The most commercially succesful of the new wave of Belgian folk bands has undoubtedly been Laïs. Laïs stands for ‘voice’ and also refers to the medieval ‘lais’, erotic minstrel songs.
The group comprises of Jorunn Bauweraerts, Annelies Brosens and Nathalie Delcroix. Between November 1998 and January 1999, 8,000 copies of their debut album Laïs were sold and it entered the national album chart at No. 29. The Antwerp vocal trio are managed by Pascal Van De Velde of the high profile Make It Happen agency. Laïs are young, dynamic, and attractive and in January appeared on the cover of TV7, the local equivalent of Radio Times.
Jorunn explained Laïs’ beginning. “We started with myself and Annelies and another singer going to the summer camps in Gooik near Brussels. We met two members of Kadril who told us we should stay together and keep singing in a band.” “We had to learn to sing as a group because up to then we were just friends who sung together”, Annelies continued.
Jorunn’s background is that of a folk music family. “My father has been playing the bagpipes since he was 12 years old. I had been playing the violin since I was 9 and before that I liked the Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac.” By contrast, Annelies’ background centred on classical singing. “I knew Jorunn for 10 years but I didn’t grow up in a folk music family. I went to a school for classical singing but Jorunn took me to Gooik when I was 12 and I thought it was nice. Since then I have tried to sing more in a folk style but I still do classical singing.”
Nathalie Delcroix, a kindergarten teacher, came on board recently. “I was a fan of theirs and went to their shows. Jorunn heard me sing and suggested we do something together. I liked folk music but I never dreamed of doing anything with it, as there is no folk tradition in my family.”
All the material on Laïs is traditional, bar covers of songs by Sinéad O’Connor and Jacques Brel. Jorunn: “We started with traditional songs and traditional texts but we wanted to do something special with them. We have re-written some of the texts and sometimes we would use half of the original melody and make up the rest but we make up all the arrangements ourselves. We sang with Kadril for three years and we like to use instruments behind our voices. It’s very nice for us to sing a capella, but we also like to dance around and have some backing behind our voices. Most of our concerts are a capella and it’s our base. On the album we decided to use some musicians. However when we sing unaccompanied we sing more easily and can hear each other better.”
© Photograph Marc Masschelein
© Folk Roots Magazine issue 193, July 1999