Chris Chameleon Biography
Innovative, prolific and endlessly creative, Chris Chameleon has become known in South Africa and abroad as a musical phenomenon. With a style all of his own, irresistible stage personality and a reputation for mesmerizing audiences with his four-octave voice and vocal acrobatics, his exceptional talent has won him rave reviews and numerous awards over the past 27 years. Awards include three South African Music Awards (SAMAs) and a Medal of Honour from the South African Academy of Science and Arts.
Following some local cult success with his first band, the eclectic Blue Chameleon from 1990 – 1995, Chris Chameleon formed Boo! in 1997, an eclectic musical outfit in which he is the bassist and frontman and which has since acquired a worldwide cult following. In its first 7 years of existence, Boo! performed over 800 shows in 17 countries, including Hungary, Croatia and 14 states in the USA. Boo! performed at many European and American music festivals with, among others, the White Stripes, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot, Franz Ferdinand, Cypress Hill and Coldplay. The band also received a South African Music Award (SAMA) for Best Pop Album in 2002.
First solo album
When Boo! bandmates Ampie Omo and Leon Retief left Boo! to seek other pastures in 2004, Chris Chameleon spread his wings, choosing to explore his Afrikaans South African roots by releasing the critically-acclaimed ‘Ek Herhaal Jou’ (“I Repeat You”) - compositions of the poetry of iconic 60’s poet Ingrid Jonker. ‘Ek Herhaal Jou’ received superb reviews from critics and was lauded for making accessible Jonker’s work to a wide audience of listeners. ‘Ek Herhaal Jou’ was nominated for a 2006 South African Music Award for Best Adult Contemporary Afrikaans Album. The album reached gold status in South Africa in July 2006 and platinum status in December 2007.
In February and March Chris undertook an extensive theatre tour through the Netherlands with well-known Dutch artist and presenter Leoni Jansen. They performed their production ‘Ja Gesê’ in 28 theatres around the Netherlands. During this time, Chris also worked on the final mix and mastering of his next Afrikaans album ‘Jy en Ek en Ek en Jy’, which was released in April 2017.
Another successful Netherlands theatre tour started Chris’ new year.
At the end of 2015 Chris recorded a new English album that was released in August 2016. The name of the album is ‘Firmament’ and was produced by Theo Crous. This is Chris’ 1first English album that will be released since ‘Made Available’ in 2008. Chris will be touring extensively with his new show with the same name as the album in order to promote the new English album, “Firmament”.
Chris also appeared in the SABC production ‘Sober Companion’, in which he performed the role of the tragic, drug addicted pop icon Rory Kruger.
Chris’ annual Netherlands Theatre tour in February was a production of his latest offering of work Posduif with the poet Daniella Deysel. Posduif was also nominated for a 2015 SAMA nomination in the category of Best Afrikaans Contemporary Album.
In March he travelled through Namibia for the production of a documentary about Afrikaners in Namibia which aired on KykNet.
In April Chris travelled to Dubai, Qatar and London for performances.
Chris kicked off 2014 with another successful theatre tour of ‘Klank van Jou Oe’ in the Netherlands and Belgium in February.
Upon his return to SA he immediately started filming in a movie called ‘Suurlemoen’ in which he plays the character of Mr Marx, a school teacher.
In June Chris released his first duet album ‘Posduif’ with the young, dynamic & upcoming poet Daniella Deysel. Chris was so captured by Deysel’s poetry that he decided to compose her poetry into song. He also managed to convince Deysel to sing with him on the album – a first for both Chris and Daniella.
Chris’ European tour, in February 2013, was a solo show of the production “Klank van Jou Oë” which consists of songs from both of Chris’ Ingrid Jonker albums. Further travel in 2013 included a tour to Australia & a second European tour in June.
Chris Chameleon played the role of a pop star with the name Sarel Fourie in the movie “Fanie Fourie’s Lobola” which was screened nationwide in theatres. Chris, Hunter Kennedy & Fred den Hartog ( from the ‘Heuwels Fanstasies’) wrote the lyrics & music for Sarel Fourie’s pop songs in the movie. As the songs where so popular, Sarel Fourie released his own album, ‘Dinky’, in March 2013. Chris was nominated for a Tempo Award for his role as Sarel Fourie.
Chris’ production “Droomland” (see 2012) with the South Cape Children’s Choir, won a KANNA Award in April 2013 from the KKNK Festival for Best Musical Production.
