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Anglo Concertinas In South Africa

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I came across “Anglo Concertinas in South Africa” on this website and would like to pass on a few of my own comments.


The Anglo in South Africa is indeed very popular. It is as part of our culture as Rugby. I have undertaken to compile a data base of players and their instruments and came to the conclusion that there might be well over a thousand players and twice as many Concertinas in South Africa. Most of the instruments were manufactured by Wheatstone with serial numbers 5XXXX. Two of my very dear old friends, Dirk Fourie and Wynand Jacobs are the proud owners of Wheatsone 32123 and 32128, both 40 key Anglo’s.


I don’t agree with A.J. van Tonder’s view of how the Concertina came to South Africa. The first Concertinas in South Africa were cheap 20 button German Concertinas brought in by missionaries working amongst the native people in our land. English historians, writing about the Boer War (1899 – 1902) describe Zulu workers working in the gold mines of Johannesburg playing the German Concertina. They must have been familiar with it before the War.


About a week ago, I came across a photograph that was taken in a concentration camp of Boer prisoners of War, holding Anglo Concertinas in their hands. It could not have been Wheatstones because Wheatstone did not make them before 1900. I do see very old Lachenals from time to time.


I believe that fortune seekers brought Anglo’s with them during the diamond- and gold rush period in the 1880’s. Mass production by Lachenal made concertinas affordable and in the 1880’s, the market in the U.K. was flooded with Anglo’s. It is thus likely that fortune seekers introduced the instrument to our people, the Boers, at the time. The Boers adopted the Anglo in their music and developed a unique style that is still evident today. I know of only a small number of people in South Africa who played the English and Duet systems.


About the nicknames “Donkielong” and “Krismiswurm”: It must be difficult for someone not living in a multi cultural society to understand the finer nuances of expression characterizing the soul of a particular cultural group. We live in such an environment and we understand the humor. You surely don’t know what you’re missing.


I agree with most of what Sean Minnie has to say however it is well known that Dr. David Livingstone played the English Concertina. He entered South Africa through Cape Town for the second time in 1856 that makes him the most likely first Concertina player in South Africa.


There are two active structures in South Africa promoting Boer music, the Traditional Boer Music Club and the Boer Music Guild with a membership of well over a thousand individuals.


I am a passionate disciple of anything to do with the concertina. I appreciate the efforts of those who share my passion all over the world for making all the information available on the internet that empowered me to also be able to comment on Consertina issues. I also want to express my sincere admiration for your wonderful website.


The past weekend, 9th October 2004, I attended a Boer Music Festival that was presented by the Guild in Pretoria. During the event, one of our master builders, Koot Brits, put his latest, Koot Brits no.35, a 40 key eight sided Anglo with metal ends into my hands for evaluation. Every part of the Concertina is hand crafted. Even the reeds were made by Koot. He made the standard Wheatstone reeds a fraction of a millimeter wider and somewhat longer from a high quality spring steel and mounted them into aluminium frames. It was dovetailed in typical Wheatstone fashion into a maple wood reedpan. All woodwork, apart from the reedpans, was made out of beech wood. The action, his own rivited hinge design, is superb. The action pillars are made out of brass and the levers out of stainless steel. The end plates are chrome plated brass and the buttons are chrome plated aluminium. All the outside woodwork is colored black as well as the bellows. The fretwork looks very similar to the well known Wheatstone's. He tuned the reeds using an electronic tuner. The sound it produced was outstanding. The weight, at 1.49kg. compares well to other well known products. He used flat headed stainless steel end bolts. That is the only part of this Concertina that I feel he could have done better. Rounded screw heads will definitely look better. We’ll see what he will do about that with the next one. At the time Koot was not planning to sell this beauty, but I will try my best to convince him to enter into some sort of production setup. Given the favorable exchange rate between South Africa and other currencies, every Anglo lover should have the opportunity to have access to such a masterpiece at an affordable price.


Concertina music in South Africa is well and alive


Flip Delport


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Hello Flip


Im sure you are going to get a lot of interested people asking for more information on consertina music in S.A. so be prepared to give us all you have got.

I would like to know what sort of music is usually played, is the traditional music of S.A. played on the consertina ? do they play Irish music ?



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Hi Pete

Be my guest. I’ll do my best to pass on as much info as I can. We do not play Irish music here. The music that we play is unique. I can arrange through my son, who is living near London to let you have some CD’s from South Africa. Boer music is dance music and the instruments of the band (the modern style) is normally put together using a 40 key Anglo (Wheatstone or derivative) as lead instrument, an electronic keyboard or piano accordion, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, bass guitar and drum set.

Flip Delport (Flip-Afrikaans for Philip)

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At the Bradfield Folk weekend recently I had the pleasure of playing a number of concertinas owned by Mark Davies and one was made in South Africa.It was a modern made concertina and I was impressed as was Mark to the quality of the instrument.I hope Mark responds to this debate as he knows the maker and purchased it in South Africa recently.

I would also be interested in the South African style of playing as would many, if not all on this site and I hope you will provide some details in a future posting.

Welcome and look foreward to hearing from you in the future.


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I got to listen to Sean Minnie play at the recent Northeast Squeeze-In and enjoyed the music. It is indeed different.


Let me issue an open invitation to Flip for any manuscripts, photos, CD info, sound files, or maker information that I could add to the permanent parts of the site. Just send it along. Cheers,



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For those interested in Boermusiek - I would recommend a website called www.kalahari.net

Make sure that you search for “Boeremusiek”.


