There used to be dozens. Almost every waterfront bar in Antwerp owned a dance organ. A Decap, if possible. They were the best.
The founder of Decap organs was born in 1864 on a farm in rural Flanders. He often boosted his income by playing the accordion at village fairs. And in 1902 he moved to Antwerp to make fairground organs.
The family business took off when his four sons created the company Frères Decap Anvers, now known by its Dutch name Gebroeders Decap (Decap Brothers).
In 1933, one of the brothers, Frans, left the family firm to create his own company confusingly called Frans Decap Herentals. After the Second World War, Frans started making massive organs that would blast out music in Belgian dance cafes.
The organs were beautiful neon-lit machines that incorporated saxophones, drums and other instruments. But the dance organ era didn’t last long. They began to disappear from bars in the 1960s, replaced by modern jukeboxes.
One last dance organ has survived in Café Beveren near the Antwerp waterfront. It dates from 1937. You can often hear it being played on a Sunday afternoon.
Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.