In 2013, for the first time in 24 years, Chris found himself once again in a one-man theatre piece at the Innibos Festival with his production: “Man”.
In 1989 Chris Chameleon took his first step into the entertainment world with his self-written one-man theatre piece: “Boy”. In 1989 this theatre piece won numerous awards at all the competitions in which Chris entered and eventually walked away as the overall winner of the first Dalro National Theatre Competition. “Man” takes the story of “Boy” further. We see what happened to his dreams, his expectations, his feelings and how he finds himself in the reality of a changed world. With Chris’ exceptional ability to balance humour and heartfelt emotions, “Man” has a surprising epilogue that stays with audiences long after the show is over.
Chris’ album – “Herleef – Pslams & Gesange” was released in October 2013. Chris said: “This is the hardest rocking album I have ever recorded in Afrikaans. I hope it awakens people to the power of God and I hope the unifying cement of music makes us look beyond our differences and into each other’s hearts.”
With regards to the choice of songs Chris says: “I decided to record some of my favourite psalms and hymns, not just because they seem to be disappearing from our general worship, not because I have always wondered what they would sound like if I composed them anew, not only because they take me back to a time when I believed purely as a child does, without the questions of an adult mind, but because since then and until this very moment they stir my soul and bring me into an intimate conversation with my Creator.”
Chris started 2012 with a successful tour to the Netherlands and Belgium.
“As Jy Weer Skryf” was nominated for a SAMA Award 2012 for Best Male Contemporary Album.
In June 2012 Chris did an Innibos Festival production with the Drakensberg Boys Choir, called “Droomland” (Dreams), in the Sudwala Caves. This production included Ramirez’s “Misa Criolla”. This production was sold out weeks before the festival started. The production won an award for the Greatest Contribution to the festival. The live production was also recorded on CD & DVD and was released in December under the title: “Droomland”.
In August 2011 Chris was chosen to be a celebrity ambassador for the LCA ( Leadership Conservation In Africa), a position in which he could further fulfill his passion for conservation. Chris travelled to Ghana in June 2012 in his capacity as ambassador to film the video, “My World”, which he wrote with with Samini, one of Ghana’s biggest stars, to help spread the message of conservation.
Chris’ prominent efforts with regards to conservation were recognized in June 2012 when he received the “Green Heart Award”.
Chris was a presenter in the then new De Kat TV series on Kyknet and also played a role in the new series “Rugby Motors” (written by Louw Venter) which was aired in November 2012.
In June 2011, six years after the release of ‘Ek Herhaal Jou’ Chris came back with an album that easily builds on the creative energy that Ingrid Jonker’s lyrics instilled in him. The album ‘As Jy Weer Skryf’ is an eclectic musical masterpiece. The compositions are upbeat and heartfelt and there are also songs that fearlessly visit the darker side of Jonker’s work. A rock and children’s song also add to the variety on the album. ‘As Jy Weer Skryf’ is an in-depth exemplar of Chris’ evolution as an artist over the past six years. The combination of Chris’ unique vocal capabilities with complex instrumentation gives way to a much richer sound. “As Jy Weer Skryf” was recorded in March 2011 at Belville Studios under the guidance of award-winning music producer, Theo Crous.
Boo!’s latest album ‘The Three of Us’ was nominated for a South African Music Award in the category Best Alternative Music Album: English.
Chris’ also did a successful tour in Australia in June 2011.
Chris went with the LCA to Congo to make work on their 20/20 vision in October 2011. He also wrote, recorded and filmed the single ‘Minutes to Midnight’ in support of their cause and to help raise awareness.
Chris’ production ‘Klank van Jou Oe’ debuted at Cultivaria and Aardklop in October 2011.
Another popular show based on Jonker’s work. This production was once again staged at all the main festivals in South Africa including KKNK. Co-artist included Adriaan Brand (of Springbok New Girls fame) and Riaan van Rensburg.
2005 – 2010
Chris Chameleon released his first DVD “Volkleur” in 2005, a few months after the release of “Ek Herhaal Jou”. The DVD - a perfect showcase for his powerful solo performances - reached gold status in 2006.
2006 saw the simultaneous release of his first English solo rock album, ‘Shine’ and a second Afrikaans album, ‘7de Hemel’. ‘7de Hemel’ is a collection of the songs performed by the versatile Chameleon as the popular character Liam in South Africa’s favourite soap opera, ‘7de Laan’. ‘7de Hemel’ reached platinum status within its first 2 months of release and reached double platinum status in 2009. ‘Shine’, a superbly-produced, melodic pop-rock album yielded various chart-topping singles on national commercial radio stations and was nominated for a 2007 SAMA Award for Best Alternative Album. The single “Anywhere” from the album ‘Shine’ was entered into the International Songwriting Competition (ISC) and reached the semi-finals in February 2007.
