Francois van Coke: From Polisiekar to Maine man

Pictures: Jono and Henry Engelbrecht

Who else would be able to fill up an arena like Sun Arena playing rock music in South Africa?

If you’ve been following social media debates this year you might have read about Big Dick Energy, or BDE. Essentially it’s the marker of people who ooze confidence without the cockiness.

BDE quickly became a buzzword after pop starlet Ariana Grande tweeted about her fiancé’s endowment. The conversation turned to less about the size of genitalia but rather people who carry themselves with charm and no insolence.

BDE is the thing that courses through the veins of people like Madonna, Michelle Obama, Bonang Matheba and Idris Alba.

In his ongoing mission to fill up every stadium and arena in South Africa, Cassper Nyovest is a clear-cut member of the BDE club. Outside of hip hop, it’s Francois van Coke. Next month he’s filling up his first arena – an act that shows this rocker’s undeniable BDE.

If you’ve met him before you’ll know why. He’s friendly, approachable, but above all an artist who knows exactly what he’s doing – which obviously makes him bankable, so much that on September 15 Van Coke is filling up the Sun Arena at Menlyn Maine.

Pictures: Jono and Henry Engelbrecht

“Conversations around this idea started a few years ago. Some of my friends in Pretoria wanted to put on a big show with me and a couple of my collaborators. The idea was just too big at the time. At the beginning of this year I told my best friend and manager Wynand Myburgh that I would still like to do a bigger show and said we should try and make it happen,” says Van Coke.

Quickly people like Karen Zoid, Jack Parow, Majozi, Die Heuwels Fantasties, Early B, Arno Carstens, Laudo Liebenberg and Coenie de Villiers were added to the bill, while kykNET, JacarandaFM and AMP Events came on board as promoters of the show.

There’s a lot of excitement about it because outside of a music festival space, this isn’t a lineup you’d see every day.

“I have been lucky to collaborate with some of the greatest artists in SA. I have done so for many years and it is important to me,” says Van Coke.

He entered 2018 knowing he wasn’t going to release a new album, but last month he dropped a four-track EP titled Francois van Coke en Vriende with a sound strategy behind the release.

“I actually wanted to make songs that will kick ass live. I never thought any of the songs would get radio play and that was not what the EP was for. I was thinking about my live set and that we needed to play some pumping, modern rock tracks,” Van Coke confesses.

The tracks include Altyd Lief Vir Jou featuring Early B with an infectious hip-hop beat. Coupled with his ballad-style tracks from his first two albums, the show is earmarked to appeal to everyone – a very democratic gesture from someone labelled a rock star. But that’s where Van Coke became such a unique figure in the South African music landscape.

While he might growl into the microphone, just last month he was a feature in a men’s fitness and health magazine. He’s a committed family man and, according to everyone that ever worked with him, fiercely loyal.

“I play a bit of rugby in the 10s tournaments around the country and have recently taken up boxing,” Van Coke reveals.

Sport is obviously a great counterbalance, because when not with family, the creative world of a music career in South Africa is demanding. From visuals to merchandise to negotiating sponsorship deals, it’s not just about arriving at a studio.

“At the moment I am busy with a couple of different projects and am involved in some way creatively on all of them, whether it is music or other madness. I always hope to push the boundaries and try and do something different every time I put out something new,” he says.

But when comparing his first solo release to the polish of his latest work, it’s clear the well-oiled machine behind Francois van Coke isn’t slowing down any time soon.

“The biggest surprise I got was releasing my first solo album in 2015. I was nervous during the creative process for the album and hoped people would be into it, but never knew that it would kick off with such a bang.

“The video for Toe Vind Ek Jou with Karen Zoid launched the album and there was an unbelievable response to a song which touched people more than anything I have done before and since. That freaked me out.”

But that’s also what catapulted the front-man of Fokofpolisiekar and Van Coke Cartel into unparalleled solo success.

Who else would be able to fill up an arena like Sun Arena playing rock music in South Africa?

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