Between travels, we were able to take in a concert by eVoid once again at Putney’s Half Moon, and as usual, I couldn’t resist looking for historical links. I should also admit that the inspiration for the blog title came from the band’s explanation of a couple of songs originating from a play on words – I am a fadget (fad of gadgets) and Dun Kalusin Ta Va from ‘don’t go losing your bra’ (or at least that’s what I heard).
The SA Rockdigest provides a history (below the discography) of eVoid, so I don’t need to get myself into trouble here through showing my ignorance. The band started in Brakpan, a town next to Boksburg where they went to school. Both towns clearly had their subtle impact on the music. Boksburg, in particular, was a mining town – the home of ERPM (East Rand Proprietary Mines) which was run by Sir George Farrar until his death in South West Africa during WW1. Brakpan, too had mining links, although not as prominent as Boksburg. But it’s not WW1 which featured during the concert. It was the mining influence – in particular, black South Africa.
For those who grew up on the East Rand or in other mining areas of South Africa, the whistle (listen carefully) and the high kicking ‘Mine dance‘ for which Johnny Clegg is well known. By the way, congratulations to Johnny for his OBE recognising his contribution to music in the Queen’s 2015 Birthday Honours List. An interview with eVoid sheds further light on their influences.
Both eVoid and Johnny Clegg are examples of how Apartheid could not stop the cross cultural mix happening despite all that government did. And it wasn’t just in the music arena where these cross-overs happened.
In Boksburg – put in the limelight by Leon Schuster (the Cason Mine dump you briefly see,* previously the record holder for the highest mine dump in the world, is no longer) – actually had an Indian family, Byatt, who had prime property in the middle of the CBD (Central Business District) throughout the Apartheid era. Rules were meant to be broken and Apartheid was no different. The story goes that the Byatt family had helped Paul Kruger some time before the 2nd Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 and as a result Oom Paul gave the family permission to remain in the Transvaal where they wanted in perpetuity. With Oom Paul’s blessing, no-one interferred or questioned this anomalie of social life. Byatt’s is still in Boksburg, having diversified their business interests and if you’re looking for something obscure, still the place to start your search despite ‘Old Man Byatt’ no longer being with us.
Music, like novels, is not a traditional source for historians. However, certain artists provide historians with an insight into specific times, places and ideas. And those with a long career provide additional insight into how society changes over time through an analysis of the music, lyrics and dress of the artists but also through observation of their different audiences. And in this regard, the South African music scene in its entirety is a fantastic historical and sociological source.
* it’s incredible – I couldn’t find a picture of the mine dump online! It was such a prominent landmark yet it doesn’t feature in any pictures of the lake, civic centre or library…