Q&A With Christo ‘Baas’ de Beer

Recently featured as a personality on the Spaza 012TCG cards, Christo de Beer epitomises a still unsung mover and shaker of Pretoria’s entertainment scene. Probably the coolest human to talk to, he’s more regularly known as Baas de Beer. And hierdie Baas is involved in so much, it makes the rest of us look almost slapgat by comparison. Pretoria.co.za caught up with the man, despite his hectic schedule, for a chat.

Christo Baas de Beer

Please tell us how you became such a Pretorian face? What is it about restaurant and bar events in town that inspire you? Yes, events happen, but you’re known as a mover and shaker and a regular face behind the mike at many events that you MC. Is it all just a job for you?

When I moved to Pretoria in December 2009, it felt as if I’d come home. I realised that I’ve always been a PRETorianer, I just accidentally didn’t grow up here. I’m fascinated by the culture of Snor City, from the boerseuns in bakkies at the local langarm venue through to inner city jols at ABE and loads more, there’s something for everyone. As for moving and shaking, I’m trying to lose the extra pounds, thanks.

Jokes aside, I just feel thankful that Pretoria has given me a platform to live out some of my passions. In terms of music, I feel like a lot of what I do is just my little way of giving back to music for what music has given me. Helping to ensure that there are new, young musicians who will shape the face of the music of tomorrow is an honour. As for restaurants, they make up a large portion of my company, Activation Media’s, clients.

I get the opportunity to enjoy some of the best food in Pretoria AND get paid for it. Score! Our company does far more than just that but in a way, I think much of our current success comes from really understanding one of the most challenging but creatively stimulating industries — food and entertainment. It’s how you get to know what the people of your area like, and then you get to implement that knowledge to the benefit of the rest of your clients.

You are known as one of The Grind Radio personalities. Have you always wanted to be on radio?

I fell in love with radio as an entertainment medium thanks to Jeremy Mansfield. Before that, radio was where you got music and news. He made me see that radio can be much more than just that. Even though I never pursued radio as a full-time career, I do enjoy being on The Grind Radio. I believe radio to be a medium that will outlast conventional television, as long as it keeps evolving.

What is your involvement in the STRAB music festival, and why (besides the obvious reasons) is it coming together at Ponta Malongane in Mozambique?

I would rate STRAB as my favourite festival. I have a few that are close to my heart, but somehow STRAB just managed to crawl right in there. As Activation Media, we have been doing the social media, marketing and brand development of STRAB since 2013. It’s one of the campaigns that I look forward to most each year.

It’s a combination of getting to work with fantastic people like Hana and Andries Burger and Conrad Jamneck (the organisers of the event), and just the sheer awesomeness that STRAB embodies. It’s real and really beautiful on every level.

What sets STRAB apart, in my mind, is that there are no hang-ups with superficial s*%t. It’s all about giving people the most amazing experience. Musically speaking, the line-up never disappoints, and the added-value of being able to do anything from scuba diving and 4×4-ing to hiking or just lazing about, just perfects the vibe. People often say I am overselling STRAB by calling it a life-changing experience. I just tell them to go once, and let me know how much I oversell. So far, it seems I’m telling the truth.

Can you tell us more about Park Acoustics and your role in it? Does it tie into being a regular MC?

Park Acoustics is the lifeblood of the Pretoria music scene. Neil Groenewald, Henk van der Schyff and their team never cease to surprise us with how well they do things. To run an event like Park Acoustics for so long takes more than the average man has to give. And these guys do it while running several other endeavours. On a personal level, I used to MC Park Acoustics for, ummm, I think two years. Not sure… I’ve even ended up on the comedy stage twice, of which one occasion was soberly consensual. At this stage, we’re involved as Activation Media in the social media and marketing side of things, and we freaking love it!

I would really encourage anyone that has not yet been to Park Acoustics to make a plan. Just to experience the music, the people, the food, the stalls and the culture that has formed around Park Acoustics.

Christo Baas de Beer

You DJ around town — is that strictly within a genre or do you enjoy a wide appeal? According to your Facebook page, you were recently on the decks at a rock & roll-themed event, and there’s that link to Aandklas. Are you a rocker by definition?

My personal taste in music is more toward the rock side of things but I do have a wide range that I listen to, from classical and some jazz through to indie, folk, modern country, even kicking around in metal — just not a massive black metal fan. Currently, I’m on a HEAVY blues-rock binge! As far as my DJ sets go, I like to build a party. And if playing some tunes I don’t personally prefer is required, so be it. As a rule, I like playing old school, sing along, party tunes. I thrive on playing at venues like Aandklas or the occasional festival set.

