Rhodesian Music and Songs

Possibly most famous of all Rhodesian singers and songwriters is John Edmond. John has described this site as “very interesting and impressive” and has kindly consented to the posting of a selection of music from some of his CDs such as the Centenary and Troopie Songs albums to which he has the copyright.

This page is still under construction and will include a representative selection of John Edmond’s music as well as some others.

As only a limited number of tracks will be posted, I would recommend that those interested should visit John’s own music site:

Bushcat Online or go direct to his music shop where there is a full selection of CDs available for purchase.

With reference to my For King and Empire page, John has written:

“I note that you also mention the Anglo Boer War. Maybe you are not aware that I have spent the last 7 years researching and documenting the Boer Wars and battlefields in song. I have 3 albums out “The Boer War in Song”, “Songs of the African Battlefields” and “Boer and Brit Battlefield Heroes” On the first Boer War In Song album I have a number called “ The Siege of Elands River” where Rhodesian forces made one of the most heroic stands in that war. (quoted by Genl. Smuts) – there is also a video out on YouTube.

On my web site you can also listen to snippets of some of the Boer War albums songs from the “listen” page. However it is taking the “Battlefields by storm” I have in fact been to Dundee to do 3 concerts, performing every night the songs of the various Battlefields visited by tour guide Nicki Von Der Heyde.  (all this as a matter of interest). Not enough people out there are aware of the history of our country and the involvement of the Rhodesians in the said wars.”


A selection of stirring Rhodesian Marches

(which I digitised from my own LPs)

These Askari marches are seldom heard outside Africa and, today, maybe not often in Africa either?

Nkhwazi – the Northern Rhodesia Police Band directed by Assistant Superintendent C.W.G. Hey, A.R.C.M and being their Regimental March.  The Fish Eagle (Nkhwazi) was adopted as the national emblem of Northern Rhodesia in 1927 and was retained by Zambia after 1964.

Poyamba (First) – played by the Rhodesia Corps of Signals Band under their Director of Music: Capt. F. Sutton A.R.C.M.  and composed by him in 1956 as the Regimental March of the 1st Bn. King’s African Rifles in Nyasaland (now Malawi).

Tilikuyenda (We are marching) – Rhodesia Corps of Signals Band.  Scored by Capt. F. Sutton and being a collection of Askari tunes adapted by W. Stutely, Bandmaster of the 2nd Bn. KAR and adopted as their Regimental March.

Sweet Banana – Band of 1st Bn. Rhodesian African Rifles under their Director of Music: Lieut. K.R. MacDonald L.R.A.M. and arranged by L.P. Smith, D.C.M.,  This march is well known among Rhodesians.  Shortly after the Regiment had been raised in the early part of the 2nd World War, a detachment of Askari was detailed to Natal, South Africa, to escort Italian prisoners of war. Their amazement at the abundance of bananas there was the origin of this march.  It was adopted as the Regimental March of the RAR shortly afterwards.


Kum-A-Kye – The Regimental March of the British South Africa Police recorded at the Little Palace Cinema, Salisbury in 1964 under their Director of Music: Supt. M.A. Sparks M.B.E., L.L.C.M., A. Mus. L.C.M.  who also arranged this piece.


Kum A Kye: A Short History  by  Stephen J. Barry of the BSA Police Band 1973 – 1981.

The tune Kum-a-Kye is based on an old American camp fire folk song ‘The Chisholm Trail’ where the end of each verse is along the lines: Kum a Kye ai yai come an ai yai yippy tippy tai. Each person would then add a verse.  This trail was used between the 1860s and early 1880s to move cattle from San Antonio, Texas to Abilene, Kansas where they were loaded onto rail wagons to continue the journey to the east coast.  The cowboys would sit around the campfires in the evening adding ditties to the verses as they made them up.

It is believed two of these cowboys from the civil war era later joined the BSA Company Police and accompanied the 1890 column into Rhodesia. The tune continued to be sung around camp fires and local words and verses added over the years.

In 1939 the Bandmaster Max Sparks, then a Sergeant, arranged the tune so the band could play it. The band committee, consisting of Depot Commandant and 2 other officers from PGHQ, would meet from time to time and have the bandmaster wait outside until they called him in if they wanted to discuss an item with him. It was then adopted as the BSAP Regimental March.


I am grateful to Steve Barry for his leads which have enabled me to assemble the following further information including one of the earliest known vocal recordings of the original American song:

The Chisholm Trail was a major trail used in the post Civil War era to drive cattle overland from ranches in Texas, where cattle were only worth about $2 a head, to Kansas railheads for onward shipment to Chicago and the East where they could fetch $40 a head!  The portion of the trail marked by Jesse Chisholm went from his southern trading post near the Red River, through Indian Territory in Oklahoma, to his northern trading post near Kansas City. There were feeder trails from various points further south in Texas. During its heyday, between 1867 and 1884, some five million cattle and an equal number of mustangs were moved along the trail – the greatest migration of livestock in world history.  The hazardous trip took anywhere from two to three months as the drives crossed major rivers including the Arkansas and Red Rivers, as well as travelling through canyons and low mountain ranges. In addition, the drovers or cowboys also had to be concerned about Indian attacks, outlaw cattle rustlers, and cattle stampedes.

The cowboys learned to sing when herding cattle so that their compatriots would know where they were; thus, avoiding driving stampeding cattle at fellow cowboys. They also sang just to keep themselves awake during long dreary night rides and watches. “The Old Chisholm Trail” was very popular with cowboys, who would make up their own verses for the song. Some sources claim there are literally thousands of verses to the song.  Typically, the two men on guard would circle around with their horses on a walk, if it was a clear night and the cattle were bedded down and quiet, and one man would sing a verse of a song, and his partner on the other side of the herd would sing another verse; and you’d go through a whole song that way…

The song, itself, actually dates back to the 1870s. It was one of the most-popular songs which cowboys sang during the heyday of the cattle drives between Texas and the cow towns of Kansas. History tells us that the song is based on an English lyrical work which dates back as far as 1640. The words, of course, were modified to fit a cowboy’s life – as, in turn, they were modified by the men of the BSAP. One of the earliest known vocal recordings of The Old Chisholm Trail (Kum-A-Kye) sung by Frank Goodwyn in 1939 is held by the Library of Congress.