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Love of Music - Down Memory Lane.

Updated on September 3, 2019
Johan Smulders profile image

Johan is a marriage counsellor and evangelist with a BA from the University of South Africa and an MA from Abilene Christian University.

Some 7 Singles from Decca, Mercury and Gallo Labels
Some 7 Singles from Decca, Mercury and Gallo Labels
Some of the Long Playing records including Bing Crosby and, Tennessee Ernie Ford.
Some of the Long Playing records including Bing Crosby and, Tennessee Ernie Ford.
Famous Classic
Famous Classic
A group of young people singing and dancing at the Annual National Art Festival
A group of young people singing and dancing at the Annual National Art Festival | Source

If music is the food of life, play on

It is difficult to imagine a world without music. The "dawn chorus" every morning as the awakening birds welcome the new day shows that even nature has its music.

And so music has always been part of most people's lives. From the drumbeat of a tribal village to the opera houses in great cities, from the mother softly singing a lullaby for her baby to the workers on the railway accompanying the routine movements of their pickaxes with a haunting rhythmic melody. To a worshipping church group singing a beautiful prayer, a group of street musicians playing in the underground, a pop concert in a huge stadium, an individual entertaining friends at the piano in the lounge or a crowd in a sport stadium singing a national anthem or their favourite song of encouragement. Or to an individual listening to their own personal favourite tune. "If music be the food of life, play on!"

Childhood music.

While our family was not really musical, my Dad in his younger days, played the trumpet in a band and my Grandfather played the violin. At the same time, in those early days on the farm outside Pretoria, we always had a radio and so listening to LM Radio or Springbok Radio was a part of our lives. One of my memories of my primary school days is the music teacher beating out a tune on the piano and us singing well known Afrikaans songs like "Sarie Marias", "Ou Tante Koba" and "Bobbejaan klim die berg"; tunes and words that were forever imprinted in my mind and heart. As part of our cultural education in the Afrikaans environment in which we grew up, we learnt the dance steps of folk dancing to songs like "Afrikaners is plesierig". I have to confess that I have recently bought a set of CD's that have all those old traditional songs as well as some more recent ones.

Growing up-the teenage years.

As the hormones of teenage years arrived with an vengeance, Elvis Presley, Pat Boon, Chubby Checker and Jim Reeves entertained. The radio stations were basically news and music with an occasional drama like "Superman" or "Squad Cars". The LM top ten on Sunday nights introduced us to the songs that made the hit parade. Friday evenings the local young people gathered at a tea garden where Square Dancing was presented by the owner and so we did the "dosy do" and other steps and dances. Some lessons at the dance studio in town, Arthur Murray's, introduced us to the beautiful waltzes and fox trots and even the more exotic cha-cha and tango music. End of term and end of year dances at High School were grand affairs if the local "Duck-tail" gangs did not arrive on their motor cycles carrying chains and knuckle dusters to break up the fun and the noses of the teachers in charge. Exciting times indeed. The music at these dances was always presented by a live band as the idea of disk jockeys only came a lott later. I can still remember clearly (in my failing or perhaps rather vivid imagination) floating across the dance floor in the Clapham High School Hall to the strains of "Blue Danube".

While we did not really get to listen to Country and Western music, we later enjoyed this guitar and fiddle music with its heartbreaking lyrics. My first movie was a musical straight from Hollywood called the Wizard of Oz. When Jim Reaves visited South Africa I attended my first live show at the Pretoria Show Grounds Pavilion in 1960. Many year later I saw another live show at the Ohio State Fair featuring Alabama.


With my first money I earned when I started working, I bought from the local OK Bazaars, a state of the art radio and record player that immediately took place of honour in our sitting room. I also started collecting records - old singles and the occasional long playing record. My interest in music was varied and wide with a leaning towards instrumentals like Glen Millar, but also the popular stars of the 60's like Elvis and Louis Armstrong. Can't remember many of the woman singers but some of the songs by Belinda Lee come to mind.

