From volks­dans to dirty danc­ing

Left and right prof­its from De la Rey

Finweek English Edition - - Openers - BY FRIK ELS frike@fin­

WHAT DO MALE FER­TIL­ITY and Boer gen­er­als have in com­mon? Ar­ti­cles on both sub­jects ap­pear on the top ten list of most emailed sto­ries on The New York Times web­site. (It’s the favourite pet name among Afrikan­ers for pe­nis, is not the an­swer I was look­ing for.)

The 27 Fe­bru­ary ar­ti­cle in the NYT by Michael Wines head­lined “Song Wak­ens In­jured Pride of Afrikan­ers” came in at num­ber ten while “It Seems the Fer­til­ity Clock Ticks for Men, Too” was in sec­ond place.

The Wines ar­ti­cle is about Bok van Blerk’s song about An­glo-Boer War bit­terein­der Gen­eral Koos de la Rey. Maybe you’ve heard it. That the ar­ti­cle made the list at all is quite a feat – the NYT is the most pop­u­lar on­line news­pa­per in the US with 44,2m unique vis­i­tors a month. Ac­cord­ing to the ar­ti­cle, Afrikan­ers num­ber only 2,5m, so the en­tire pop­u­la­tion must’ve been fu­ri­ously e-mail­ing. A year af­ter the CD was re­leased the de­bate about De la Rey is still at fever pitch. We’re even be­ing told that there’s now a Bok van Blerk gen­er­a­tion (sorry Karen, the Zoid gen­er­a­tion only lasted four years).

I’m not sure where Wines gets his fig­ure of 2,5m Afrikan­ers from, but he may be in­clud­ing the Brit­ney Prinsloos and Chad de Wets of this coun­try. I don’t think any Chads or Brit­neys suf­fered in the Bri­tish con­cen­tra­tion camps, which Wines says “is a cen­tral theme in Afrikaner lore”.

But he’s not only wrong on Hans Khakis. Apart from mak­ing the old South African flag orange and green, Wines puts Mpumalanga on the In­dian Ocean coast. Wines’ worst mis­take was plac­ing Lof­tus Vers­feld in Jo­han­nes­burg. If you don’t even know where Afrikaner Cen­tral is, you’ve got no cred­i­bil­ity on the is­sue. Or maybe Lof­tus is Afrikaner Ground Zero – the Blue Bulls’ ban­ning of the song re­calls the spirit of Paarde­berg, not Magers­fontein.

Arts and cul­ture min­is­ter Pallo Jor­dan warned that the song risks be­ing hi­jacked by rightwingers. He’s got it wrong, it’s al­ready been hi­jacked by Afrikaner left­wingers. Al­ways anx­ious to bol­ster his lib­eral cre­den­tials, Max du Preez told the UK Guardian that “When they sing about how nasty the Bri­tish were to the Boer women in the con­cen­tra­tion camps, they’re not think­ing about the Bri­tish, they’re think­ing about blacks. Their en­emy is now black.” Eish Max, that’s a bit of an over­state­ment.

Writer, mu­si­cian and self-con­fessed (re­formed) pot­head Koos Kom­buis says there’s “a kloof the size of the Vis­riv­ier canyon” be­tween him and Van Blerk. But later in the ar­ti­cle on Afrikaans on­line fo­rum Lit­net he draws par­al­lels be­tween De la Rey’s death and that of Brett Keb­ble and then goes on to claim that De la Rey was the Afrikan­ers’ Steve Biko. (I also had to read it twice.)

Kom­buis also tells of Afrikan­ers "from Malmes­bury to Mpumalanga" who have "Bok van Blerk par­ties" where they put the CD on re­peat and braai, drink hard and sing along for hours. I've had some ex­pe­ri­ence of this my­self. Late at night the young Afrikaans cou­ple in the gar­den cot­tage I'm let­ting would play De la Rey over and over and then switch to She's Like the Wind (In My Tree) by Pa­trick Swayze from the Dirty Danc­ing sound­track.

What do Swayze and Van Blerk have in com­mon? Not much ex­cept both of them sing sen­ti­men­tal, for­mu­laic and aw­ful pop songs.

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