SWARTZ Brothers Band singer Tommy Swartz, 75, of East London, has passed away after a short illness in Johannesburg.
Swartz Brothers Boereorkes (alternatively known as Swartz Brothers Band) – made up of five brothers – played together at various venues throughout East London. The siblings were Nick, Jack, Fred, the late Poena and Tommy.
Jack, now 81 years old, recalls growing up with his brothers and father. He said Tommy started working as a mechanic apprentice at a garage in Nahoon before joining South African Railways.
He said that Tommy was quite vocal growing up, but grew quieter and “had a love for instruments and singing”, adding that “the musical gift lives in the blood of the Swartz family spanning over three generations”.
“My dad’s uncle was a musician and studied overseas. He played for Queen Victoria, and did the sound effects in cinemas,” he recalled.
Jack started playing at the age of 16 in a band founded by his father. “Tommy was too young to play then,” he said.
The brothers were very close-knit, woven together by the musical notes they created. Even while doing mundane tasks such as overhauling an engine, Tommy would be singing in the background.
“I remember the one time my brothers and I had to carry our instruments from Pearce Street all the way to Beach Road in Nahoon for a function. Our sister, Liz, also did vocals for us from time to time,” Jack said.
Jack said that his voice was “powerful enough to be a real- life cupid” as people fell in love to the sounds of their music in the Gonubie Farmers’ Hall, where they often played.
They also got to play at weddings, children’s birthdays and parties.
A Facebook group called “East London – Down Memory Lane” have shared wonderful memories of the band.
Darryl Parrish said: “These guys were one of the top Boere Musiek orchestras in the country. Brilliant.”
“Loved it! Gonubie Farmers Hall and Floradale Dance Hall .. . every Saturday night!!” said another fan, Joyce Hageman.
Tommy’s final send-off will take place in Johannesburg on Friday. Tommy leaves behind his wife Susan and children Vanessa and Leon.