1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Sarie Marais

Sarie Marais (If you don’t know it, you’re not South African)

Sarie Marais is as South African as boerewors and braai, and yet it is known globally. This probably has something to do with its believed origins. It is believed that the song first appeared during either the first or second Anglo-Boer Wars and that it was an adaptation of the American Civil War song ‘Ellie Rhee’ which in turn was adapted from an old English song from around 1815 called ‘The Foggy, Foggy Dew’. But why am I telling you all this when all you need to do is look it up for yourself on Wikipedia.

I have deliberately not put an artists’ name next to the song as it has been so widely recorded and there doesn’t seem to be a definitive version, so it really does depend on your taste as to which version you may want to listen to. The song has been sung as a ballad, an upbeat folk song, a downbeat folk song. It’s been squeezed out of bagpipes, marked time by British military bands, twanged out in 1960’s beat style (See Dutch band Willy & His Giants) and even given the full on electric guitar treatment. It’s been sung in Afrikaans, English, French and American Afrikaans (check out the Jim Reeves version). And off course it has also been boereorkesed (when last did you see the word boereorkes used as a verb? Don’t say I’m not cutting edge!) to death.

However you choose to listen to it, you cannot escape it’s all pervading presence in South African culture, and, I think it might be the only song on this list to mention the word ‘Mielie’.

Where to find it (selected versions available to download):

Sampie Viljoen Met Die Ses Hartbrekers
Alabama Studente Geselskap
Cape Town Military Tattoo
Randal Wicomb

Albert de Wet
Manie Erasmus
Hanru Niemand


My Sarie Marais is so vêr van my hart,
Maar’k hoop om haar weer te sien.
Sy het in die wyk van die Mooirivier gewoon,
Nog voor die oorlog het begin.


O bring my t’rug na die ou Transvaal,
Daar waar my Sarie woon.
Daar onder in die mielies
By die groen doringboom,
Daar woon my Sarie Marais.

Ek was so bang dat die Kakies my sou vang
En vêr oor die see wegstuur;
Toe vlug ek na die kant van die Upington se sand
Daar onder langs die Grootrivier.


Die Kakies is mos net soos ‘n krokodillepes,
Hulle sleep jou altyd water toe;
Hul gooi jou op ‘n skip vir ‘n lange, lange trip,
Die josie weet waarnatoe.


Verlossing het gekom en die huis toe gaan was daar,
Terug na die ou Transvaal;
My lieflingspersoon sal seker ook daar wees
Om my met ‘n kus te beloon.



Helmut Lotti:

Jim Reeves:

Piper James:

Willy & His Giants:

Josef Marais (English version)

Royal Marines Commandos:

French Version:

Ellie Rhee:

The Foggy Dew:

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