You’ve certainly heard guitarists play slide guitar. They use a glass or metal tube fitted to one of their fingers and play melodies by sliding the tube along their guitar strings. And you’ve listened to paired spoons played as a rhythm instrument. But have you seen and heard self-taught, South African guitarist Hannes Coetzee play the spoon slide guitar?
Coetzee holds the handle of a spoon in his mouth and slides the bowl of the spoon along the strings. In this way, he plays rhythm and melody in a most original style. Hannes supports his unique melody-producing technique with his optel-en-knyp (Afrikaans for "picking up and pinching") fingerpicking style.
According to a story by photographer Barney Burke, “Coetzee learned to play guitar by watching his father. He wasn’t allowed to participate, but would hide under a table and watch. At the age of 10 or 11, he built a guitar from an oil can and three strings of cat-gut.”
In the video below, Hannes Coetzee plays a tune billed as "De Kip, de Haan en de Boer" (The Chicken, The Rooster and The Farmer), which sounds a whole lot like Yip Harburg’s "It’s Only a Paper Moon." So much so that I wonder if Harburg heard and adapted the melody. In any case, I couldn’t help adapting the lyrics.
Yes, it’s only an old-time tune
By a man with a tablespoon
And it’s not even make believe
As you can surely see
Why aren’t more guitarists doing this? I tried it. It’s not too difficult to get started, but my jaw ached after about two minutes. I could get used to it though.
Whether I accomplish spoon slide guitar or not, I think Hannes Coetzee deserves the title Master of Creativity.