The husband and wife team Marais and Miranda popularized traditional South African folk music in the United States during the '40s, '50s, and '60s. The duo charmed radio and concert hall audiences with somewhat Americanized versions (most of the numbers were English adaptations, though they did sometimes sing in Afrikaans) of the original folk tunes, blending a scholarly interest in folk history and musicology with a charismatic performance style.
Josef Marais (pronounced "Mah-RAY") was raised on a sheep ranch in South Africa and took interest early in the local folk culture. But as a young man, he seemed headed for a career as a classical violinist. Marais played with the Capetown Symphony Orchestra and studied violin and composition in London, Paris, Prague, and Budapest. But it was his skill as a guitarist, coupled with his extensive knowledge of Afrikaans folk songs, that eventually made him famous. In 1939, Marais moved to New York and began hosting a weekly radio show called "African Trek." He released a two album set of Songs From the African Veld under the name Josef Marais and His Bushveld Band that earned him instant acclaim in American folk circles.
In 1941, he joined the war effort by overseeing Voice of America broadcasts to the Netherlands and South Africa. It was there that he met "Miranda," Rosa Lily Odette Baruch de la Pardo, a pianist from Amsterdam. After working for two years as Marais's assistant, Miranda began performing with her supervisor on VOA broadcasts. When the war ended, the two married, moved to Hollywood, and began a prolific performing and recording career that was to last two decades.
The early Marais and Miranda records were dominated by the Bushveld Band sound pioneered in Marais's solo albums, which featured classical guitar, wind instruments, and accordion accompaniment. These early albums included Songs of Many Lands (1949), Josef Marais and Miranda (1950), Songs of the South African Veld (1952), and Marais and Miranda in Person (1955). Though most of their material was South African, the couple peppered their performances with various European folk songs. Later records like European Folk Song Festival (1960) and Nature Songs (1963) experimented with orchestral arrangements. In addition to live concerts and records, Marais and Miranda made regular appearances on radio and television. The pair continued to play together until Marais's death. ~ Evan Cater~ Rovi