Bertha Egnos

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Bertha Egnos (1913-2003) was a dramatist, musician, composer, piano teacher, and entrepreneur.


Born on 1 January in Johannesburg, 1912, she was a child prodigy who could do anything on a piano. She left school at the age of 12-13 and started her own jazz group. In 1917 she contracted the Spanish flue, and would have trouble with her lungs for the rest of her life.

She taught piano for a long time.

She did some recordings when she was 17, then left South Africa for London in 1934, where she worked for the BBC, performed in London as a jazz pianist (including performances at the London Palladium Theatre), studied with jazz pianist Reginald Forsyth.

In the 1930s, during the Second World War, she returned to South Africa where she led the drum majorettes of the SAWAS Civic Service Unit Bugle Band.

In the 1950s and 1960s she was a regular performer at the Dorkay House venue in downtown Johannesburg

She married Frank Lakier, the owner of the Odin Cinema in Sophiatown, in 1938. They had two daughters, the lyricist Gail Lakier and Lucille Lakier. She subsequently married Phil Godfrey and they were married until her passing in 2003.


Contribution to South African theatre, film, media and performance

Plays/scripts she compiled, wrote and produced include:

Swing 1941 (at the Empire Theatre Johannesburg in 1941),

Bo Jungle (with music by George Hayden), produced in association with African Theatres at the Empire Theatre, 1959),

Dingaka (a stage play written and produced in 1950),

Dingaka (the musical) (written with Eddie Domingo, the Brooke Theatre, 1961),

Dingaka (the film) (script written with Eddie Domingo and Basil Gray, filmed by Jamie Uys, 1964)

Eureka (with a text by Percy Baneshik, performed 1967-8),

Ipi Ntombi(also spelled Ipi Thombi or [Ipi Nthombi]] - and created with her daughter the lyricist Gail Lakier, 1974).

Lulu Wena (with with Gail Lakier, the Brooke Theatre in 1977).

Ipi-Tombi II. The NOW Generation (1984).

Dingaka was filmed by Jamie Uys in 1964, starring Ken Gampu. The stage version of Ipi Ntombi went on to become an international legend – praised by many, performed all over the world in one way or the other by multiple companies, and vilified by others for its blatant exploitation of its cast and the cultural heritage it represented.

She composed the score for Percy Baneshik’s Eureka, which opened at the Civic Theatre in March 1967. Anthony Farmer directed this musical which starred Lawrence Folley and Pat Lancaster. She composed the music for, wrote and directed Ipi-Tombi which opened at the Brooke Theatre on 25 March 1974 after a run in Perth. Her daughter Gail Lakier wrote the lyrics. Together with Gail Lakier she created Lulu Wena which was staged at the Brooke Theatre in 1977. She wrote and directed Ipi-Tombi II, the NOW Generation was launched at the Victory Theatre in 1989.

(For details on the individual plays, see the respective entries by clicking on the title.)


The Women's Auxiliary magazine, No 15, November 1941.

"Eureka! tribute to Bertha Egnos", Soul Safari June 10, 2013[1]

John Ferreira 2010. "Bo Jungle -1959 SA musical by Bertha Egnos" in Soul Safari. Musical Treasures from Africa.[2]

"SA movies -1965 OST Dingaka by Bertha Egnos", Soul Safari, May 31, 2010 [3]

Percy Tucker, 1997

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