even though a magazine once dubbed them "Raleigh's local depressants" -- not sure what type of acid that journalist was on ;))

  6. Thanks so much, I'll check it all out when I have time :)