Bo Jungle

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A musical by Bertha Egnos (1913-2003), with music by George Hayden.

The original text

The show premiered in May 1959 at the Empire Theatre, Johannesburg, produced by Egnos in association with African Theatres. Besides the programmes, a sound recording was made of the live show and published by Gallotone.

The musical opened in the same year as the internationally successful all-black South African musical King Kong, but despite the superficial similarities in title, poster and so on, the musical is something completely different. According to John Ferreira's useful discussion of the recording of the show[1], it was an all white musical focused on South African life, with a musical score mostly based on the English of variety and vaudeville tradition, using bel-canto vocal numbers versions of contemporary Western music (cha cha, calypso and even rock 'n roll, with the odd kwela tune thrown in for the local colour), rather than the popular (black) South African music of the time.

Though the production was not a huge commercial success on the scale of King Kong, it nevertheless played for a while in Johannesburg and was apparently well received. This success would lead to the opportunity to co-write the music for Dingaka the "all African musical", staged at the Brooke Theatre in October 1961.


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

Percy Tucker, 1997; p. 124.

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