BY MARDENE VAN SCHALKWYK
Stellenbosch University’s (SU) annual acapella competition (previously known as “Sêr”) is a longstanding tradition and a cornerstone of culture on campus. After being cancelled last year due to the pandemic, the competition adapted and came back as strong as ever on Saturday 9 October.
Usually held on campus in the historic Endler Hall, the Stellenbosch University Acapella Competition (SUAC) moved to the Blaauwklippen Wine Estate this year to accommodate COVID-19 protocols. Even though the Endler’s finely engineered acoustic capabilities were replaced by the functionality of large event tents, the show went on nonetheless.
Amy Brooks, a post-graduate LLB student and coach of the winning women’s acapella group, Sonop Women’s Residence, said, “I am amazed by how KuKo 2021 [the SRC’s culture committee] absolutely rose above all challenges and gave us such an amazing event this year.”
As for the men’s category, Simonsberg Men’s Residence took first place. Those who have been following SUAC for some time will know that this certainly is not Simonsberg’s first win. In 2018, Simonsberg advanced to the National Acapella competition, where they placed second. When asked about the residence’s secret to its reputation for exceptional acapella performances, Dorian Arnoldus, a fourth-year BEd (Intermediate Phase Teaching) student and Simonsberg coach, said, “I would start by saying dedication. We sit with our music, talk through the music; we constantly work on technique and a good sound. Most importantly, we enjoy every moment.”
Christiaan de Beer, a third-year MBChB student, led Meerhoff Residence and eNkanyini Residence (both situated on SU’s Tygerberg campus) to victory in the combined category this year as their acapella coach. Though Meerhoff has continuously excelled on the acapella scene in recent years, this was their first time joining forces with eNkanyini instead of their previous partner, the private student organisation (PSO) Osler that is also on the Tygerberg campus.
“Since 2018, we have been the winners of the mixed category and it was an honour to continue our legacy!” said De Beer.
The group stood out not only for its talent and skill, but also for its rejuvenating approach to the historic Matie tradition of acapella. “It always seems that SUAC groups go for more old-school easy-singing songs, which can become quite repetitive. [One of our arrangements] is a TikTok medley, which I wrote with the goal of being extremely relatable to our young audience. It was an amazing experience to see them react to these well-known songs and to hear the cheers afterwards!”
Brooks also put a contemporary twist on one of Sonop’s arrangements, looking instead to the pop culture phenomenon that is the network ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. “My mom used to watch Grey’s Anatomy, and ‘Chasing Cars’ is so connected to that series. I simply arranged the other two songs, ‘Fix You’ [by Coldplay] and [‘Bleeding Love’ by Leona Lewis], around ‘Chasing Cars’, as they have the same theme, too.”
Lara Breytenbach, a second-year BA (Visual Communication Design) student, said that she predicted that Sonop would win after watching them sing in the first round. “Sonop was incredibly good and deserved the win through and through! I think anyone who was there could see that they fully owned the stage. Also, they had the best outfits!”
More information about SUAC 2021 can be found on Kuko’s Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/kukosr/?hl=en