Music and dancing formed a very important part of the South End culture. No matter the injustices and inequalities being inflicted by Apartheid principles, the excitement, fun and freedom that musical expression allows could never be taken away. The most popular styles of music during the 1930’s to Dance Classaround the 1980’s were “lang arm”, jazz and string bands.

Lang arm was particularly popular during the 1930’s and was described as “ballroom dancing without the frills”. It is a lively, although carefully constructed, type of music with a similarly characteristic dance style. The dance tempo was strict. What set the musicians of this era apart was their uniform ability to read music. This was taught to most of them at the church-based schools they attended, and was unlike the more modern bands that were casual in their approach to composition.

The dances were held in local school- and church halls, which were decorated with lights. The men and women attending these dances dressed formally; men in a suit and women donning their finest evening wear. The people attending the dance were actually very much influenced by the formal attire of the band members, who always wore dinner suits in either black or white.

Lang arm music was influenced by American bands such as Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, King Oliver, Benny Goodman and Fletcher Henderson. Prominent dancers at the South End affairs included Mr “Payday” Davids, Mr Cato Bailey, Mr Bunny Williams, Mr and Mrs Edgar Brink, Mr Anthony Theunisson, Mr and Mrs Japie Prince, Mr Doc Moses, Mr “Tjoepie” Draai and Mr Tennyson Mackay.

Young Girls Dance GroupThe dance most often performed was the Quadrille. There were two versions, and each was only played once in the evening, but lasted for 20 minutes. Other popular choices were the Waltz, Quickstep and Foxtrot. Later on, the South American culture crept in and the Rumba, Cha-Cha and Bosa Nova were also widely enjoyed.

The sound of the band was dominated by the saxophone, and some bands had two or even three saxophonists. The sound of the saxophone transcended the chatter and dancing noise of the dancers and could be heard crisp and clear on the warm African nights. The music remained acoustic until the 1950’s when some bands could afford amplifiers for their guitars. This improved the quality of the sound.

String bands became exponentially more popular after the visit to PE of Cliff Richard and The Shadows. The Beatles were another key source of inspiration. Eventually, the string band became more popular than those playing lang arm music, probably due to their ‘keeping with the times’ of the music that was being played on the radio and television.

The South End community was defined by close bonds and strong values. Instead of negotiating these, the music and dancing of the time complemented these core values and reinforced the bonds among the residents.