In July 2007, Chris released his third Afrikaans album ‘Ek Vir Jou’ which achieved gold status in less than two months after its release. ‘Ek Vir Jou’ chronicles the development of a romantic relationship, from love at first sight to the eventual unravelling.
In August 2007, Chris signed a record deal with premier independent Dutch label, Excelsior Recordings, who distributed the album ‘Ek Vir Jou’ in the Benelux countries (Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg.)
In October 2007, Chris was invited to support “Spinvis” - one of the most popular groups in the Benelux. The 2-month long tour was a great success, with rave reviews published in various Dutch publications. This tour was a springboard for subsequent successful Benelux tours as a solo artist in 2008 and 2009
In October 2007 Chris released “Flight of an Extraordinary Alien”, a live rock DVD which masterfully captures the energy of his exhilarating stage performance. “Flight of an Extraordinary Alien” was recorded live in the Stellenbosch Town Hall in March 2007.
In 2008, Chris impressed both South African fans and critics alike with his stage production, “Klassieke Chameleon”. The production, which received standing ovations at the Volksblad Festival, Cultivaria Festival, Aardklop Festival 2007 and KKNK 2008, was recorded live at the Aula Theatre in Pretoria and was made available on DVD and CD.
Chris followed this with another unique production, “Driekuns”, at the Volksblad Festival in Bloemfontein in July 2008. For the first time since his Boo! days, Chris was back on bass, accompanied by Jonathan Crossley on guitar, Riaan van Rensburg on percussion and former Boo! bandmate Ampie Omo on keyboard, trumpet, trombone and percussion. “Driekuns” saw Chris and Ampie Omo sharing a stage again for the first time since 2004.
In October to November 2008, Chris performed in 15 of The Netherlands’ most prestigious theatres. The Theatre Tour was organised by the reputable Kik Productions (http://www.kikproductions.nl/) based in Utrecht. Chris played to full halls, enjoying positive media coverage throughout. The tour ended on a particularly high note with a sold-out show at the famous Kleine Komedie in Amsterdam.
In October 2008, Chris released the album “Made Available,” an album which bears testimony to Chris 17-year long passion for making music. This album was intended to explore new approaches for his next studio project but, with the final product so pleasing to Chameleon’s ear, he decided to make this pre-production album available online and at live performances – with great success.
Chris’ Afrikaans solo album, “Kyk Hoe Lyk Ons Nou,” was released in March 2009. Chris once again teamed up with trusted producer, Theo Crous, creating a sound signifying a progression from the style that has characterised his first three Afrikaans solo albums. The music was featured in a kykNET documentary, “Kyk Hoe Lyk Ons Nou” (Look At Us Now) which took a closer look at the broad Afrikaans community in South Africa. Chameleon was also the featured host of the abovementioned kykNET documentary which aired on kykNET in November 2009.
April 2009, Chris took home the prestigious KANNA award for Best Male Artist at the conclusion of the week-long Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, for his performance in “Driekuns.”
In August 2009, Chris won another award for “Driekuns”, this time for Most Popular Production at the Innibos Arts Festival.
On 18 July 2009, Chris performed alongside Dave Stewart, Aretha Franklin, Josh Groban, Cyndi Lauper, The Soweto Gospel Choir and Yvonne Chaka Chaka amongst others at the prestigious Mandela (46664) Concert in New York.
In May 2009, Chris toured the Netherlands with a rock band for the first time since Boo! who last performed there in 2004. Then in October/November 2009, Chris had another exciting theatre tour in Belgium and The Netherlands, to try to meet the demand of his ever-growing Benelux fan base.
At the 2009 Cultivaria Festival, Chameleon premiered his new festival production “Voila.” “Voila” features Chameleon’s music, masterfully arranged by Jonathan Crossley and features Chris on vocals and world-renowned classical guitarists James Grace and Jonathan Crossley.
In February 2010, Chris recorded a new BOO! album in Amsterdam, the first since 2003. The album titled “The three of Us” was released in October 2010. The new album saw him and former Boo! bandmate Ampie Omo joining creative forces once again, and Chameleon, Omo and Riaan van Rensburg (on drums) who blew festivalgoers at Ramfest and Rocking the Daisies away with Boo!’s first on-stage performances in five years.
