A South African musician recording a gospel album is akin to an American musician making a Christmas album – it either means they’re out to make a quick buck or they’re washed out. With this in mind I was rather sad to get an invitation to the launch Chris Chameleon’s Afrikaans gospel album, Herleef. He is way too talented to be washed out and somehow he never came across as someone who is just in it for the cash. So I made my first visit to an NG Kerk in 3 years to find out what Herleef was all about.
The 12 track album is made up of Chameleon’s favourite Psalms and Gesange. He likened his process of creating the album to a restaurant using a “Kook en Geniet” recipe book: taking something already familiar to the consumers and adding a little personal twist.
Chameleon put together a supergroup of sorts with Albert Frost on guitar (all 5 of them), Schalk Joubert on bass and drummer Riaan Van Rensburg for the recording of the album.
Chameleon is completely audience orientated. After the emotional show it was not 15 minutes before he was in the foyer to sign CDS. He does not interact over a table, he stands next to his fans. We were making our way out of the foyer when he suddenly appeared behind us, completely unassuming.
To do this review justice I called in the help of someone who is closer to the target market: my sister, a devout Christian and a big Chameleon fan. She really enjoyed the general flow of the songs on the album. However she did not feel that the songs were popular enough to warrant the title Herleef (which in the context of the album means ‘revive’). Therefore this is more of a “lekker luister” album than one, for instance, a congregation can sing along to. The top track on the album is Psalm 1 with its powerful lyrics and instrumentals.
Chameleon says that he does not believe in God, he knows him. And I now recognise that there is in fact a third kind of South African musician that records a gospel album: a true artist.