South African Concertinas: All of them are hand crafted by individuals who share the love for the instrument. All are 40 key Anglo’s and of exceptional quality. Two well known makers, Pierre Retief (Olga) and Hannes Viljoen(Hanvil) passed away but we do have other makers like Willie van Wyk (Wivra), Wimpie Croucamp, Allan Green and Koot Brits making concertinas better than anything that I have seen before. I am familiar with most English made concertinas.


Sorry, in my previous writing I forgot to mention the use of the Banjo in our music.


If my use of the English language seems strange, please keep in mind that my home language is Afrikaans.

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hello Flip!


I can't believed I lived in Swaziland for more than a year in the 1990's and never heard of concertina music in SA! I squeezed all by myself in Mbabane. I did travel to the Whitswaterrand with my work and for some diversion.


Where in SA are you from?


I can't tell you how much we appreciate your joining our group and introducing us in such a knowledable manner to the concertina tradition of South Africa. I am sure that our fellow Concertina.net members feel the same.


Thank you for being a part of our world!

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Just thought I'd mention a very good field recording of the other concertina tradition in SA, the 'squashbox' tradition of black africans. I'm not sure how much of this style is still performed but a recording is available from Silex (French record label?? 1993). The tracks were recorded from 1930 to 1965. Very interesting stuff. Performed on cheap German style concertinas that Flip mentions as being the earliest examples of concertina in SA.

Edited by Sandy Winters
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Hi Daniel


In South Africa the Concertina is used mainly in Boer Music (“Boeremusiek”). That is a music played by the Afrikaans speaking community. It is unlikely that you will find that in Swaziland or in ordinary broadcasts from radio stations. You mentioned traveling to the Witwatersrand. That is where most of our players reside. I live on a farm near Rustenburg, the platinum capital of the world not very far from Sun City, approximately 100 km. west from Pretoria.


The first recordings of Boer Music were made in England by Decca and later, during the 1930’s Boer Music kept a few record companies in Johannesburg in business. Due to the commercialization of popular music with a more international character that followed in the 1950’s and 1960’s we had to resort to other methods of keeping what is dear to us alive – and it’s working. Our young people are beginning to enquire about their roots. They seem to like what their forefathers did. Not the majority – but still.

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Yes Sandy, in Kwa Zulu Natal you will still find Zulu people playing the consertina. A well known recording artist, Johny Clegg also known as the White Zulu sometimes make use of a German 20 button Concertina in his performances and recordings with his band called "Juluka". The style of their music is totally different from what we do.

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How can I get more Information on "Batches that was meant for the South African market"?

Welcome Flip!


This is a question about Crabb instruments, so you could contact Geoff Crabb, who is a member here, and has lots of records of his family firm.


Do you know that a lot of original information on the Wheatstone 50,000 anglos is now available on the web? See the Dickinson Archive at the Horniman Museum site and also Bob Gaskins article here.


Yes Sandy, in Kwa Zulu Natal you will still find Zulu people playing the consertina. A well known recording artist, Johny Clegg also known as the White Zulu sometimes make use of a German 20 button Concertina in his performances and recordings with his band called "Juluka". The style of their music is totally different from what we do.

There is a recent article and short discography on this 'squashbox' music by Harry Scurfield in one of the 'Free Reed Journals' that are published by CSFRI.

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I have met a couple of folks from SA.


I understand there is a traditional song from South Africa:


"Dar come de Alabama"


I believe referring to Capt Semmes Confederate raider CSS Alabama which has a history of the concertina according to John Townley in his article "Music of the Confederate Navy"



Johnny Clegg was in Birmingham this year.

Edited by Bob Tedrow
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  • 1 year later...

I've got a South African concertina.


I bought it from Marcus Music about 20 years ago.

At the time, he had 2 of them in stock. They'd been imported by Hohner. One of them had a great big HOHNER badge on it and the other didn't....I bought the naked one.


It has 40 buttons and six sides.

I'd love to learn a bit more about it as I'm considering selling it.........not because it isn't any good.....it is actually a great instrument. It's just that I'm lusting after a G/D concertina because I've just started playing for a Morris side.

Here's a picIMG_1017.JPG


It really is amazingly well built...........I honestly haven't played it as often as it deserved to be played. After 20 years, it is still almost as good as new. I can's see any marks or signs of wear on the bellows. The metal just under the buttons that are most frequently used are just starting to look a little lacklustre, also I think one of the reeds is just starting to go out of tune.


I'd really value some opinion here....who actually made my concertina?

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FOLKS: see also the last issue of PICA. . . it's in the hands of all ICA members. . . .we'll get it online as quickly as possible. . . . .article by Harry Scurfield...........Allan

See also the Anglo International 3 CD collection, which has an article from Harry Scurfield, some Squash box playing, and also from young white South African player, Regardt de Bruin.

The music on here is a good intro to whet your appetite, and the 48 page booklet can be downloaded from the site for those that want to find out more.


Merry Christmas all.


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Don't forget Zak van der Vyver, who was a performing and recording star in South Africa before he moved to England many years ago. He is also on Anglo International and I for one find his virtuosity on the anglo absolutely breathtaking.


There is some squashbox music on the Planet Squeezebox compilation set that came out a few years ago.



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