Boo! also toured the Netherlands, Belgium and London in Aug/Sept.
The single ‘The Lonely Hearts Club’ was entered into the International Songwriting Competition (ISC) and reached the semi-finals in February 2011.
In April 2010 Chris appeared in M-Net TV programme Binnelanders, where he portrayed the role of doctor-turned-lawyer Thomas Badenhorst. His character also made another appearance in the series in September.
Chris also successfully toured the theatre-circuit in the Netherlands and Belgium for the third year in a row in November.
Chris `s new production “Noot vir Brood”debuted at Cultivaria and Aardklop in September. This popular show with co-artists Johrne van Huyssteen and Riaan van Rensburg were staged at various festivals including KKNK during the next few months.
Awards and Nominations
Chris Chameleon’s world-class talent has been honoured with various awards over the past years.
- KANNA Awards for Best Musical Production at KKNK – “Droomland” – 2013
- INNIBOS Award for ‘Greatest Artistic Contribution’ to the festival – “Dreams” 2012
- Green Heart Award for his recognizable work in conservationism 2012.
- SAMA nomination for Best Afrikaans Contemporary Album – “As Jy Weer Skryf” - 2012
- SAMA Award for Best Afrikaans Contemporary Album – “Kyk Hoe Lyk Ons Nou” 2010
- KANNA Award for Best Male Artist at the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival in 2009
- INNIBOS Award for Most Popular Production at Innibos 2009
- Huisgenoot Tempo Award for Most Popular Afrikaans Album for “Ek Vir Jou” 2008
- Vonk Award for Best Solo DVD for “Klassieke Chameleon” 2008
- SAMA Award for Best Afrikaans Contemporary Album – “7de Hemel” 2007
- Medal of Honour: Awarded to Chris by the SA Academy of Science and Art for his contribution to Afrikaans Music - 2007
- FAK Award for Exceptional Cultural Achievement - 2007
- VONK Award for Best Male Solo Artist - 2007
- VONK Award for Best Songwriter for STERREDANK - 2007
- KANNA Award for Best Music Theatre Production at KKNK - 2007
- People’s Choice Award for KLASSIEKE CHAMELEON at Aardklop 2007
- Huisgenoot Tempo Award for Favourite Contemporary Artist - 2006
- Vonk Award for Best Male Artist - 2006
- Vonk Award for Best Male Album: “Ek Herhaal Jou” - 2006
- MK89 Award for Best Solo Video “Die Onverkrygbare” - 2006
- MK89 Award for Sexiest Video “Die Onverkrygbare” - 2006
- AMT Award for Best Male Album: “7de Hemel” - 2006
- AMT Award for Best Male video: “Groet” – 2006
Further SAMA nominations included:
- SAMA nomination for Best Alternative English album – “Firmament” – 2016
- SAMA nomination for Best Contemporary Afrikaans album – “Posduif” – 2015
- Best Male Contemporary Album – “As Jy Weer Skryf” 2012
- Best Alternative English album for Boo! – The Three of Us 2011
* Best Male Artist – Chris Chameleon 2008, 2009 & 2010
* Album of the Year for “Klassieke Chameleon” - 2009
* Best Afrikaans DVD for “Klassieke Chameleon” - 2009
* Best Afrikaans Contemporary Album for “Klassieke Chameleon” - 2009
* MTN Record of the Year for “Sterredank” - 2009
* Best Male Artist – Chris Chameleon - 2008
* Best Global Chart DVD for “Flight of an Extraordinary Alien” - 2008
* Best Afrikaans Contemporary Album for “Ek Vir Jou” - 2008
* Song of the Year for “Droomland” - 2007
* Best Alternative Album for “Shine” - 2007
* Best Afrikaans Contemporary Album for “Ek Herhaal Jou” - 2006
English South African publications HEAT and GQ magazines have included Chris Chameleon in their top listings for 2007, with Chris reaching the No 6 position on the GQ Best-dressed Male Celebrity Top 10 list. Chris has also been featured on the HEAT Hot 100 Celebrity list for 3 years in a row.
Simply with his guitar and mesmerizing, unusual voice work, Chris Chameleon takes listeners on a journey, transporting them to a place of musical magic and wonder.
If the past year is anything to go by, Chris Chameleon will continue to be a pioneering force for South African music the world over.