The passing of Paul Roos marks the passing of the last living son of the legendary Gideon Roos, founder of SAMRO. At this time, it is appropriate for SAMRO to look back with gratitude to the three men, father and sons, without whom it would not have come into existence. “When I joined its staff, more years ago than I care to remember, Paul Roos was the chairman of the DALRO board, having recently retired as its managing director. I recall his presence at a workshop about copyright, and being deeply in awe of his comprehensive knowledge of the subject and the authoritative yet unfailingly polite manner in which he answered question after question,“ said Monica Seeber, Treasurer of ANFASA.
Many on the SAMRO staff today may not know the history of their organisation and the debt it owes to the Roos family. This edited short essay about Gideon and his son Paul, written by Sandile Ngidi, is in partial settlement of that debt, but only partial, as the organisation itself, and the thousands of composers and lyricists who have benefited from it, is its own testament to the Roos family. SAMRO has been home to many families and has served many families, of staff and of composers, therefore we owe a debt of gratitude to SAMRO’s first family especially, Pa Roos, and his boys.
The story of the Three Roos Men who founded SAMRO, Announcing the passing of an Era with the passing of Paul Roos on Friday, 17 March 2017.
Gideon Roos was born at Worcester in the Western Cape on 28 October 1909. After school in Stellenbosch, he studied at the University of Stellenbosch and obtained a BA degree in Latin and Greek and, in 1932, an LLB.
Paul Roos, Gideon’s son, was to say that although Gideon had studied classics and law, his first love was the creative and performing arts, and in 1933 he joined the African Broadcasting Company in Cape Town as a cub announcer. In 1937 Gideon became the first Afrikaans and English announcer at the new SABC, which had been formed in 1936, and he married ‘the promising soprano’ (as Paul Roos put it) Esther Mentz, who often sang on the SABC. This love for his wife and for classical music saw Gideon translate a number of operas and operettas into Afrikaans.
Gideon had a strong sense of service to the music fraternity in South Africa. Towards the end of 1961, he launched the South African Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers, SAFCA. A few months later it was renamed the South African Music Rights Organisation. Eight years later, through a resolution adopted at a special annual general meeting the name was changed again, and so was born the Southern African Music Rights Organisation. The new name sought to reflect that SAMRO was not just for South Africans but would be active throughout the region.
The new organisation was a tribute to Gideon’s sense of visionary commitment. His son Paul remembered him as someone who expected all his staff and colleagues to work hard and make sacrifices where required. In its first financial year, which ended on 30 June 1962, the new collecting society earned a total income of R192 000.
The organisation initially rented three small offices at Cavendish Chambers near the then main Johannesburg Post Office in Jeppe Street. The first staff was only three persons: Pa Roos himself, Pa’s former secretary at the SABC, and a messenger. Soon afterwards, Gideon recruited his sons to work with him. Paul, who joined the staff on 16 August 1961, was the administrative assistant to the general manager.
“My first task was to wade through all the files… then followed the redesigning, adaptation, translation and printing of the various forms, tariffs and licence forms in both (English and Afrikaans) official languages.” From there, SAMRO started to focus on two main activities – organising its country-wide licensing operations to run efficiently, and setting up its documentation department which kept the records of composers, authors and publishers as well as those of musical works.
“In 1961, the future of SAMRO was to hold many challenges but also numerous successes, and its full history has yet to be told, but the passing of Paul Roos brings to an end the chapter that started with its birth. SAMRO owes a debt of gratitude and honor to the founding fathers of the organization.” Abe Sibiya, SAMRO Chief Executive Officer.