Music Gumboots

In South Africa, the sound of people dancing in gumboots has been incorporated into a form of semi-traditional popular music, sometimes known as “gumboot music” or “gumboot zydeco” in Africa, or Welly boot dance by people from Britain. The dance began as a form of communication in the late 19th century in the gold mines of South Africa. The miners were forbidden to speak with each other while they worked, and were stripped of the right to wear their tribal garments. They adopted a system of communication using their work attire and native tribal rhythms. The miner uniform included Wellington boots, hard hats, and chains; so the miners used the items of their work uniform to develop a form of communication, for safety, and simply as a form of entertainment. Songs or chants sometimes accompanied these gumboot dances, often with themes of longing or loneliness, and sometimes making fun of their bosses in the songs. The owners of the mines, impressed with this phenomenon, would allow the best gumboot dancers to form troupes and perform. The dances, the uniform, and the rhythms have lived on, from the gold mines in South Africa, in step dance, as well as many other forms of music and dance that use the body to create arrangements of rhythms. Traditional gumboot dances, as well as contemporary versions, can be seen throughout Africa and the United States, though in South Africa gumboot dancing has become something of a tourist attraction, rather than a celebration of liberation under oppression. The 1986 Paul Simon album Graceland contains the song “Gumboots”. This song, like much of the album, was recorded in South Africa.

 

In 1974 Scottish comedian Billy Connolly adopted a comical ode to the boot called “The Welly Boot Song” as his theme tune, and it became one of his best-known songs. In 1976, satirist John Clarke’s alter ego Fred Dagg reworked Connolly’s song as “If It Weren’t for your Gumboots”, and created a hit. Wellies have also been used by the band, Gaelic Storm, in their fifth full album, “Bring Yer Wellies”, and in the song “Kelly’s Wellies” on the same album.

Between 1994 and 1996, BBC1 created several series of William’s Wish Wellingtons, about a boy named William whose magical red Wellington Boots could grant him wishes.

Danish band Alphabeat’s 2007 album Alphabeat contains a song called “Rubber Boots/Mackintosh”.

In the song “Springtime”, Spinal Tap tires of spring, and they want drizzle, sleet, and “Wellies on my feet”.

In the United Kingdom, there is a light-hearted sport, known as wellie wanging, which involves throwing Wellington boots as far as possible.

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