Mathys Roets, a well-known South African singer with a uniquely inspiring story, will give one performance at Vernon’s Powerhouse Theatre on Dec. 20.
Roets started singing with his deep, rich bass voice and a guitar in shopping malls., and in 1989 his career really took off. In April 2009, on his way to an annual national arts festival, he lost control over his motorcycle and drove off the highway. Roets sustained a spinal cord injury, leaving him paraplegic.
He amazed everyone by appearing on stage again within only seven weeks of his accident, when a number of South African singers held a concert in support of Roets. To the audience’s amazement, Roets rolled onto the stage in the middle of the last song and joined in. Less than three months after his accident, he was back on the road and performing all over South Africa again.
Roets is a tall guy and was used to standing while performing. He joked that his friend, who used to be his short pal, suddenly became his tall pal. The solution was to import a $12,000 standing wheelchair with funds from the With Mathys Trust. He started performing in his new wheelchair in Nov. 2010 and said: “This chair makes a huge difference to my humanity. I had a need to look people in the eye… And to be able to stand and sing again… now I can.”
Roets appreciated the support so much that he decided to support other artists going through a difficult time. Since 2011, he has supported two other famous South African musicians and their families through the trust, by involving other musicians in special fundraising concerts.
In his autobiography, Steeds Mathys (“Still Mathys”) Roets says that he has learned to focus on the things he is good at and to enjoy every moment of it.
“And yes… I know that I do just that every day of my life,” he said.
Outside of his busy performing and motivational speaking program, he enjoys wildlife photography, and has an inborn need for speed and adventure. He loves downhill skiing, quad biking, regularly participates in wheelchair races, and has even climbed and rolled down a Namib Desert dune.
Before his accident, Roets skied a few times at the small ski areas, Afri-Ski in Lesotho and Tiffindell in South Africa, and twice in Austria with his family. He recalls watching a sit-skier with interest, not thinking that he might ever get into that position. After his accident he skied in Austria for five days with a sit-ski.
While on holiday from Vernon in South Africa earlier in 2012, JP and Nici Viljoen attended one of Roets’ performances. Having met him a few years ago at a performance in Canmore, Alta., and being keen skiers themselves, they told Roets about Silver Star Mountain and the Adaptive Snowsports program. Together, they arranged for him to come to Silver Star in December to improve his sit-ski skills.
The Viljoens have a full program planned for Roets, including the concert, lots of skiing, trying out snowmobiling and a night at Sparkling Hill.
For Christmas, Roets will join his sons Liam, 13, and Yuan, nine, in the French Alps.
“Hopefully I’ll be skiing so well after Vernon that I can chase them a bit on the slopes. It is one of the nicest experiences to share. They are so proud of their dad. And I am so proud of them.”
Those attending Roets’ show can expect to enjoy a wonderful evening filled with beautiful music and an inspirational story by a friendly, tall guy with a shy smile. He will not be performing in his standing wheelchair, as he can’t fly with two wheelchairs.
Roets will be doing a mostly acoustic performance, consisting of English and Afrikaans songs.
“My choice of music has always been determined by what I felt the first time I heard a song. (South African singer/poet) Koos du Plessis and Leonard Cohen have given my music a certain direction. I hope that people won’t mind me singing on Cohen’s doorstep.”
Roets will also perform music from his latest CD, which helps to tell his story.
“It has been three-and-a-half years since my accident and I am still who I have always been. It’s unbelievable how my music fits in with my story.”
Any extra funds raised from the performance will be used to help contribute towards buying a sit-ski for Roets.
“I think it would be so much better to have my own, not having to struggle to rent one every time,” he said.
True to his generous nature, Roets is not only considering himself in his plans to obtain a sit-ski.
“I would also like to give more of my friends in wheelchairs the opportunity to try out skiing. Afri-Ski’s slope is short, but it’s ideal for learning to ski. The idea is to lend the sit ski to them (Afri-Ski) during the (southern hemisphere) winter and so provide the opportunity to more people.”
Tickets for Roets’ performance at Powerhouse Theatre are $40 per person, $30 for children six to 11 and seniors 65 years and older, available at the Ticket Seller box office in the Vernon Performing Arts Centre. Call 250-549-7469 or order at www.ticketseller.ca.
— Contributed by Tia Steyn, special to The Morning Star