Born in Rotterdam, August 22, 1934. At the age of 14 Art acquired
his first chromatic harmonica for about US$5.00.
He had just started his apprenticeship as a butcher when an advert
in the paper showed him, and his best friend with the same name, the
way to the 1st Dutch Chromatic Harmonica School. Little did
he know that the man behind it was no less than Geert van Driesten,
bass player of the well-known "5 Hotchas".
His interest in the bass
came soon after Geert had established a new trio, with his old buddy
Heyman and newcomer Henk van Dipte on chords. Their first recording
Shoe-shine boy's" bass solos made such an impression on him that he decided to
give up the
chromatic and acquire a bass, which was more difficult to get than
thought. The price of a new one was too much and a second hand one
difficult to find in those days. Eventually Art ran into two bass
which were so worn out that nobody would be interested in them, and
one, the other he had to pay for, a mere $6.00 US. An old man in a
store, whom he knew well, told him that he would make one good
instrument out of
the two bad ones, and so he did. The snag was that he had used both
to make the working model, and so it happened that the bottom half
had the same
amount of holes as the top half, meaning the lower half was short
of one note,
the low E. It had never bothered him, and he was soon playing his
way around in
different groups that were working the streets so to speak. One of
the last groups Art played in was called ``The Micro Harmonicats``
Into the World.
In 1953 Art started work as a butcher on a passenger liner, but the waves bothered him that much hat he didn't last all that long. He was offered a position in a butchery in South-Africa, and decided that this must be it, and went.
Soon after his arrival he bought a copy of the "South-African Accordion and Harmonica News". His English was nihil at that time, but the letter to the editor from a Mr.Vincent van Rooyen asking for contacts to start a Harmonica Band aroused his interest. It was soon translated by his employer, who was Dutch also. Art wrote Vincent a letter in Dutch that he would come and see him that same weekend. He couldn't wait to meet Vincent. The only Dutch Vincent knew was double Dutch, but realized that Art was to see him on that Sunday. They never parted again. Before returning home he gave Art a brand new bass, as he had no use for it, so he said. Art was in the seventh heaven and started practising as he had never done before.
The Strand, the place where Art lived, was a little village by the sea, and soon people seemed to know that he played a musical instrument, as he was asked to take part in a talent quest in the local cinema. With his broken English he phoned Vincent and told him about this, he then went to see his future brother-in-law, who was a magnificent guitarist and keen to join them to make up a trio. They decided to play numbers they all new, and stuck to the original arrangements, so that they didn't need much time to practice. They lived too far apart and could only practice over the weekends. They played the Czardas of Monti, Hora Staccato and the 12th Street Rag, they had a great write-up in the local paper about this guy that looked as if he was eating a watermelon, they probably had never seen a bass harmonica before.
The guitarplayer was that natural that when he got his
first chord harmonica it
looked as if he had never done anything else in his life, and that was the
birth of the Relda Trio. (Read back to front).
The 5 Adlers
When The Relda trio wanted to become more professional, they seeked the help of Max Adler. A well-known Accordionist and teacher in Cape Town.
The Semi Professionals.
The Relda Trio had lots of success, many radio shows, theatre productions and commercials kept them busy. Touring the country with comedian ``Piet Pompies`` took most of their time, the distances were great and sometimes had to travel all weekend to do just one show.
They were regular guests on the Caltex- and Atlantic shows on radio by the SABC and Springbok Radio.
Atlantic & Caltex Show photographs from The Pumamouse.
At the end of 1960 Art was to move back to his home country, which meant the end of the Relda Trio.
Vincent got interested in the violin bass some time before, and together with Brian on guitar
they joined a dance band. The harmonica was always close at hand and performed on
harmonica with the band as a soloist.
In 1989, when Art went to the Worldchampionships in Trossingen, Germany,
he met Vincent again, and you could well imagine what a great time they
had after 29 years.
Vincent was to compete with his new trio and took 3rd place, and when they took part in the duo competition, they took 2nd place.
Island of the White Cloud.
Back to the sixties again. Since being back in Holland, in The Hague to be precise. Art had been playing in several groups, and working his way through loads of meat when he was offered a position in New Zealand, where he and his family arrived in January of 1967. A great country to live in, he had never seen a place that green, and all year round too. The outdoor living was tremendous, they spent many a weekend, in the open, on the beaches. New Zealand wasn't filled with lots of harmonica players, so he took his chance in starting a harmonica school. The school wasn't a real success, except for the fact that he ended up with a chord and bass player. With Art on lead, Ross Fisher on Chords, and Richard Wade on Bass they didn't quite make the grade, but had enough work to keep them practicing for a larger repertoire. Because of things beyond Art's control, he had to return to Holland with his family.
