Sidetracked with Retief Burger: an every-day worshiper

[notice]A monthly interview column in which Mike Beets tunes into the heartbeat of Christian musicians and the SA Christian music industry.[/notice]

retiefAfter taking a sabbatical to focus on his church ministry Retief Burger is back with his first solo worship offering. Retief enjoyed enormous success with four Luidkeels albums; three certified gold and one certified platinum, which is no mean feat in itself when you take into consideration that major international worship bands like Jesus Culture hardly ever reach these figures in South Africa.

Retief identifies himself as a worshiper but not a worship leader; he believes his ministry is to lead people to the heart of the Father. His music is modern, honest and filled with sincerity and therefore transcends many stereotypical worship music boundaries to find root in many worshippers’ hearts.

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Retief has also authored two books in Afrikaans — Oorgegee and Deeper, has become senior pastor at his own congregation and has married the love of his life, Isabel. I had the privilege to catch up with Retief after the launch of his album “Nou en vir Altyd” for a little Q and A regarding the album, life, music and Jesus. 

Sdtrckd: Let’s backtrack for a second to where it all started for you in worship; did you ever believe that God would use you as mightily as He is doing?

RB: I was born again in Grade 9 and my sister taught me to play the guitar. I started to lead worship at our school Christian gatherings and then joined a full time arts-ministry after school. I never imagined God would use me in this way and always tried to be faithful with what He gave me and stay grounded no matter what happened.

Sdtrckd: Was taking a break from music as easy step for you to take and what have you been up to since then?

RB: Yes it was. I knew I needed to step back and get perspective on life on the stage. You know, it’s a very dangerous place when the lights are on and people are looking at you to lead them. My sabbatical from the music industry and touring was pivotal as God used that year to restore me and bring a massive breakthrough in my personal life. I also had a very successful voice operation to remove a nodule. I still pastored our local church in that time and am still doing so.

Sdtrckd: What made you decide the time is right to record again?

RB: I felt God released me for it, and I started writing new songs that came from deep within. I shared it with my elders and they supported me in the decision.

Sdtrckd: Was it difficult to start writing songs again and how did you go about writing for the album? 

RB: At first it was a bit difficult because I wasn’t in the mind-space for it, but then I took some time off and started writing intensely for 3 months to gather all the material for “Nou en vir altyd”. It was a wonderful experience.

Sdtrckd: This is not the first time you worked with Helmut Meijer. How was your experience with him in studio this time around?

RB: We worked together on an album called “In verwondering” where we teamed up with Louis Brittz and Neil Büchner in Sutherland, Karoo to write songs from inspiration and revelation. It turned out to be an awesome experience. There I saw the wonders that Helmut produced and knew that I wanted to do a studio album with him somewhere in the future. He is a very gifted artist and great friend. We had such a great time together on this journey with “Nou en vir altyd”.

Sdtrckd: What excites you most about the new album?

RB: The fact that it is a different sound than my previous ones and has a more mature feel to it. I’ve grown in my walk with God and am standing on the other side of massive personal breakthroughs that transpires in the music. I trust it will minister deeply to people and help them worship God.

Sdtrckd: What is your favourite song off the album?

RB: Sho, it’s hard to pick one, but I would guess “Daar staan ‘n kruis”. It’s a modern hymn that I trust will be sung in churches across the country. It’s a theological progressing song that celebrates the redemptive work of Christ!

Sdtrckd: What, in our personal opinion, is wrong and right with Worship music in South Africa?

RB: As long as our motives are pure God can keep using us to produce more local music to serve the church with. Once artists in our line of work starts chasing money or fame, we are in deep trouble. I have to check myself constantly to stay in line with God’s purposes with my music. We are not here to entertain, but to facilitate worship. We also need to write our own songs that come from within, with a new prophetic sound that represents our country’s diversity. We shouldn’t copy the Bethels or Hillsongs but translate what God is doing in our own country. Can we be inspired by them? Absolutely! But we still need to be original and allow God’s Spirit to work through us in a unique way. We also need to make room for young upcoming worshipers and writers to come to the front!

Sdtrckd: Being in full-time ministry, do you ever get the opportunity to lead worship at church?

RB: Not that much. I believe in raising new leaders and empowering them to grow. I do lead from time to time at some of our Citywide meetings at Every Nation.

Sdtrckd: Now that the album has been released, what is next for you?

RB: We’ve just recorded the worship live at the Mighty Men Karoo in Middelburg and are busy doing post-production work on it, ready to release at the beginning of July 2015. But most of my time and focus is into local church and discipling men.

Sdtrckd: Any advice for people that feel they have been called to be worship leaders?

RB: Serve. Serve. Serve. Be rooted in a local church where you submit under leadership and learn to worship and not perform or entertain. Father is seeking worshipers, not musicians. Work on your skill, but more on character development. Your character must carry your gift for many years to come. Worship in private, before going public. God will open or close doors – don’t do it yourself!

Sdtrckd: What is one of your most memorable moments on stage and what is a really funny moment you can share with us?

RB: Leading worship at Loftus for Jesus in 2008 with Louis Brittz in front of 73 000 people. When we sang the “Onse Vader” I had no words to describe how holy that moment was…I’ve had many embarrassing moments on stage – once during a hot summer’s evening I thought I heard rain starting to fall outside the church building as a packed house was worshiping inside. ‘Led’ by this, I ministered into the idea that God rains on us his soft grace etc. One person ran out in deep worship and anticipation and spread out his arms to stand under the rain… only to find a starry host staring down at him from above. I later heard this and only then realised what I thought was rain was actually the fans being switched on inside!!!

The album is already available countrywide. What makes this album different is the fact that this is Retief’s first fully studio recorded project, where the others were live sessions. Staying true to the nature of worship, a live recorded version of the album will follow in July. Retief’s heart, passion and sincerity filters through onto the pages of his music and blossoms into something beautiful that allows the worshiper to connect with the Father’s heart. Retief’s music is true to South Africa and facilitates breakthrough in spirit; every worshipper should give his music a listen.


  1. Thanks Retief for doing such a great work for God and Gods people may God bless you always.

  2. It is wonderful to see how GOD uses one like you to change a broken nation. Thanks Retief and may GOD bless you.

  3. So refreshing to hear your thoughts on Worship in and for South Africa – by drawing aside into intimacy with the Creator of everything, as you did and still do, we can only expect great things for our nation. Thank you