The tale of a rising minstrel star

Tashreeq de Villiers with one of the many prizes he has won over the years.

Since Tashreeq de Villiers stepped on stage more than 10 years ago to perform his first item in minstrel gear, he has not looked back, raking in trophy after trophy and dazzling the crowds with his entertaining performances.

He has built a love for the minstrel tradition that will forever see him hooked on what he regards as his “sport”.

“That feeling of stepping onto the stage, watching the crowd and seeing their reaction is simply amazing. I am amazed how my performance has put a smile on their faces and even when I step down from the stage and hear people talking about my performance, it makes me realise that it’s much more than just a performance to some people,” he said.

His minstrel journey started at the tender age of 6, when he was approached by the Cape Town Hawkers Minstrel Troupe to perform in the juvenile category at the then Green Point Stadium.

Mr De Villiers, who grew up in Woodstock, picked up this passion for singing from his siblings, one of whom performed with the group, De Ja Vu, as well as several minstrel troupes.

“We used to go to every competition to support, and it was there that I realised that I could also do that and maybe even win,” he said.

In 2002, he grabbed the microphone and performed a song called, Tear Drops by another local musical icon, Taliep Petersen. This performance ultimately bagged him second prize.

Mr De Villiers spent the next four years singing for the troupe. He became a hit and soon other troupes came knocking.

For the next six years, he would go on to represent the likes of Hollywood Superstars and Star Spangles, at the same time, representing Malay choir teams such as Young Men and Violets.

In his first three years at Violets, he won the juvenile section for three years in a row, before going on to win the Premier Cup that same year. “I was having the time of my life, because I was doing something I was enjoying,” he said.

“My whole family came out to support, and they were all behind me.”

His performances had not gone unnoticed, and he even made an appearance on Taliep Petersen’s Jol Tyd show on KykNet, where he performed one of his winning items.

However, at the age of 16, he was officially no longer regarded as a juvenile and his glory years seemed to be a thing of the past.

On top of this, the Green Point Stadium, a place Mr De Villiers regarded as the “home of the minstrels”, was demolished.

“I decided there and then, I did not want to play klopse any longer, because for me, Green Point Stadium was the home of the minstrels, and I could not see the klopse playing anywhere else.

“I then just gave everything up and stopped,” he said.

Other than performing at variety shows, birthdays and weddings, Mr De Villiers decided not to compete in any more minstrel competitions until they had returned the competition to its rightful place, turning down some big offers from troupes on the Cape Flats. This was until the District Six Entertainers came knocking, literally chasing him from street corner to corner, seeking his talents and knowledge about the minstrel scene.

Former De Ja Vu lead singer Tariq Blignaut, who is the current coach of the recently rebranded Cape Argus D6 Entertainers, showed interest, and in November 2011, allowed Mr De Villiers to write his very first comic song, which was performed at Athlone Stadium and took first prize.

“It was a very special moment for me, and it reignited that flame inside of me. That love I had for klopse, that passion and everything just came back. Since that very moment, I was hooked,” he said.

In 2013, he was handed his big break and also handed the microphone, when he was asked to perform the comic song himself.

Although he had only obtained a second prize finish that year, that very moment made him realise that performing on stage was what he was meant to do and in his own words, “it’s in my blood”.

The following year, he made his debut appearance in a stage play, Satin to Sequins at the Joseph Stone Auditorium, where he was a back-up vocalist.

But 2016 was a year to remember for the rising minstrel star, who returned to the Satin to Sequins production, only this time, landing a lead role, playing Rowan Petersen, and blowing the crowds away with a comical performance and breathtaking voice.

It was only a matter of time before the troupes came knocking once again, with the likes of Kenfac Entertainers, Cape Argus D6 Entertainers and Rangers Sporting Club on his doorstep and ready to snap up one of the minstrel game’s hottest properties.

“The Satin to Sequins production gave me a really good platform and exposed me to so many things – very good things. So many doors opened for me, and I am truly grateful to everybody for making this happen for me,” he said.

Mr De Villiers now has his sights firmly set on making a name for himself in the entertainment industry, eyeing theatre productions, movies and musicals.

“My goal for this year will firstly be to win the carnival and all my items,” he laughed, “but I want to entertain people, and I want my performances to make people feel good and laugh, because that is what entertainers are supposed to do. I feel like this is my calling. A gift given to me from above.

“There is never a dull moment when it comes to me, and that makes me the perfect guy to pull off the comic song at the stadium.”

Mr De Villiers travels to Port Elizabeth in April to perform in Satin to Sequins, before donning his Malay choir suit to defend his comic crown at the City Hall and Bellville Velodrome, as part of the Malay Choir Competition.

This is part of an ongoing Tatler series which focuses on people from around the city involved in the Cape minstrel tradition.