Once back in his home country and settling down in a complete strange city, where he had never been in his life before, he decided to look for some harmonica players, who, undoubtedly, had to be found somewhere in his vicinity. How wrong he was, there was no one to be found, and after 16 years in this city he decided to go to Trossingen, where he didn't only meet Vincent again at Hohner's Harmonica World Championships in Trossingen, Germany, but also became re-acquainted with long-lost friends, all this lead to establishing the Catstown Harmonica Club in his home town.
Besides playing and teaching Art loves to promote the instrument and the people who use it, doing research and writing articles about the artists and the instrument is taking up a large amount of his time which gives him great satisfaction.
Art's next goal was the realization of a Harmonica Museum in The Netherlands, preferably in or around his home town Helmond, he got a tremendous support from harmonica friends all over the world to make his dream come true.
The accordion museum "De Muse" in Malden (near Nijmegen) has accepted the harmonica collection for permanent display. The official opening was on Sunday March 7, 1999. Part of the collection is the "Harmonica Hall of Fame" collected by Art and ex-Harmonica Rascal Lou Delin.
The new Relda´s.
Since his arrival back in Holland, Art hadn't been playing harmonica seriously as he wasn't able to find anybody to make up a trio in the region where he resides.
At the opening of the Dutch Accordion and Harmonica Museum "De Muse" 7 March 1999, Art met an old friend, Cor van Helden from Rotterdam, who also studied at the "Hotcha Harmonica School" in the 50's.
Cor plays the chromatic. Cor played lead for "The Mill Guys" with Joop Winterberg on chords and Arnold Palli on Bass during the 50s.
Cor's friend, Peter Krol, plays bass and lives just around the corner from his place in Eindhoven. The two of them only live a few miles from Art's place in Helmond.
Peter Krol played bass in a trio with Peter v.d. Wijst on lead and Frans van Gladbeek on chords during the 70s. He was, like Cor, very much in the mood to start a trio with Art on chords.
Although Art had never played the chord harmonica seriously, he found it a challenge to have a new "Relda Trio" again with himself on chords.
They made their first public appearance in the Accordion and Harmonica Museum "De Muse"on 28 September 1999. Since then they appeared at various venues.
Since Art had a very busy personal Itinerary for 2002, visiting South Africa and various European countries to promote the harmonica and a visit to Singapore and Malyasia, he resigned from the trio in March 2002, and was replaced by Frank Rijsdijk.
The new formation is now called "The Jeno Trio".
In May 2001 Art started his first harmonica school project at the "Fairview Primary School"
in Grassy Park, South Africa. He first had to teach the music teacher the ins and outs of the
harmonica to able him to teach the children once Art had to go back to Holland.
Art visited the "Cape Town Harmonica Guild" of which Vincent van Rooyen is the Patron.
Art had the time of his life meeting these old friends from the 50's again.
During his visit to South Africa again in March 2002, Art was welcomed at the school by the school's harmonica band.
They played well considering the short time they studied Art's tutor for the three octave diatonic. Their repertoire consisted of 9 songs out of the 15 that are in the tutor.
The harmonicas for the project were donated by Hering "Master Solo" and Hohner "Marine Band Soloist".
During this visit to South Africa, they got the original Relda Trio from the 50's
together again to record one of Vincent's own compositions "Wineland Seties" for Art's CD project in Holland.
This project is a compilation of Dutch harmonica players 1947-2002. It contains 46 titles on 2 Cd's.
To obtain this double Cd: e-mail
Listen to recordings in Windows Media format. Click the Icon to download at no charge.Wineland Seties
Relda Trio- Copyright © Bassie Produkties BV LC-code: 0160
Recorded: Cape Town, South Africa 2002
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All rights reserved by the legal owners of the respective copyrights
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On 2 April 2004 Art returned to South Africa indefinitely. His old friend Johann Kok, whom he taught to play
the chromatic in 1954, is still living in the same village by the sea. Now Johann and Art
perform as the Helderberg Harmonica Duo, with Johann on Chromatic and Art on the Chord harmonica. They solely play
traditional South African music from composers of the past like:
Danie Bosman, Danie Pretorius, Anton de Waal, Tienie Coetzer, Jan Pohl etc.
Early in 2008 Johann had a heart attack, followed by a stroke after which
he became disabled, and the future for the "Helderberg Harmonica Duo" looked slim. Soon after, Johann's family found out
that he also had cancer he became terminal. He passed away peacefully, surrounded by his closest family on
Sunday 13 April 2008, at the age of 71.
He will be missed by family and friends. He was my best friend for 54 years and will never been forgotten.
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