As an instructor at the South African Police College, I always volunteered to take students to plays and music presentations at the Pretoria University Auditorium. The music varied from Classical Music to Operetta and Ballet. On the night that John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Audrey and I were attending Swan Lake with a group of student at the University. The show was interrupted somewhat when the USA Embassy Staff were requested to meet outside. When Audrey and I began dating seriously a special treat was dinner and dancing at one of the local hotels. Music was again presented by a local band.

Pop music faded away in my experience as I seemed to be more interested in sport and my work kept me very busy. So the Beetles, Rolling Stones, John Denver and many others were somewhere in the background, but never really part of my life. Later on when we spent some time in the USA we attended a show at "The Grand Ole Opry" and a late night jazz presentation in New Orleans. After attending the show in Nashville we were interviewed on radio by the well known after show host.

When the children arrived.

At this stage our children were becoming interested in music and so we drove many miles to get them to Bon Jovi and Bangles concerts. Audrey and I attended a concert by Billy Ray Cyrus at Silver Dollar City. It was Hobson's choice as he was the only performer on show when we passed through. It was quite entertaining and we enjoyed the experience of hearing him sing "Achy breaky heart" among other hits of his. By this time we had got to enjoy Country and Western music as we could always get it on our radio as we travelled. On one holiday on the South Coast of Kwa-zulu, Natal my eldest daughter Gill and I attended a concert at the Margate Hotel featuring the well known South African group Mango Groove. What an experience!

The great musicals films have always had a place in my heart and so "The Sound of Music", "My Fair Lady", "Pocahontas", and "Lion King" are some of my favourites. Now I enjoy watching them with my Grandkids, that is if I can persuade one of them to watch one. Unfortunately computer games, National Geographic on TV and texting seems to have taken over our senses and interest.

When we became Christians we were introduced to acapella singing and the great hymns of the church took on new meaning to me as they became a part of my spiritual growth. As a young man in Pretoria I attended the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church and loved to arrive early for worship to listen to the organist playing Christian Music on the largest organ in the Southern Hemisphere. The words of the songs did not have the meaning to me then that they have for me now. When the congregation in Buffalo Flats sing some of their favourite songs like "Leaning on Jesus" or "Amazing Grace" I am moved deep in my soul. Jazz is really relaxing and with my niece Linda marrying a well known Jazz musician, Paul Hamner, I have enjoyed listening to his and other modern Jazz performers.

In Old Age.

As we slow down and seem to have more time in our lives I am listening to more music and again it is a varied choice. Some goes back to my early childhood like Afrikaans treffers (hits) like "Boegoe Berg se dam", "We are marching to Pretoria" and Even "Ou Tante Koba". Children songs like "The laughing Policeman" and Beetlebomb, (to tune of William Tell Overture) keep me amused. The Old Hymns by Elvis, Ray Walker Singers and the ACU Choir are great to listen to. Some of the modern Gospel Groups are not really for me. On our DStv music program I often spend time on Golden Oldies, Classical Country or Beautiful Instrumentals. At times I play my favourite Afrikaans songs and even enjoy some of the modern ones that stir a chord in my heart. Modern Rap and Hip-hop don't do anything for me but then that is okay. When I was a teenager my Dad hated the pop music that we listened to so perhaps I have moved into that position. But that is how it is. Music has always been part of my life and I have been grateful for that.

Recently in Swaziland I took a couple of visitors to the African Christian College in Manzini, to a mountain top lookout called Suicide Rock in the Mlilwane Game Reserve. As we sat looking over the beautiful mountain and valley landscape the sound of singing and drums came up from the valley below. Looking through my binoculars I could see in the distance a group of Swazi people entertaining visitors at the Cultural Village on the valley floor. What an African experience to savour and enjoy.

At the Annual Grahamstown festival earlier in the year I attended some great music presentations by up and coming South African musicians. During the night as I lay in my tent on the grounds of a local school that provides camping facilities for visitors, I heard the sound of the street musicians, again coming from far below; a great lullaby to go to sleep by! "If music be the food of life, play on"!


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