THE Blue Jeans Duo believes their music to be like a good old pair of jeans: versatile, timeless and, in the words of member, Jeannie Botes, “something that can be put on every day”.
This dynamic duo consists of Berno van Zijl, a second-year BA Humanities student, and Jeannie Botes, a third-year BA Language and Culture student, both at Stellenbosch University. They are both also music teachers. “We have a mutual friend who introduced us, as she knew we were both looking to start a band. After about a week of rehearsing, we began to play at Aandklas’s Acorn Acoustic Sessions in May 2018. From there we just expanded our music and audience step by step,” said Botes about the formation of the band.
Blue Jeans Duo takes pride in their hybrid style, and not only incorporates different genres in their music, but also three different languages: English, Afrikaans and French. They describe their unique sound as “Folk-Roots”.
“The ‘folk’ referring to our focus on telling stories and sharing messages, and the ‘Roots’ referring to our Blues and Jazz undertones,” they explained. Botes considers female jazz vocalists such as Etta James, Randy Crawford, Norah Jones and Katie Melua as some as her biggest inspirations, and emphasises the Cape Town jazz scene as a fundamental stimulus for her love for jazz and blues. Van Zijl, on the other hand, greatly admires prominent guitarists like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Jimi Page, and looks to Bob Dylan and John Mayer when it comes to inspiration for song writing.
Blue Jeans Duo performs predominantly original music, written by both Botes and Van Zijl. Botes describes her creative process as profoundly fulfilling. “Writing and creating music is one of the most powerful things I have ever experienced in my life. The aftermath is being high on life, fully satisfied with oneself in the knowledge that one has created something purely unique. Creating a song is like exploring your inner self, your essence, your subconscious. To sit at the piano and know that a secret lies within the keys that only you can find the answer to, is like looking at your endless potential on a linear scale,” she said. She also draws from her own experiences and emotions as inspiration. “This leaves me empowered, gives me closure and helps me to move on and grow.”
Van Zijl explains that song writing is, for him, the process of taking every day experiences and using them to create something beautiful to share. “Any melody, lyrical line or memorable incident inspires me to get my guitar and develop it,” he said.
In line with their jazz and blues style, improvisation forms an integral part of their performances, and, as not only musical colleagues, but also romantic partners, there is a powerful connection and understanding between the two that creates unity within their spontaneous playing. “Often we purposely venture out unprepared to test our skills of improvisation and musicality. I find myself delivering the best performances when I haven’t exactly perfectly prepared and mapped out my entire performance,” said Botes. She describes a Blue Jeans Duo show as one that is always sincere. “We have learned that the most powerful performance tool is to be who you are at the heart of your music.”
With an EP-launch coming in early April, plans for performances across South Africa, a tour to the Netherlands in June/July and the potential of a debut album next year, Blue Jeans Duo is a name to remember. Keep a lookout on their Instagram page, @blue_jeans_ duo, for information on all their exciting future ventures!