x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Grandpa’s Boney M

The archetypal 1970s discopop group, Boney M, is playing in Dubai on Friday. But is it really Boney M, and what is Boney M anyway?

At what point, Greek philosopher Plutarch pondered in Theseus’s paradox sometime late in the First Century AD, does a ship that has had every component replaced over time stop being the same ship? Variations on this quandary have taxed many great minds over the years, including the modern variant in which Grandpa’s axe is a cherished heirloom, despite having had both its head and handle replaced repeatedly over the years.

It is not often that Platonist philosophy appears in a reference to the archetypal 1970s discopop group Boney M, but the band’s scheduled performance in Dubai on Friday raises the same point Plutarch pondered more than 1,900 years earlier: following the death of lead singer Bobby Farrell and with the departure of all but one of the original backing dancers, is this still Boney M? Especially when a court was told that the singing of the surviving member, Maizie Williams, does not appear on any of the band’s studio recordings.

But given that the original band was little more than a group of photogenic strangers recruited from modelling and talent agencies as a front for the songwriting skills of German impresario Frank Farian, can any of them really claim to be Boney M? Plutarch never considered that.