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Word of the Day: zingen (to sing)

Sometime in the nineties I was cycling home with my daughter Yolande, then five years old. It was a wet and cold day in spring and there was a lot of wind, just like now. We passed the new buildings of the Haagse Hogeschool behind station Hollands Spoor and were stopped by music and this wonderful voice. A young woman with long wet hair was dancing and singing on a small podium with very few people around. Yet she was performing as if there were thousands of people in the audience. We stood there in amazement, admiring the incredible energy and vocal presence. Heart warming. 


Not much later I heard this voice again on the radio and found out that her name is Anouk Teeuwe. She was born and bred in The Hague where she went to the Royal Conservatory for two years. In 1996 she made her debut in the world of Rock and Roll with ‘Mood Indigo’, and a year later she broke through with ‘Nobody’s Wife’. Since then the headstrong singer has made an incredible career in the Netherlands and abroad.

To everyone’s great surprise this icon of Rock’n Roll invited herself to the Eurovision Song Contest. Yes, the Eurovision Song Contest…. This yearly event evokes mixed feelings among the Dutch. Since its start in 1956, the country has only had four victories. And the last victory was almost forty years ago. That was in 1975, the year that Anouk was born. You can imagine that Anouk’s initiative was greeted with great scepticism and enthusiasm at the same time.

When asked about her beautiful song ‘Birds’ Anouk replied: ‘I want the audience to find their own feelings about my song. I don’t think people want to know my feelings about the song’.

‘Birds falling down the rooftops
Out of the sky like raindrops
No air, no pride

If being myself is what I do wrong
Then I would rather not be right
Hopes turn into fear and with my
One wing I can’t fly’

Anouk is devoted to her four young children. Unfortunately she is not very lucky in love. She just cannot help but be herself, and that’s why the Hagenaars like her so much. She is what she is. She sings about her life, her hopes and fears.

Even if she does not win the Contest, it will not change her life. Sometimes she may feel ‘no air, no pride’, as she sings, but that will eventually never keep her from flying.

ZINGEN, sing is a very old verb, going back to the early Middle Ages. It has similar forms in all Germanic languages. Originally it must have meant to ‘to chant’ or ‘to tell in song’. If we listen carefully to Anouk, ZINGEN still has exactly that meaning. Her songs are chanted stories. They make us laugh and cry.