By Hans Ebert
They couldn’t be more different. He’s soft spoken, reserved, and almost restrained. It’s all very disciplined, no doubt something ingrained in him from a very young age when an apprentice at the prestigious South African Riding Academy.
In Hong Kong, Felix Coetzee is known for his wonderful partnership with Hong Kong’s greatest race horse- Silent Witness. There’s even a statue in their honour. You don’t get one of those for nothing.
Together with Tony Cruz, they were the C Team that was The A Team- a champion trainer who was a legendary jockey working with one of the greatest judges of pace when it came to race riding. Three legends of the turf.
Add the exploits of Silent Witness into the mix, and they were Hong Kong’s greatest legends of the turf. To his friends, he’s The Cat as in the cartoon character Felix The Cat.
To those who remember those winning rides aboard Silent Witness, Felix Coetzee is a hero. A integral part of Hong Kong racing history. And with him now guiding and mentoring the local apprentices and having played a huge role in the development of Kei Chiong as a rider, The Cat remains very much part of the present and future of Hong Kong racing.
She on the other hand was born to perform- most definitely not reserved when she takes to the stage, adopts her Rock Chick persona and wants to shake you all night long. It’s been a long strange trip for the girl who lived in Hong Kong until she was 18 and attended Shatin College.
They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but Kat Coetzee might just be an exception to the rule.
If her father is reserved and, at times, even shy, daughter Kat makes up for it. She’s effusive, she’s totally involved in her music, and through something completely unplanned, is now also part of Hong Kong horse racing…by being the front person in the recently formed band performing at the Beer Garden every Happy Wednesday at Happy Valley Racecourse. Any ideas for names will be gladly accepted. Katastrophe has been dropped.
For a band that was only put together a few weeks ago, its fan base, thanks to Kat and her Kat People, has exploded.
Let’s face it, the Hong Kong music scene isn’t exactly overrun with blonde Rock chicks. But Kat Coetzee isn’t only about the look. She’s also got the serpentine moves and one of those BIG voices with a swagger and attitude that belies her petite frame. She’s her own person, has no interest in racing, and every interest in succeeding in her chosen profession.
After a chance meeting at an open mic session with Hong Kong’s best Rock guitarist who’s known as Guitarzan Jay, the two clicked, the current band’s repertoire is growing, there are plans to form a new band that can perform overseas, originals are being written whereas Kat has given up plans to return to South Africa in order to be committed to making things work in Hong Kong. It won’t be easy, but a positive attitude towards winning against all odds is often all that’s needed.
Watching from home snippets of his daughter performing onstage on television in between the Happy Valley races, and hearing about her being mobbed for selfies- on and off the course- has Felix Coetzee smiling. “You don’t say, eh,” he asks incredulously, and being the proud father as is Janine, her mum in Johannesburg. “Man, she’s so happy here. Things are moving along well for her and this is what she’s ever wanted to do- perform her own music.” Let’s also not forget that The Cat loves his Rock music- the Gunners, the early recordings by Dylan, plays bad guitar, while there’s always that one memorable night when we ended up backstage with Rock icons Deep Purple. Yes, hard as it might be to believe, Felix Coetzee is actually known to have had fun.
As for his daughter, after passing with Honours and the highest grades in the world from the Waterfront Theatre School in South Africa, Kat Coetzee continued with a solo career and a few incarnations of a band. It was probably her Goth period, and as many young musicians do, there’s a need to go through various changes before, as Jim Morrison sang, they break on through to the other side and understand the very complex business side to making music.
With her calling all the shots and being the focus of attention, there were bound to be the usual disagreements which always stunts growth, or else makes members chart different courses. Perhaps the young Kat lady’s decision to come to Hong Kong on a whim and just do some gigging for a month and see what might happen was written in the cards.
Hong Kong is hardly a Mecca for great musical talent or venues for ‘live’ music. But by going from an open mic session at Morrison Cafe to an impromptu performance at Adrenaline at Happy Valley Racecourse to now being part of the resident band at the Beer Garden with its ready-made audience in their thousands hungry for good ‘live’ music, Kat Coetzee has made a quantum leap as far as her career is concerned.
Things happen for a reason- like the time Felix Coetzee first sat on an unknown horse named Silent Witness.