Reading the news about the death of Eddie van Halen I noticed that many journalists are not aware of the musical background and cultural environment he grew up in. Eddie and his brother Alex were born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. A small country but with a long history of great artists, painters like Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh, writers like Multatuli, Gerard Reve and musicians like… Eddie van Halen!
Alex was born in Amsterdam on May 8th 1953 and Eddie in Amsterdam on January 26th 1955 to professional clarinettist and saxophonist Jan van Halen (1920-1986) and his wife Eugenie van Beers (1915-2005). Father Jan, born in Amsterdam, emigrated to the Dutch East Indies after World War II where he met his wife Eugenie. Her cradle stood in a little village called Rangkasbetoeng (Rangkasbitung nowadays) in the far western part of Java. This was the administrative centre of the district Lebak in the residency Bantam. It is the same region where Eduard Douwes Dekker (Multatuli) witnessed the abuse of the Javanese peasants in the late 1850’s, which provoked him to publish his novel Max Havelaar (1860).The Indo Dutch roots of Alex and Eddie Van Halen (I corrected the birth dates of Alex and Eddie which had this source wrongly stated)
Shortly after Eddie was born (January 1955) the family moved to Nijmegen, Rozemarijnstraat 59. In 1962 the family immigrated to the USA. So Eddie was 7 years old at the time.
In the late 50s Indorock became successful in the Netherlands, a term which was used for rock-‘n-roll played by Indonesian musicians. They were the first rock-‘n-roll artists in the Netherlands.
Indorock is a musical genre that originated in the 1950s in the Netherlands. It is a fusion of Indonesian and Western music, with roots in Kroncong (traditional Portuguese-Indonesian fusion music). The genre was invented by Indo repatriates in the Netherlands after Indonesian independence on August 17, 1945, and became popular especially in Germany. Indorock is one of the earliest forms of “Eurorock”. Its influence on Dutch popular music was immense.Indorock
I guess Eddie was a little too young to really have noticed the succes of the Tielman Brothers while he was living in the Netherlands. But did he feel related to his Indonesian predecessors? I don’t know. But the Indonesian connection is there. As well as the connection as musical pioneers.
This band the Tielman Brothers totally changed the rules here in the Netherlands. Rock Little Baby Of Mine was the first Dutch rock-‘n-roll production which came out in 1958. They made a first big impression at the World Expo Expo 58 in Brussels showing their dazzling rock-‘n-roll show, unlike anything seen in Europe before. Andy Tielman played his guitar that was laying in the back of his neck while standing on top the double bass with his brother playing it. Here’s a great example of the music and showmanship of the Tielman Brothers:
And this was 10 years before Hendrix started doing these kind of tricks…
Andy Tielman was a great guitar player who set the norm for the guitar players who came after him. Eddie van Halen is related to this. Being Dutch-Indonesian. And being a super innovative guitar player. We are well known as a country for having brought up some great musicians, like great guitar players. For example: Jan Akkerman.
Or what about Mark Boon (Indo) and Rob Vunderink from the band Diesel?
There are so many great players I could mention. My old time favourite is Bas Krumperman, who played in Diesel as well. He did some of his best work in a band called The President:
In the Netherlands, we know how to play the guitar. Thanks to our Indonesian pioniers!
(featured image by Carl Lender under Creative Commons BY)
UPDATE October 18, 2020: one of the sources stated the wrong birthdays of the brothers. Now corrected.