Pipe Band Music Thriving in Southern Africa


By Andy Dippenaar

Due to its particular pitch and frequency, the sound of the great Highland bagpipe carries a very long way indeed. And so, too, does the love for the instrument. It carries so far, in fact, that at almost the very southernmost reach of the great continent of Africa, you can often hear the sound of the pipes and drums drifting through the air. 

Passion for the music of Scotland was very much in evidence at South Africa’s first ever piping and drumming summer school, held last month just outside the country’s commercial capital, Johannesburg. 

Facilitated by the Pipe Bands’ Association of Southern Africa, and supported by sponsorships from Bells’ Bagpipes and Rob Roy Scottish Supplies, this residential musical workshop took place over two nights and three days at Parnussus Farm, a charming country school venue on the lush banks of the Magalies River, 3kms from the village of Magaliesburg. 

The class of 2019

There is a thriving, albeit relatively small pipe band community in South Africa, with some 31 bands nationwide registered as members of the PBASA. 

Many of the bands have military origins, being established as a far back as the late 1800s and early 1900s when Scottish regiments found themselves facing action in Southern Africa. Many are civilian of course. But the focus for this summer school was South Africa’s novice juvenile and juvenile bands.  

The school drew an overwhelming response, with almost twice the expected number of young delegates registering; 24 pipers, 11 snare and six mid section drummers making up the final register.

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The PBASA has, in recent years, placed more and more emphasis on training and education and has invested heavily in bringing top class international instructors and adjudicators to South Africa. 

In keeping with this commitment, the local association was delighted to secure a team of internationally reknowned instructors for the event: Craig Munro of Wallace Bagpipes, Jake Jørgensen, leading drummer of Scottish Power and Nicola Cairns, also recently transferred to Scottish Power from the New Zealand Police. 

Working closely with local instructors Joshua Hogg, Anthony Evans and Tarryn Mocke, the team put together an intensive programme covering both the theoretical and practical elements of piping, drumming and band craft. 

The central assignment for all the delegates was a two part march, strathspey and reel set. None of the young musicians knew the tunes previously or had even set eyes on the music. 

Yet, when they assembled as a band on the Sunday afternoon and performed the set piece together, the result would have surely impressed an adjudicator on the competition field.

It was a remarkable performance for a junior band that, just two days before, hardly knew each other, let alone the music. There was hard work, but there was great fun too. 

Check out the slide show:

Feedback from the delegates, coaches and international visitors alike was that the first ever PBASA Piping & Drumming Summer School was a resounding success. 

Naturally, as expected, everyone went away having learnt a great deal. 

But as one of the young delegates reminded us when she said, ‘I fell in love with my instrument again’. Hopefully the students at this year’s course got some of that too. 

The final night saw all the young delegates seated around the camp fire on the river’s edge, enchanted by an impromptu sunset recital from the visiting instructors. 

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