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Boer Music Instruments

A variety of instruments are used in Traditional Boer Music and those listed here represent a short summary. The combination of instruments vary from band to band and might also change during a performance. More information on different bands and their usage of instruments may be found in biographical information pages.


The concertina is mostly the lead instument in a Boer Music Band. The folk names for the instruments differs somewhat from the international convention and separates them in two broad categories nl. "British Concertinas" and "Boer Concertinas". It should be noted that "British Concertinas" in this context refers to all instruments that are manufactured using the British construction techniques and does not mean a specific keyboard layout such as the "English" system. The distinction is made on physical appearance and the tone that is produced. The term "Boer Concertinas" in this context refers to all multiple reeded instruments that are generally produced using the German construction techniques.

British Concertina
Boer Concertina


British Concertinas

The classification on physical appearance does tend to cause some confusion since the international naming convention is based on the keyboard layout. Instuments can appear similar to the untrained eye yet differ radically in fingering system.

The construction technique of British Concertinas use a radial sound chamber arrangement to house the reeds. Instruments that utilize accordion type reeds but have a similar outward appearance and use single reeds also fall in this category.

Sound Chamer and reeds
Button Action

There are numerous different button arrangements and the note that is produced can differ depending on the direction of bellows movement. This is not intended to be a comprehensive listing of keyboard layouts but rather a description of what each sub-group of folk names means. Each instrument type has developed a specific style of music that all falls within the broad spectrum of Boer Music. Below are a few examples:


Afrikaans Folk Name
Sound Example
20 button Anglo
2-row British
30 button Anglo
3-row British
36 Button Anglo
3 ½-row British
40 Button Anglo
3 ¾-row British
English 4-row Concertina  
Crane Duet 5-row Duet
McCann Duet 6-row Duet


Boer Concertina

The instruments that are categorized as "Boer Concertinas" differ dramatically in physical appearance, construction, size and sound produced. The keyboard layout corresponds to a 20-button Anglo Chromatic concertina with the exception of one bass note. The sides are mostly made from wood and the instruments can sometimes be very colourful. The fretwork that is characteristic of British concertinas is absent. In some models the bellows are decorated with a paper floral pattern. The corners are fitted with chrome or brass decorative stampings.

The sound is produced by a minimum of two reeds per note. Common manufacturers were "Sholer" and "Galotta" from the East German Democratic Republic. "Bastari" and "Stagi" are of Italian origin and also fall in this category even though some may be purchased with some notes reversed. (Compressing the bellows generates a note that is normally produced with a draw action on the standard keyboard) The band of Willie Nelson utilizes a Bastari Boer Concertina. Other manufactureres are "Gallotone", "Wizzard" and South African Concertina manufacturers.

The button action of Boer Concertinas are normally made from wood and not very complex.
The reedpan of a Boer Concertina contains accordion style reeds that are arranged in a linear fasion and sound simultaneously. There are not stops like on an accordion.
A Bastari Boer Concertina has a reed layout similar to above but with a button action made of metal.
Decoration on Bellows  

Please visit the page on learning to play for more information on the different keyboard layouts.


The rhythm guitar is the foundation of accompaniment in a Boer Music Band and a band without at least one guitar is unthinkable. The strumming is very strong rhythmic and can sometimes add counterpoint to the melody. When the guitar is used as the lead instrument to play the melody, there is still strong rhythm accompaniment and character of the music remains distinctly Boer Music.

Guitar example


Just like the guitar, the banjo is used as rhythm instrument as well as lead instrument. The Ukulele has the appearance of a small banjo.



The Piano Accordion as well as the Button Accordion has always played a less prominent role in Boer Music than the concertina. Piano Accordions as well as Button Accordions and Button Harmonicas are mostly used for accompaniment. There are also some bands that feature them as the lead instrument.


Harmonium and Piano

The Harmonium (pump organ) and piano are mostly used for accompaniment. When these instruments are used to play the melody like Bettie Ferns, Chris Buys and Ben Bester, the distinct character of Boer Music is retained. Carolina Leeson played both the harmonium and piano and Jim Muller is a well known performer on the piano.


Bass Instruments

The double bass, cello and accoustic bass guitar are used to provide bass during accompaniment.

Accoustic Bass Guitar




The Harmonica can be used as lead instrument or accompaniment.

Hannes Buitendag with his harmonica


Other Instruments

Other instruments like the Bandoneon are not very common in South Africa.

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