You’ve heard it at parties and at rugby matches and you’ve undoubtedly caught yourself singing along when it comes on the radio. But, while Bok’s 2005 hit song, De La Rey, may be just a popular Afrikaans tune to most, for him it is the song that kickstarted his entertainment career. A career, it would seem, Bok sort of stumbled into.
“I had no music background when I recorded De La Rey. In fact, playing the guitar was just a hobby I taught myself.” But while he may not have always been a musician, Bok has always been a natural entertainer. “I think I got that from my dad. I’ve always loved entertaining people and being the life of the party. I got lead roles in productions at school and made friends with lots of SA music artists. I was a ‘roady’ for many years, carrying their speakers for them at concerts and festivals. I always ended up entertaining them later, after their shows.”
Originally a country boy, Bok grew up on a farm where he fished in rivers, rode motorbikes and attending a school with just 82 pupils. It was a lifestyle, he says, he truly loved. After school he spent some time playing rugby in the Netherlands before doing his degree in building management. He then worked for Group 5 for 10 years.
It was one of his many friends in the entertainment industry who approached Bok with the idea of recording an album in 2005. “A record company was looking for young, upcoming artists and a friend suggested me. I met with them and, before I knew it, we started recording a CD. I wrote a song called De La Rey and that was how it all started.”
De La Rey was a massive success, becoming something of an anthem for young Afrikaaners who sang the song with passion and enthusiasm. It won numerous South African music awards. And when Bok released his second album, Afrikaner Heart, and won the SAMA for top selling artist in 2010, he proved that he was more than just a one-hit-wonder on the SA music scene.
One of his biggest music highlights, Bok says, was performing the South African national anthem with fellow musician Robbie Wessels at a rugby match where the Springboks played against Argentina at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria. “It was a great privilege and quite an emotional, dramatic experience. It started raining and then hailing as we started singing.”
Just like his music career, Bok says he sort of fell into acting and making movies. “Making music videos is incredibly expensive so the idea was born to make a movie that we could then cut a music video out of. That way we could see some small return on ticket sales.”
Bok was given the male lead part in his first movie, Platteland in 2011 and it was a hit. “I really thought it was something I’d just do once-off, but apparently I did something right.”
Bok took some acting classes and his wife, actress Hanna Grobler, helped coach him.
Platteland ended up being the biggest selling Afrikaans film in 2011 and by the time Bok starred in his third film, Vrou Soek ‘n Boer, in 2014 he had really started enjoying acting.
His new, soon-to-be-released-in-South Africa movie is called Sew the Winter into my Skin and has already received great reviews internationally. The film is South Africa’s official Oscar nomination submission this year. It is unlike anything Bok has done before.
It’s a silent movie with no dialogue. The film is set in the Eastern Cape in the early 1950’s and Bok plays the role of a journalist. “It was an extremely challenging movie to act in because there was no script to help along the way. You have to bring a character to life without words.”
Speaking about his family’s move to the North Coast, Bok says he and Hanna have fallen in love with the lifestyle here. We’ve been here a year and we love it. We looked at various places, including Cape Town, but the value for money and proximity to the airport (because I travel every week) made Ballito very appealing. The airport is 12 minutes from my home and if I plan well and book cleverly, I can literally be in Joburg in two and a half hours from the moment I leave my house.”
The weather and outdoor lifestyle are just some of the things Bok, who is also an avid deep sea fisherman, says he loves about living on the North Coast. “We have two small kids who are 17 months apart, so it’s great living in KZN where my wife’s family are also based so she has their support when I’m traveling.”
Bok jokingly says he also enjoys living in a town that is predominantly English speaking because he doesn’t get recognized as much!
The future, it seems, is as bright as the past for the musician and actor, who has a new album launching early this year and loads of live shows lined up for the year ahead. He also hopes to perform in Ballito soon . . . so make sure you keep your ears open and follow Bok on social media to find out more.
Details: Twitter: @BokvanBlerkReal | Facebook: Bok van Blerk