You could say that listening to Dutch music for the first time is like taking your first sip of wine. It’s a taste that you initially cringe at, but as the years go by, you learn to love it. 

Soon enough you’ll catch yourself happily humming the tunes as you potter around your room or clumsily screaming them at the top of your lungs — depending on the amount of alcohol in your system. As with any cultural phenomenon, studying Dutch music can tell us a lot about life in the Netherlands.  

Barrel organs and DJ’s aside, here are 11 classic Dutch songs to help you familiarise yourself with both the Dutch language and people.

1Bloed, Zweet en Tranen — Andre Hazes: a canonical treasure

Translated as “Blood, sweat and tears,” this song elicits a response in Dutchies that I can only describe as akin to your father’s reaction to any Bruce Springsteen song after a few pints. Things get tearful and sombre, yet also loud and comforting all at once. 

What’s also great about this song is that it’s really easy to understand if you’re beginning to learn Dutch. Hazes sings in a slow and deliberate manner, which is great for eager-to-learn internationals (and those who may be singing along after a few drinks.)

Dutch  English
Ik heb geluk gekend,
Maar ook verdriet gekend
Hoe vaak stootte ik m’n kop
Maar toch, ik ben tevreden met alles wat ik ben
Als je roem voorbij is,
Moet je kijken wie je nog kent
I’ve known happiness
But also sadness
Many times I did it wrong
But I’m happy with everything I have
If your fame is gone,
See the friends you have left

2Wilhelmus: not just an anthem, THE anthem

If there is any other national anthem that will make the straight-talking Dutch more tearful and sombre than Bloed, Zweet en Tranen, it’s Wilhelmus. Luckily, the Netherlands is not a country that will disown you if you don’t know a word of the national anthem, but I’d recommend familiarizing yourself with this one just so that you may one day knock the socks off your Dutch friends with your mad integration skills. 

This video even offers English subtitles under the Dutch lyrics, but we’ve popped them below because we’re sure you’re dying to practice this one 😉

Dutch  English
Wilhelmus van Nassouwe
Ben ick van Duytschen bloet,
Den Vaderlant getrouwe
Blyf ick tot in den doot:
Een Prince van Oraengien
Ben ick vrij onverveert,
Den Coninck van Hispaengien
Heb ick altijt gheeert
William of Nassau
am I, of German1blood.
Loyal to the fatherland
I will remain until I die.
A prince of Orange
am I, free and fearless.
The king of Spain
I have always honoured.

3Drank en Drugs— Lil Kleine, Ronnie Flex: a Dutch song that became a viral anthem

If you’re looking to familiarise yourself with Dutch music that doesn’t date back to the year 1572, then another anthem-of-sorts that I can offer you is Drank en Drugs.

This quirky song (with an equally quirky music video) offers some interesting insight into contemporary Dutch popular culture (and humour.) This anthropological artefact of a bop became internationally recognised, after going viral on Tik Tok — cue flashbacks to unsuspecting 12-year-olds dancing to a song about drink and drugs.

Here are the most PG friendly lyrics that we can offer a translation of…

Dutch English
Als je bitch wil chillen, is het geen probleem
Dan ga ik erheen, ik kom niet alleen
Want ik heb drank en drugs
Ik heb drank en drugs
If your bitch wants to chill, it’s not a problem,
Then I will go there, I won’t come alone,
Because I have booze and drugs.
 I have booze and drugs

 

4Zoutelande — BLØF ft. Geike Arnaert: the Dutch song that caused a tourism boom

Although it was originally performed in German and only released in Dutch in 2017, this song has become a modern Dutch classic. In fact, it was so popular that it actually brought a tourism boom to the Dutch seaside tourist resort of Zoutelande, after which it is named. 

The lyrics for this one are much more wholesome…

Dutch English
En dan zitten we hier in het oude strandhuis
Wat je vertelt houdt me nuchter en warm
Boven m’n hoofd zie ik de grijze wolken
Ik ben blij dat je hier bent, blij dat je hier bent
And so we sit here in the old beach house
What you tell me keeps me sober and warm
Above my head I see the grey clouds
I’m happy you’re here, happy you’re here

 

5Parijs — Kenny B: speak Dutch with me!

If you’re looking for a more inventive way of expressing “Nederlands alstublieft”, then look no further. You can even break into song and sing “Praat Nederlands met mij” as if seducing a woman on the streets of Paris. If that’s a bit too much for you, then at least you have learned another way of politely asking Dutchies to bear with your rudimentary remix of their language.

Dutch  English
Praat Nederlands met me.
Even Nederlands met me.
Mijn gevoel zegt mij dat wij vanavond samen kijken
Naar de Champs-Élysées en naar de Notre Dame en naar de Seine.
En daarna samen landen op Schiphol.
Speak Dutch with me
A little Dutch with me
My feeling tells me that tonight we will look together
At the Champs-Élysées and at Notre Dame and at the Seine
And then land together at Schiphol

 

Also can we just appreciate that Kenny B is almost 60 years old!? Would’ve fooled me!

6Traag — Bizzey ft. Jozo & Kraantje Pappie: a song no Dutch club is complete without

As an Irish person listening to this song, I think the best way to describe it is through a comparison with Mr. Brightside by The Killers. Phenomenologically, the two songs are very similar — those first few notes hit, and everyone knows what’s up. 

Not much can be said for the lyrics, but we’ll forgive them given the absolute shape-throwing this song can elicit. 

