Famous Belgians

Marc Tielemans, presumably a patriotic Belgian*, is a little indignant at the idea that Belgium has not produced a large number of famous people. To put things right he created his own site www.famousbelgians.net to prove the doubters wrong.

Unfortunately he somewhat undermines his argument by producing a list of 259 famous Belgians, most of whom will be completely unknown to those of you living outside Belgium – and indeed many of those living here. Check out the list of 30 famous Belgians in the music world below. He starts of reasonably well, getting Django Reinhardt, Helmut Lotti (rubbish but admittedley famous), Plastic Bertrand (see earlier post) and Jacques Brel (check him out he was fabulous) in his top six. But it goes rapidly downhill from there.

Exhibit 1. 30 famous Belgian musicians:
1. Toots Thielemans, world-famous jazz musician
2. Jean Baptiste “Django” Reinhardt, inventor of the two-finger guitar playing technique
3. Helmut Lotti, international pop singer
4. Plastic Bertrand, punk/rock singer of ‘Ca Plane Pour Moi’ fame
5. Herman Schueremans, organiser of the famous annual Werchter Rock Festival
6. Jacques Brel, legendary chansonnier / singer
7. Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone
8. Arthur Grumiaux, eminent violinist
9. Koen Wauters, leadsinger of the popular band “Clouseau”
10.Raymond van het Groenewoud, singer
11.Gilles Binchois, 15th century composer
12.Jef Denijn, campanology expert
13.César Auguste Franck, composer and organist
14.Orlando di Lasso, composer
15.Ivan Heylen, Flemish singer
16.Bobbejaan Schoepen, Flemish singer and owner of “Bobbejaanland” (real name Modest Schoepen)
17.Eddy Wally, world-famous Flemish singer also known as “The Voice of Europe”
18.Josquin des Prez, composer
19.Eugène Ysaýe, violinist, conductor and composer
20.Dani Klein, lead singer of Belgium’s most successful band “Vaya Con Dios” (sold 10 million CD’s)
21.Will Ferdi, singer and first Belgian personality to announce he is gay (real name Werner Ferdinande)
22.Henri Vieuxtemps, violinist and composer
23.André Grétry, composer
24.Cyprien de Rore, Belgian composer who produced the first score for voices
25.Esther Lambrechts, singer better known as “La Esterella”
26.Johannes Ockeghem, Flemish composer
27.Charles-Auguste de Bériot, violinist
28.Peter Benoit, composer and founder of the Royal Flemish Conservatory
29.Sandra Kim, youngest ever winner of the Eurovision Song Contest
30.Will Tura, Flemish singer (real name Arthur Blanckaert)

There are others in the list that I recognise, but it seems increasingly desperate. By the time he gets to 17, Eddy Wally, world-famous Flemish singer also known as “The Voice of Europe”, you know it can only get worse.

But as far as I’m concerned, one of the things I like about Belgium is that it’s not well known. It’s there to be discovered. Perhaps I should go back to the list and start my research there.

*A fairly small band as it happens. Not because Belgians have nothing to be proud of, but because many consider themselves either Wallon or Flemish, rather than Belgian

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