LOCAL musician Larry Joe has always dreamed of achieving international recognition and tonight he is set to perform for a queen. The singer, who performed at the Cam Theatre in Amsterdam last year, has been invited back to the Netherlands and will perform for Queen Beatrix tonight at the largest exhibition of South African art outside SA. He will be backed by Freshlyground's Mon Turest-Swartz on keyboard and percussion. "I'm super-excited. It's such an honour. The invitation came as a surprise; he said. Known only as Larry Joe, he was spotted by Peter Goosen, SA ambassador to The Hague, in November last year. It was his first overseas tour, where he performed with Dutch band The Desperados.
The tour came after he did a series of school and prison workshops for the Dutch Embassy and NGOs on creating positive perceptions and was asked to be an ambassador for the Dutch organisation, Stars in their Eyes. While he will again have a busy schedule this time around, Lany Joe said that if there were any opportunities to create awareness, he would gab them. Wherever he's been, whether locally or internationally, the reception has been warm. It makes me feel like there's more good in the world than bad," said Larry Joe. Goosen referred to him as "one of the most important export products to come out of SA in the past years".
Larry Joe's father taught him to play the guitar as a child, and he started performing when he was five. years old. But he took a wrong turn, and ended up behind bars in the Douglas Correctional Centre in Northern Cape. He had been sentenced to five and a half years for housebreaking, but was released after two years for good behaviour. He produced his first album, Crazy Life, while in prison.
Turest-Swartz, co-founder of Freshlyground, met Larry Joe at a World Aids Day concert at the prison in 2008, and got the necessary approval to work with Larry Joe on the album. Larry Joe's singing and songwriting skills were developed during the 18-month process and he wrote more than 40 songs. Last year, he collaborated with several artists on stage and in studio. They included Zolani and Julio of Freshlyground, Auriol Hayes, Elvis Blue, Barry van Zyl, Jitsvinger, Ernestine Deane and Melanie Scholtz. He was also commissioned to write songs for the Inyathelo Philanthropy Awards and the Flow project, which provides "art-infused leadership" by working with leadership educators and artists.
Larry Joe's second album is due to be released later this year. The first single, Middle of the Night was released last week He describes this album as more upbeat than his debut one, saying the first album was written from prison and the feelings of being there were reflected in the music. "The music has grown. It's more upbeat and free. I write about what I can see all around me. The music does reflect where I am in my life." Larry Joe is part of the Shout SA campaign, formed after the murder of musician Lucky Dube, by Danny K and Kabelo Mabalane, to address the high level of violent crime in SA.
He believes the social responsibility component of being an artist is very important. Developing talent and social responsibility was something that many artists took seriously, but it was not their main priority, he said. The main priority for the 1 33-year-old father of two is working with children. "Because of my background, music and my story go hand in hand," he said. He has divided his professional time in two: one half is the business side of his music, and the other is Face the Music. Here the priority is to inspire people through storytelling and the sharing of experiences.
Since his release from prison, Larry Joe has worked on transforming the lives of young people through music. He has done several workshops in schools and community groups, where his goal is to challenge pupils to create positive perceptions about themselves. He aims to show people that they are the leaders of their dreams, and change is within their reach. "I want to be more than an internationally recognised musician." Larry Joe wants to be an internationally recognised agent for change. Larry Joe shares his life experience with a young boy in the hope he will learn from it