Band originating from Bruges who have built a reasonably successful career with their tasteful, civilized pop music.
Originated as an experiment of brother and sister Elsje and Hans Helewaut, the band takes form after they team up with bass-player Chery Derycke, who was in the punk & coolwave band Red Zebra before that.
With their love for such artists as Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf, Judy Garland and Joy Division, and the looks and the voice of Elsje, they make clear pop-music with distinct influences of jazz. The attitude toward the music is always poetic and sensitive. The lyrics of Els also play a major part in that : no “I love you”-crap but subtle and introverted stories about life and what to expect of it.
They win of the 1984 edition of Humo’s Rock Rally, the major Belgian talent contest. Not a small accomplishment, considering the peak in Belgian pop music that was happening at that time.
It isn’t until a year later that the groups debuts on vinyl with the 6-track mini-album ‘Elisa Waut”, produced by Dirk Blanchart. From then on, they steadily develop their own style : melancholic songs within a multitude of musical styles - uptempo pop, lyrical folkmusic, intimate jazz and soul.
None of the first four albums really generate a major upheaval, big records sales or smash hits : it are just four testimonies of a growing band, ever becoming better a their “thing”. The exception to this rule is Japan, where the group was welcomed as the next big thing and the blond figure of Elsje generated a lot of enthusiasm.”
As Hans Helewaut explained in Humo “the essence of Elisa Waut is that we are not attached to a fixed set of musicians or instruments. We don’t have a drummer, no guitar-player ... in short everything goes : tuba, harp, sax, piano ... If a song asks for a set of string and another works best with four guitars, both can coexist on our albums while a guitar group can’t effort a string ensemble and a string ensemble can’t have guitars. But all our different styles make it sound like Elisa Waut”.
In 1987, Els releases a poetry book “Het arme huis van gisteren”, but it also means a breakthrough to the general public with the song “Sailor’s don’t cry” by “Elsje & Raymond”. This song is produced for the soundtrack to the movie of the same name my Belgian director (and rock journalist) Marc Didden. The song is a cooperation between Els and Raymond van het Groenewoud.
After their fourth and best album and despite a record deal for a number of CD’s, however, Hans & Els decide to put a halt to it. Els opens a shop of the chain “BodyShop” in the middle of Bruges. In the mean time Hans starts a group with Fritz Sundermann called “California Sunshine”.
Only after 5 years, the itch became too itchy to neglect, so they walked onto musical paths once again. Result was the beautiful “Angelus”. This CD (actually two mini-CD’s in a terrific coating) shows two faces : one half was written, produced and also accompanied by Raymond van het Groenewoud and his set of musicians at that time (Vincent Pierins, César Janssen etc.), on the other side the songs are written by Hans Helewaut. In the interviews than accompany the album, Els releases a lot of “spiritual” thoughts : she also confirms to have “seen the light”.
For those daring to question that last evolution, the next CD, “Mystica” of 1998, was a harsh reminder of the facts : the music of the group has become much more transcendental and now gathers inspiration from folkmusic from the whole world. On “Mystica” you can hear sitars, tablas and mantras zoom, whistle & rustle on the principle of “This album is a journey through my own spiritual evolution”. Or as she wrote on the liner notes : “When I asked my brother Hans to compose music with a fusion of Latin, baroque, mysticism, mantras, African chants ... while still holding on to our own sound, I never expected I could get it all. But Hans surprised me in the most positive sense !”
The guestmusicians come from all four corners of the globe (Bapi Das, Dozzy Njava, Tanga Rema ...). That the result of such a cross-fertilization can still generate “poppy” results, is proven by tracks such as “Surrendering” and the single “Brother & Sister”.
Elisa Waut is no longer prepared to “join in” on the merry-go-round of rock’n'roll promotion : in the Morgen Els said “We only want to release CD’s for the folks that are interested in what we do. After we were freed from our deal with Ariola, we decided to only make music in our living room. With Angelus we came back from that, but we made it very clear we wanted to do it only on our own conditions”.
Hans Helewaut developed a solo-career also in the last years, with a record “Meanwhile, Up in the snowy Mountains”. This is to be situated more in the direction of jazz (the saxophone is his favorite instrument nowadays), but also draws from film & world music and tango.