Laat me je de stad tonen, waarvan ik ben gaan houden [Let me show you the city, the city that I’ve learned to love]
Zwier mee over het Weena met z’n hoge flatgebouwen [Come on down the Weena with its high apartment blocks]
“In Amsterdam, people obviously react to the song very differently than here.” Stijn, the band’s singer for three years, laughs: “Which is natural! There they start to heckle us when we sing about our city, but when we play at home, it’s always a great party.” Tom-Bosse, keyboard player, agrees: “Everyone always sings along very loudly.”
The Hermes House Band, house band of the Rotterdams Studenten Corps fraternity (RSC-RVSV), was founded in the 1980s and has had several number 1 hits, including their cover of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive. Besides the student band, there is also an international band, which only performs abroad.
The Rotterdam song is probably older than the average student singing along to it. Maartje Duin and Amir Swaab wrote it in 1998 for a musical (Zaken doen by the Rotterdamsche Muziek- en Toneelvereniging [Rotterdam Music and Theatre Club]). RSC members rewrote it several years later, and the song is now a permanent feature during the opening of Eurekaweek.
The ten members of the student band are preferably always members of RSC-RVSV. When the first-years are enrolling, a list is drawn up of students who play an instrument, so that they be asked later if they would like to join the band. You can only play in the band if you are a student.
Stijn: “It’s a real commitment, because we rehearse every Tuesday, and everyone is always present. Before the rehearsal, we have a meal together. And then you’ve got all the shows.” Tom-Bosse has been in the band for nearly two years: “It’s pretty intense, but following the rigorous audition and all the information, you have a good idea of what you’re getting into. Actually, members never drop out, and everyone plays with the band for as long as possible.” This year, they have nearly seventy shows booked, so it’s quite demanding. “But it’s a brilliant experience. Take this weekend, for example: we’re performing at a party in Tuscany,” says Stijn. They earn virtually nothing from it, but accommodation and transport are arranged. “We’re not in this to get rich.”
For new students, Eurekaweek is often the first time that they hear the Rotterdam song. Stijn: “On Monday, the two of us are playing in Ahoy, which is amazing.” Accompanied by Tom-Bosse, Stijn sings the Rotterdam song. “You might not think it, but playing in Ahoy is actually always very intimate.”
Market Hall and Cube Houses
Schei toch uit over die moffen, hou toch op over die bommen [Shut up about the Krauts, shut up about the bombs]
Rotterdam, stad zonder hart, mijn hart ligt er wel, verdomme [Rotterdam, city without a heart, but my heart’s there, damn it] 1
The song is now older than most of the students and perhaps a bit dated? “No, I don’t agree,” says Tom-Bosse. “It’s still relevant, actually. There are obviously some districts that have been revamped.” Stijn: “The Witte de Withstraat used to be nothing special, but now it could definitely be used in the lyrics. Just like Katendrecht and Central Station.” De Blaak is op een marktdag vol handen uit de mouwen en wordt omringd door Rotterdams merkwaardigste gebouwen [On market day, the Blaak is a hub of activity, surrounded by Rotterdam’s most interesting buildings]2 is still the same today. “People come from all over the world to see the Cube Houses,” says Stijn.
There is some debate about the nickname for the Erasmus Bridge, the Zwaan (Swan): “To be honest, we’ve never heard any of our peers call it that, but I’ve heard elderly people use that name,” says Tom-Bosse. According to the boys, despite all the improvements, Rotterdam stad zonder franje, zonder goud, zonder champagne [Rotterdam city without frills, with no gold, no champagne] is still true. “We obviously love Rotterdam, but if you compare it with other cities, it’s still pretty basic here, and the same applies to the mentality of people in Rotterdam. Just act normal.”
Personally, the bit about Kralingen appeals most to Tom-Bosse and Stijn. Tom-Bosse: “Many of our members obviously live in the area, and it’s where the university is. It’s an important part of our lives.” Stijn: “When we play in Rotterdam or at the fraternity, we always get the audience to sing the bit about Kralingen. Always gives us goose bumps.”
Al die havens en fabrieken en die stinklucht uit Pernis [All those ports and factories and that bad smell from Pernis]
Maken Rotterdam de allermooiste rotstad die er is [Make Rotterdam the most beautiful ‘Rot’ city in the world]
- These verses refer to World War II, when the city centre was heavily bombed by German forces in May 1940. Stad zonder hart (City without a heart) is also another name for the sculpture The Destroyed City by Ossip Zadkine at Leuvehaven, that commemorates the bombing. ↩︎
- Handen uit de mouwen refers to the work ethic of people in Rotterdam: roll up your sleeves, do your best, geen woorden maar daden (actions rather than words) ↩︎