IT was a cracking start to the year for the U3A club last Thursday when Dr Andrew Tracey spoke about his world famous show, Wait a Minim, before an enthusiastic audience numbering over 100 people.
Tracey is a world renowned ethnomusicologist and was the director of the International Library of African Music (ILAM) from 1977, following the death of his father Hugh who founded the institution, until 1999.
He holds several degrees in music, social anthropology as well as a PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Natal. He also speaks several African languages as well as French, German and Portuguese.
WHAT’S UP DOC? Dr Andrew Tracey discussed his show Wait a Minim which received international acclaim when it toured the world in the 1960s, at the Port Alfred U3A meeting last Thursday Picture: ROB KNOWLES
Tracey co-wrote Wait a Minim with his brother Paul and Jeremy Taylor. He spoke of the show’s humble beginnings in Johannesburg to international performances in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), England, the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia with celebrities such as Princess Margaret, Jackie Kennedy, Miriam Makaba and American singer/songwriter and social activist Harry Belafonte in attendance.
In fact, Americans were threatening to boycott the Broadway show when Belafonte told them not to. “They’re on our side,” he told them.
It was while attending Oxford University in England that Tracey first became interested in indigenous “folk music”.
His talk was interspersed with his music, including recordings as well as several performances, where Tracey sang from his vast repertoire while accompanying himself on a selection of musical instruments he had brought along with him.
Among Tracey’s favourites are the karimba (which his father invented, based on the Zimbabwean mbira thumb piano) and the steel drum.
His stories of the 1960s and the success of his shows went down well with the U3A audience, who couldn’t help clapping after virtually every musical break. Specifically, when he reminded people of perhaps his most famous song from the show, Ag Pleez Deddy, co-written by Taylor, the audience went into fits of nostalgic laughter and applause.
The show, which ran from 1962 to 1969 was, in Tracey’s words, “not all mayhem,” but included skits of the indigenous folk music from the regions he was performing. One song, sung like an English folk song, included the immortal lines; “I asked my girl what her lips were for, as we stood beside the hedge. She said they were to stop her mouth from fraying at the edge.”
Teaching music at Rhodes University, Tracey has inspired many of his students over the years, and his legacy will continue for many years to come.
Now retired, he lives in Grahamstown with his wife Heather who he met in the UK.