Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Boer ballad a Pop-chart hit in South Africa

The cover of Bok Van Blerk's CD "DE LA REY" [photo by permission MOZI Records]

A fascinating story appeared in February 26 edition of The GUARDIAN newspaper. “AFRIKAANS SINGER STIRS UP CONTROVERSY WITH WAR SONG” alerted me to a huge pop-music phenomenon which is sweeping South Africa but which has been ignored by the Canadian media. At every concert he performs, a musical runagate named Blok Van Blerk revs up his audience with a simple exchange. "I'm proud of my language and culture. Are you?" Their response is a roar of agreement. The culture he speaks of is the Boer, and the language Afrikaans. It's not an item you'll see in a Canadian paper, so read the Guardian story here.

The music video is available on YouTube. The version I watched has been downloaded over 68,000 times, and there is also a studio version with a montage of vintage images. In fact YouTube is the best source for Bok Van Blerk. It has interviews with the performer and tribute pieces by his fans. [Maybe the fact that YouTube was co-founded by a South African is a partial explanation of why the Afrikaans speaking Diaspora has this one international venue allowed to them, where they are permitted to share their music and films.]

Boer General Jacobus Hercules “Oom Koos” De La Rey

The ballad, as a five minute long video, was wonderfully produced and is available for download. I promise you will enjoy it. Watch it.

"Bok Van Blerk" is the stage name of singer Louis Pepler. His personal web page is here: http://www.bokvanblerk.co.za/shop.html

The music video is actually a mini-war movie about Boer resistance to British "scorched earth" tactics. The set of books (above) document five of the Concentration Camps to which the Boer wives and children were segregated. The men of the Boer Commandos were separated from their families and shipped off in transports to detention camps in India, Ceylon, Bermuda and St. Helena island.
As you watch the music video, which of course is in Afrikaans, you might enjoy having the English lyrics at hand:

On a mountain in the night
We lie in the dark and wait
In the mud and the blood
As rain and streepsak
[bedding sack] clings to me
And my house and my farm were burnt to the ground
so they could capture us
But those flames and those fires now
burns deep deep within me.

De La Rey, De La Rey, can you come and lead the Boers?
De La Rey, De La Rey General,
General we will fall around you as one.
General De La Rey.

The Khakis
[The British] that laugh
A handful of us against a massive force.
With our backs to the cliffs of the mountains
They think its over for us.
But the heart of a farmer is deeper and wider, they will come to see
On a horse he comes, the lion of West Transvaal.

De La Rey, De La Rey can you come and lead the Boers?
De La Rey, De La Rey. General,
General we will fall around you as one.
General De La Rey.

Because my wife and my child are in a camp dying,
And the Khakis are walking over a nation that will rise again.

De La Rey, De La Rey can you come and lead the Boers?
De La Rey, De La Rey General,
General we will fall around you as one.
General De La Rey.

The lyrics of the song resonate with modern South Africans for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that De La Rey was the Boer nation's greatest battlefield tactician of the Victorian era. It is also written that he, more than all the veteran leaders of the Boer War, had the greatest "moral authority" during the postwar transition to a new South African state. De La Ray as a matter of interest, was killed in 1914 by a police rifleman at a checkpoint set up near Fordsburg, a village on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Since then many South Africans have come to revere him as a Lost Leader, in the fashion of Ireland's "Big Fellah", General Michael Collins.
The 17th Century English poet, John Dryden, was a lover of the drum beat of martial music and a staunch believer in Christian salvation - here on earth and after death. The new De La Rey ballad is fresh reminder of some verse he wrote long ago:
The dead shall live, the living die, and Musick shall untune the sky.

BLOG UPDATE: Another version of this article, with more photos, is archived on our sister site- http://:www.therunagatesclub.com/blog/

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