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2016 May Battlefields Tour Feedback




John Edmond Tour May 2016

By public demand, great enjoyment and success, please see the Battlefields itinerary. 

A love song with anodyne lyrics makes pleasant listening. But an accurate historical account, sung in tuneful rhyme to a rollicking, foot-tapping beat, is rare and marvellous. And this is what the prolific composer and renowned singer John Edmond does so well.

John has been keeping fans enthralled for more than fifty years. His first hit came in 1969 with ‘Fairytales,’  and this was followed with others like ‘Round and Round,’  ‘Boom Sha lala lo,’ ‘Pasadena,’  ‘Toy Train,’  ‘Goodbye is the Saddest Song,’ and, perhaps best known of all, his ‘Troopiesongs’ volumes one and two. His ‘Songs about the African Bush’ (‘Tales of the Game Rangers’) brought invitations to entertain twice at the tri-annual International Game Rangers Convention.

John and his wife Teresa have fairly recently composed and compiled many songs that document iconic historical events in South Africa.  It was this development that led them to team up with tour guide Nicki von der Heyde, for a tour through the KwaZulu-Natal battlefields.

John was accompanied on the tour by 27 of his enthusiastic fans. By day, the group visited well known battle-sites while by night, they were enthralled by John’s inspired renditions of the same battles, in song.

There had been no prior collusion between John and Nicki on historical detail (they met each other for the first time on the tour) and they were both surprised and happy to find that the factual details of their respective battle accounts were the same in every way. This is amazing, considering the wide divergence that exists between accounts of the same events, recorded by contemporary authors. But John's historical research is painstaking. And what is little short of miraculous is his ability to capture and deliver these cold facts in rhyming, country-style, catchy, mood-lifting, folk music.

Tour participants hailed from Cape Town, Gaborone, Mocambique and various parts of KwaZulu-Natal. A 28-seater coach provided transport between sites and allowed guide Nicki to provide running commentary on the history of the areas though which they cruised. The battles they covered ranged in time from the 1838 Battle of Blood River, to battles of the SA War of 1899/1902. The Royal Country Inn in Dundee provided home base and plentiful refreshment, both liquid and solid. Each evening was filled with boisterous song, and some hilarity as the group joined in with the chorus of John's lively version of the song  ‘Good Bye Dolly Gray.’

Although many members of the group met for the first time on tour, their common, dual passion for John's music and for military history provided glue for instant bonding. This was reinforced when the ticket-seller at one of the battlefields, on seeing John and his followers alight from the coach, spontaneously offered pensioners’ discount to all in the party. There was a rueful realization that a certain maturity established another point in common. (There were a few exceptions). Maturity in no way hampered the group’s participation in the activities of the trip; although there were a few groans when the steep slopes of Black’s Koppie at Isandlwana had to be ascended, and even more when the graves of Melvill and Coghill proved higher up the slopes above the Buffalo River than had been anticipated. The spectacular victory achieved by the Zulu army at Isandlwana occupied the minds of all that day, and was re-iterated in song that night.

The tour was blessed with good weather; while torrential storms lashed Durban, John stood in a gleam of golden sunshine beside a bronze wagon at Blood River, listening to Nicki’s evocative account of the Voortrekkers’ miraculous triumph. Later in the day the group appreciated to the full John’s song about that fateful day, entitled ‘The Blood River Miracle.’

Animal stories often provide welcome leaven to the weight of violent history and John has many lyrics about animals in his ‘Boer War Songs’ album. It was perhaps not surprising to the group that Nicki sprinkled her accounts of the battles of the Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer war with amusing or emotive animal anecdotes, most of them about dogs.

There was no condoning of war, but both John and Nicki highlighted the nobility it can produce in common men. There were many acts of great bravery and self-sacrifice on both sides, some of which are recorded in John’s songs. He sings songs of respect for Zulus, Boers, Indians and British while his deep feeling for personal tragedy and his awareness of the cruel aftermath of war are favourite themes. 
As good-byes were said at the end of the tour, all agreed that there can be no better way to tour the battlefields than in the company of a knowledgeable guide and a great entertainer.

Dear Nicki and John/Teresa,

Not sure if the other guys have responded but either way just a quick note to thank you all for a fantastic time and really great tour and entertainment! Nicki hopefully someday we’ll be able to catch up on some of the other battle sites and to John and Teresa – who knows – we may see you in Rustenburg!

Best Regards to you all,