These were the least sexual lyrics I could find, I’m sorry.

Dutch English
Doe het voor me, doe het laag
Het is niet moeilijk voor je, doe het traag
Traag, traag, traag
Traag, traag, traag
Voel het voor me, voel het aan
Proeven zal je, zoete laag
Laag, laag, laag
Laag, laag, laag
Do it for me, do it low
It isn’t hard for you, do it slowly
Slowly, slowly, slowly
Slowly, slowly, slowly
Feel it for me, sense it
You will taste it, a sweet layer
Low, low low
Low, low low 

 

7Dat Ik Je Mis — Maaike Ouboter: the softest Dutch I have ever heard 

Ah, something to cleanse our ears. This song has to offer the Dutch language in its softest form. Maaike Ouboter wrote the song about the passing of her parents and sang it for her audition on “De beste singer-songwriter van Nederland.” 

The song was released after the episode broadcast and quickly shot to the number one position in the Dutch singles Top 100 charts — a position it stayed in for 36 weeks! 

Think Taylor Swift — but Dutch, and sad.

Dutch English 
Ik mis je
Ik mis je
Ik grijp je, ik gris je
Ik wil je
Bespeel je,
Ik roer en beveel je
om bij me te blijven
In donkere nachten
Niet meer te smachten naar jou
I miss you
I miss you
I grab you, I snatch you
I want you
Play you,
I stir and command you
to stay with me
in dark nights
To not long for you anymore

 

8Het Is Een Nacht — Guus Meeuwis: a staple within Dutch music

This is the sort of song that makes you sling your arm across someones shoulder and sway, regardless of whether or not they’re your best friend, or someone who just happens to be standing closest to you. The action is often reciprocated and the result is a crowd of swaying bodies and arms, as you can see in the video below. 

What’s also great about this song is how easy it is to sing along to!

Dutch English

Het is een nacht
Die je normaal alleen in films ziet
Het is een nacht
Die wordt bezongen in het mooiste lied
Het is een nacht
Waarvan ik dacht dat ik hem nooit beleven zou
Maar vannacht beleef ik hem met jou 

It is a night
you normally only see in films
It is a night
which is sung in the most beautiful song
It is a night
Of which I never thought I would experience
But tonight, I experience it with you

 

9Het Regent Zonnestralen: of course, a song about Dutch weather

In a country with weather as chaotic as the Netherlands — is it going to be 20 degrees and sunny or 10 degrees and raining? Who knows! — it’s no surprise that the subject matter has infiltrated Dutch music. Het Regent Zonnestralen (It’s Raining Sunbeams) could be a weather headline, but it is also a piece of classic Dutch music. It tells a sunny story of a man who decides to finally do what he wants with his life. 

Dutch  English
Als dit het is, is dit het
Als dit het is, is dit het
En we zullen het wel zien
Oh, oh, oh, even rustig ademhalen
Oh, oh, oh, lijkt of het regent als altijd
Maar het regent en het regent zonnestralen
If this is it, this is it
If this is it, this is it
And we’ll see just what happens
Oh, oh, oh, just breathe slowly
Oh, oh, oh, seems like it’s raining like always
But it’s raining, yes it’s raining sunbeams

 

10Lang Zal Ze Leven: for the ultimate Dutch birthday experience

Have you celebrated your birthday in the Netherlands? If you have, then you may have sat in that awkward way — what do I do with my hands? Do I smile the entire time?— as this song has been sung to you. If you haven’t had the pleasure of this experience yet, then allow us to acquaint you with the Dutch “Happy Birthday.” It’s really simple, even if you don’t have a word of Dutch, you should be able to sing this no problem.

Fun fact: Lang Zal Ze Leven is often sung in the feminine, regardless of the gender of the birthday person. 

Dutch English
Lang zal ze leven
Lang zal ze leven
Lang zal ze leven in de gloria
In de gloria
In de gloria
Long shall she live
Long shall she live
Long shall she live in the glory
In the glory
In the glory

 

11Quarantine: a song for the times

Speaking of birthdays, many of us probably spent ours in quarantine in 2020. I think I can probably sum up the experience of many a quarantine birthday quite simply — you woke up, texted some friends, spent the entire day as you had been spending the days prior to that, and if you were lucky, there was some cake involved (but no blowing out the candles!)

Some people have proven to be quite productive during this time, such as the members of Fokke Simons, who came out with this tune.

Dutch English
Fokke Simons in quarantaine
Ik zeg je eerlijk, dat is even wennen
Met de boys in quarantaine
Maakt niet uit, ja we schoppen stennis
Fokke Simons in quarantaine
Geen contact, maar je kan me bellen
Met de boys in quarantaine
Maakt niet uit, ja we schoppen scenes
Fokke Simons in quarantine
I tell you honestly, that takes some getting used to
With the boys in quarantine
Doesn’t matter, yes we kick up a fuss
Fokke Simons in quarantine
No contact, but you can call me
With the boys in quarantine
Doesn’t matter, yes we kick up a fuss

 

What other must-have songs should be on this list? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: Bruce Mars/ Unsplash

2 COMMENTS

  1. Aaaaawwww, you missed “Brabant” by Guus Meeuwis. IF there is such a thing as an “iconic Dutch song” then indeed that one belongs in such a category. Well OK, it’s somewhat more relevant for those residing in Noord Brabant perhaps.

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