By Yolanda Wessels
On April 27, we celebrate International Crow and Raven Appreciation Day worldwide. Yolanda Wessels chat with the two talented musicians from Bottomless Coffee Band, after this group recently changed their name to Raaf.
Lourens and Esté Raaf are not only musicians, they are dynamic songwriters and creative innovators. Their passion for the music industry is as much as their passion for creating art that touches people’s hearts. “We believe in the power of words and music and a performance that people will never forget. Moreover, we are not only a team on stage, we are also married and constantly building and polishing this wonderful privilege to work together on our dream in the world of music. So much so that we recently underwent a name change to Raaf.”
They were formerly known as Bottomless Coffee Band; a name they chose as two young students when they started performing together at wine festivals and functions in the Boland, so to speak, by accident. The team soon started to get a lot of inquiries which finally forced them to start presenting their own concerts. “In 2014 we recorded an album with all the music we had in our archives up to that point, with the idea that it would be a good memory of this time. However, our music career took off with this album launch tour which was supposed to end the student band days, but audiences begged for more and finally in our early twenties we traded the office for the stage.”
Lourens grew up in Durbanville, where he played drums from an early age in the garage band which he and his brother started. “From a young age I was interested in music and instruments and the power of good entertainment. My parents supported this and let me visit art festivals from childhood where I could learn about theater and acting; also my mother and sister’s education and work.” Inspired by his father who is a lawyer, Lourens decided to study law at Stellenbosch University, but quickly realized that there were other interests and dreams burning in his heart. He then also did a degree in investments (University of Stellenbosch) and financial analysis (UCT), but in between his spreadsheets (spreadsheets) and desk started calling loudly.
Esté is a Karoo girl from Graaff-Reinet. She was in the boarding school at Oranje Meisieskool in Bloemfontein, but between home and the Free State right through her school career she sang, played instruments, and wrote music and poems. Esté tells of her fond memories of a family full of music; every occasion where it was possible there was playing and singing and dancing around the barbecue fire or the cooking pots. “My father was also at one stage the chairman of the John Rupert Theater in Graaff-Reinet where I would sometimes sit for hours in the dark theater and dream. From a young age I dreamed of a life on stage and screen and could spend hours putting together costumes from my closet and pretending I was singing in a big concert.” She decided to study drama at Stellenbosch University to support her writing talent and singing. It is also here in Stellenbosch’s streets that her and Lourens’ paths crossed.
Today, the two have been touring full-time as professional musicians for seven years, enthralling their audiences across South Africa and Namibia with their lyrics, variety of instruments and energetic performances. Lourens plays the Farmer Footdrums which sound like a complete drum set under his shoes and plays acoustic and electric guitar while he sings or plays the mouth whistle. Esté alternates between the ukulele bass guitar, the regular ukulele, an accordion and other small instruments that are specifically incorporated into some of the songs. Their genre cannot really be described and their audiences span literally every age group. People have described them as a phenomenon, a must-see and a life-changing musical experience.
Back to the unique name. Raaf is the Afrikaans meaning of their family name, Rabe. “With our wedding in 2013, we already started thinking that it would be smart to bring the name of the group more home. Our student days were over and our music career began to gain serious wings, but life is busy and time flew and when we saw it again it was 2020.”
The confinement period was a good time for reflection and writing for the two. This is where they also researched the meaning of their surname, Rabe. “We read that a raven is a messenger bird, the largest in the songbird family, that they choose one partner for a lifetime and that they are territorial, can play, learn and have fun. This description made us realize that our family name has actually always described what we do as a career and is the perfect name to bring this journey home.”
The couple says that working together and being married is an incredible privilege for them. “It’s as challenging as it is fulfilling, but what in life isn’t? The experience of being able to inspire, make people laugh, cry, remember and forget as a unit softens the natural misunderstandings and different styles of work and creativity a lot. Differences will always be there, but if the differences can work together for the bigger picture it is an asset.”
The “Prediker” album will soon be available under Raaf. Fifteen original works, each with its own touch and message, a masterpiece and their most exciting release yet. Until then, their music can still be found on digital channels under Bottomless Coffee Band. “We look forward to sending our new music out into the world. With our music and performances, we want to spread the message to people to live fully, to make a difference where they are, to follow and share their dreams, to look carefully at each other and at the world, and to and want to go a little too late and party.”
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