The “Shadows” of Boksburg

It took until Friday night 24 October 2014 for me to see eVoid perform live. Who? I might hear you ask: Take a look at what Wikipedia has to say. And I was not to be disappointed, despite being 30 years older than when they first performed: my recollections are based on the pictures of album/CD covers in our house as I was too young to see them when they first performed in SA and by the time I got to London, they had pretty much hung up their guitars publicly

This wasn’t meant to be a trip down memory lane, but rather the realisation of a dream to see one of South Africa’s greatest contributions to the South African music world. It was also fitting that they were performing the last concert of this current tour in the same week that Hugh Masekela was giving the Steve Biko lecture at LSE on the role of music during Apartheid.  I didn’t get to hear Masekela speak but imagine that his talk was based on his own experiences and other Black South African musicians’ involvement in the struggle against the oppressive regime. What is probably less well known are the White musicians who did their bit – both English and Afrikaans – but because many never went into exile or if, they did, were associated with the oppressive regime, few made it to the headlines. Of those who did, Johnny Clegg – aka South Africa’s white Zulu – is probably the most well-known. This brings me back to eVoid.

eVoid, it could be said, were a victim of Apartheid: they too went into exile in London to avoid conscription which all young White South African males at the time had to do. For years they performed at the Springbok Bar in Covent Garden (now closed) – a haven for many other similar young South Africans. As with Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and others, eVoid blended African and Western sounds to make their own mark on the music world. And this became incredibly clear at their live performance. I’ve spent years listening to their albums, but watching them live brought to light the influence of having grown up in a mining town in South Africa. Reminiscent of mine dancers (aka gumboot dancers), the whistle and bells came out. Life on the minedumps featured through the song Jeremiah and Josephine.

What is significant about the mining town referred to, is it’s the same one I grew up in, a decade behind the band, and which features a fair bit in South African history if you look close enough… Boksburg. Those who read my blog regularly will no doubt recognise the name from my piece on Chris Hani and it’s featured in a number of my papers and talks as George Farrar who died in the German South West Africa Campaign of 1915 was the owner of the mine – ERPM (East Rand Proprietary Mines). Boksburg was also to feature notoriously in 1922 when the miners went on strike and was bombed on the instructions of Jan Smuts (Lucien with his hat on could easily play Smuts in a movie) and Jaap van Deventer, the two South African generals who led the forces in the East Africa campaign. Later on, in the 1980s, Boksburg made the press for closing off its lake to all but whites, a Leon Schuster film, and WildWaters which led to the nickname: “Boksburg by da sea” (it’s 600km inland!).

eVoid recognise the value of history in their song Dance the instinct in which they note “It’s time to read your history book”. Well, in the Shadows of their leaving Boksburg, a number of other prominent (in certain circles) musicians from the area came to the fore: Not the Midnight Mass from neighbouring Benoni (of which Farrar was also MP before his untimely death). James Phillips, who became part of the Voelvry movement (the Afrikaans Woodstock) and sang about the Boksburg Bommer (WBA Boxing champion Gerrie Coetzee). Prior to eVoid hitting the music scene, there was 4 Jacks and a Jill whose Master Jack (about Hendrick Verwoerd) reached no 8 (or rather 18) on the USA Billboard chart and classical musician Dawid Engela whose one-time wife taught the eVoid brothers at CBC. Other ‘famous’ people to come from the region include actress Charlise Theron and Charlene, Princess of Monaco.

And then, I found the Sousa Band taking music back to 1911 and again linking with the mines in Boksburg (Cinderella is a local suburb).

All that, from a night of wonderful music!

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2 thoughts on “The “Shadows” of Boksburg

  1. Pingback: Boxers | Anne Samson - Historian

  2. Pingback: A fact you can’t eVoid | Anne Samson - Historian

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