Pitch Black Follies

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An African vaudeville group founded in 1938 and led by Griffiths Motsieloa, and with the Merry Blackbirds, headed by Peter Rezant, as their resident band. Deriving from the popular Darktown Strutters of the 1930s they were renamed in 1938.

Their basic repertoire remained a mixture of jazz, ragtime, comic sketches, jubilee and church (amakwaya) music, but they now began to present more ambitious dramatic work as part of their programmes, including short formal plays from the USA and sketches (some possibly even in Afrikaans).

The group was drawn into war time service as part of the South African Native Military Corps and utilized by Myles Bourke’s UDF Entertainment Unit to perform for soldiers. They played during the Liberty Cavalcade in St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, from July 29 - August 2, 1943. They were spotted by entrepreneur Lt Ike Brookes during the Liberty Cavalcade for American Soldiers in Cape Town in 1944, for which Brookes had put together a large variety company, some of the members became part of the cast of Brookes’s 1946 variety show Zonk.

Sources

Liberty Cavalcade programme, 1943.

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