The early days and Kinders van die wind
After obtaining her drama degree in 1972, she lectured Afrikaans at a training college in Cape Town. She badly wanted to go overseas and when she heard that buyers for department stores travelled overseas, she obtained work as a selector of children’s sleep wear at a well-known department store! ”I was young,” she says, “and the world was at my feet.” At the end of 1974 she traded the Cape for Gauteng (the then Transvaal) and from 1975 to 1976 worked as an actress with Pact Playwork under Robin Malan. It was part of the curriculum of that time that prescribed work for school children be performed and two teams of actors travelled from school to school to act out the prescribed works.
At the end of her two year contract, she took up part-time teaching by day and waitressing by night to keep the pot on the boil. It was during one of these evenings that she served Katinka Heyns and Chris Barnard at the restaurant at which she worked. “Katinka knew who I was. She just stared and stared at me and said to her husband Chris, that I should sing and not be serving steak.” At the time Katinka was working as the director of a TV series Phoenix & Kie. Jana Cilliers played the role of a cabaret singer in this series. At a certain stage, Jana suggested that Katinka hire Laurika to sing for her. “And in this way I became Jana’s singing voice. It was a big turning point for me, being the ‘ghost’ voice of Jana Cilliers” says Laurika. The songs of the songwriter Koos du Plessis were used in the sound-track of the series and Laurika remembers that her version of the song Kinders van die wind was recorded in one session. Johnny Boshoff was the musical arranger and director.
After the release of the first episode of the 1979 series – which ran for 13 weeks – the song became an immediate hit. Laurika received offers from seven record companies. In the Beeld / Burger of 5 January 2011 Mariana Malan describes how it affected her when she heard Laurika singing Kinders van die Wind for the first time. Suddenly it was on the Springbuck Radio and Radio 5 hit parades where it remained number one for a few weeks. This was a unique experience for an Afrikaans song. Around this time Laurika received an offer for a permanent teaching post at a school, but because of the success of Kinders van die Wind, she was instead able to pursue a career in music.
Her singing career takes off: Encore! Brel and Met permissie gesê
After the success of Kinders van die wind and her Debuut-album, the singer and songwriter Anton Goosen asked her (in October 1979) to accompany him on a tour. At that time Goosen was also establishing a name for himself as a performer, with his original Afrikaans music and his hit Kruidjie-Roer-my-nie. Before him it was often the case that German and other songs of foreign origin were translated and released here. Original local songwriters were few and far between. The tours did much to further establish Laurika’s name.
Around this time the grand dame of theatre, Taubie Kushlick, heard of Laurika. In 1980 she invited her to audition as she was looking for somebody to interpret the music of the Flemish singer/song writer Jacques Brel in a new production with Ann Hamblin and Ferdie Uphof. Kushlick quickly decided that this “boeremeisie” – as she always called Laurika – was the appropriate choice for her new production, Encore! Brel. It was a great success and played for six months in the Chelsea Theatre in Hillbrow. An ensuing production, The Best of Brel, followed in 1983.
In 1981 she was also in the cast of Met permissie gesê, written by Hennie Aucamp. ” Laurika says that this was a watershed in Afrikaans – the first Afrikaans cabaret.” With Janice Honeyman as director and people such as Amanda Strydom, Rina Nienaber, Gerben Kamper and Bill Curry in the cast, it was a form of “civilised protest” against the government of the day.
On a personal level, she married the son of a karoo farmer, Christopher Torr in 1984. At the time he was a lecturer in economics (later to become a professor). They have two children, Simon en Nina.