In the end, if the people are having a good time, I’m having a good time. For this reason, I take a very ‘timeless’ approach to a DJ set, basically playing hits from all eras that will get a crowd going.

Please share with us some of your charity work involvement, besides Movember. You seem to be among the few actually walking the talk, giving time to make things happen.

As you mentioned, I’m involved in Movember and have been since I accidentally stumbled on it in 2005 (it only officially launched in SA in 2007). Other than that, our company tries to have a healthy charitable involvement. In fact, Activation Media effectively started due to a charity. Then-stranger-now-friend-and-business-partner, Tyron Long, was involved with #WetnoseDay, and we met through that. Since then we have been involved with the Otterlake rhino charity festival, as well as various smaller charity events. (Pcoza : See? We told you he’s crazy busy.)

One of the current drives we are busy with is to help facilitate Tip Top Dog Food’s charitable missions. Most recently, I helped facilitate a fundraiser to help one of the super talented musos I met through open mic, Lungelo Moyo, recoup his gear after it got stolen. With the help of Mars Music and Craft Exchange, we managed to raise enough to get him a new guitar. The point here is not to brag, but just show that charity is never a one-man show. Without the awesome network of friends and connections I have accrued over the years, none of this would’ve been possible. (Pcoza : And see? We told you he’s awesome.)

Why is Movember important to you, as I hear you’re involved in the fundraising now? Do you think it’s something that will become ingrained in South African life forever?

After being involved with Movember for a long time, 2018 was the first year they asked me to be an official ambassador. I’ve lost friends and family to cancer and Movember, at its core, is about prostate and testicular cancer awareness and prevention, so it really struck a chord. Furthermore, Movember is not just one of those stereotypically sad little charities that just wait for people to donate a few spare cents. It’s a fun, engaging, modern way of doing charity. They keep their finger on the pulse of what’s happening. Movember Move is an initiative to get people physically active, which is great. Then Movember also has a strong focus on Men’s MENTAL health, something often overlooked by most charities. And with Movember, everyone can do good while having some fun. I would really like to see Movember make its mark for many more years to come.

Christo Baas de Beer

How would you rate the arts & entertainment scene in SA? Perhaps a better question would be: what do you think would aid the arena? What’s missing? Are there things that irk you in your work in entertainment that you just know should be changed?

Sjo, that’s a big question, which probably requires a thesis to be written on it. But in a nutshell, I would say that SA music is in a weird space. On one hand, I’m so super stoked by the awesome new acts that are coming up through the ranks. On the other, I’m pissed off at fans that only want to support the big acts. And that is largely a Pretoria disease. In my experience, Snor City has some of the most loyal fans, supporting big acts better than anywhere else. However, it’s really hard for young bands to make their way up to that level, coz fans just don’t want to fork out the cash to see a band they don’t know.

So if I could change one thing, it would be to have more money coming in from corporates, supporting the scene financially. However, this is a short-term solution. In the long run, sponsors are not the answer. We have to cultivate a mindset of support among SA music fans. That’s one element of the open mics I host that excites me so much. Not only are we providing a stage for musicians to grow and become better, but effectively, we are training an audience to appreciate fresh music.

Are you getting sunburn on your gesig now that the beard is gone? I had a modest beard, but does a man who loses a lekker full beard like yours suffer some sense of emotional loss?

Honestly, I think that my change-of-face has a bigger impact on other people. They see me, but I barely look at myself in a mirror any longer than is needed. The weirdest impact of the shave for me was the subconscious beard-related movements that are now defunct. Muscle memory is an interesting thing. Three days after the shave, I almost brushed my face with my beard brush out of habit, haha! As for getting emotional about facial hair… let’s just say the beard doth not make the man. The man maketh the beard… and that beard is in the heart, even if it’s not on the face!

Lastly, if you had the chance to address South Africa on national TV for a few minutes, what do you think SA – and Pretoria specifically – needs to hear? From the heart? If it’s a message solely for Pretoria, that’s also cool.

Don’t be a doos! Be lekker. That’s Oppikoppi Rule #1. And it should be LIFE Rule #1. Be yourself, enjoy your culture, live the way YOU want to live. As long as you don’t end up harming others in the process, go for it!

En daar het jy dit. Clearly a cyborg, De Beer seems unaware that God made people diurnal, and his involvement across the city continues unabated. To catch him at his next public display, follow his blog, spot his Facebook page or just keep your eyes peeled right here, where we post constant updates about the best bits of the Pretoria raasmaak scene!