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Boer Music Origins

The origins of Boer music are like a vine with entangled roots and the development has to be distilled from history and myth. The earliest writings contained no reference to the term "Boer music" or "Boere orkes" (Boer music band). Therefore, it is necessary to search for clues that point to the music in question as light, cheerful, informal and indigenous dance music and not formal or classical music. To do this, we have to follow references to music, dance and song habits during the course of history to determine the inception of Boer music and how it developed.

Boer music is largely European in origin and it would be a misconception to think that it was brought to South Africa by the early settlers. Most of it was imported fairly recently, but acquired a flavour of its own and remained in vogue here long after it went out of fashion abroad.

Whenever a certain dance became popular in Europe or anywhere else, it was not long before it was introduced in the Cape by military bands of the British Empire. When they were off duty, they hired themselves out for parties, weddings and other social events. There were dance masters who taught the new dances to the locals and from there it spread into the hinterland. It acquired a local flavour and character of its own in the process.

A large volume of Boer music was consequently composed by local musicians, as is still the case today. There where also music teachers who noted down local tunes. The first person to do this was Charles Etienne Boniface (1787-1853) who arrived in the Cape on February 1807.

- Exerpt from the book "Die ontstaan en ontwikkeling van Boeremusiek" by W.A.L. Schultz

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