“Lisa se Klavier” – DOZI – Afrikaans Lyrics with English Translation

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Please go to the following website to hear Koos Kombuis singing this song. You will also find the full lyrics in Afrikaans.

Dozi left out, what I see to be a rather critical section of this song, the first 4 lines of the second stanza. It put the emphasis on his dream, and its absence leaves a vacant gap in the story. I have heard people say that Dozi sounds as though he is suffering “Dronkverdriet”, a highly descriptive word for somebody who is suffering the after effects of an alcoholic binge. This would sound correct for this kind of song, as it is perfectly portrayed in this way by DOZI. His wonderfully rough voice paints a very vivid picture of the story playing out in the mind of the man who loved his Lisa many, many moons ago. He still speaks of his love for her in the present tense, even though the song portrays that it all happened when he was a young man. It is also clear that our hero is down and out on his luck, having ended up as a homeless person on the streets of wherever he is now. His poignant memories, told as if in the present tense, are sweet, haunting and bitter. They are memories of long ago, but they are his memories, and they are clear in his imagination.

I have attempted to translate this song into English. My translation is NOT a direct translation, nor have I tried to make it so. I have attempted to put across to my viewers the sadness, pain. sorrow and other nuances evident in this song, so I have not always used the words used in Afrikaans, directly translated into English. One example would be in the first stanza, where I have used the word “secrets” instead of the words “road”, or “way”, or “path”, which would be a more direct translation. The song denotes that Lisa is unlocking the secrets within the black and white keys under her fingers. However, because of the gorgeous nature of the Afrikaans language, the word “road” or “pathway” into the black and white keys is equally beautiful in THAT language, but is not sensible in English. It just does not translate well into English.

Two words I did not want to translate at all. They were the uniquely South African expression for the homeless, “bergie”, and the use of the word “moan” as it relates to the neighbours grumbling at Lisa’s playing after the midnight hour. I lived in Orange Street back in 1974 when I first got married, and on quiet nights when I played the piano in our landlord’s home, the sound reverberated all over the place as Table Mountain acts as a catch for the sounds and causes an echo.

I did, however, translate the word moan, by slightly changing the meaning of the sentence, using the words “growling neighbours”. In Afrikaans the word “moan” is not a true Afrikaans word. It is an English word incorporated into the Afrikaans to make a point. It does it well in this song. In this context it actually means to “grumble like crazy”, in this case, because of Lisa’s midnight indulgence on her piano.

Another word I did not directly translate was the Afrikaans word “stil”, which means “quiet”. I decided to use the noun form of the word “still”, instead of the more direct translation using the word “quiet”. Using the noun form in a sentence would render it so, “The STILL of midnight”. It has a sweeter sound and fits the story in the song more poignantly than the word “quiet”.

I would love to hear your ideas on how I have translated this song. I did translate with the idea in mind that it could be sung in the English too. That was slightly more difficult to accomplish, however, I hope you like what I did with it. Your comments and thoughts would be most appreciated.
Thank you
Afrikitty (Liz)