Cape Town (3) A morning at the Vuyisile Mini Centre in Gugulethu


A jazz festival in Cape Town must be a good place to come looking for hope, and Good Hope at that. Which might be, perhaps, embodied in this nine year-old trumpeter (rudimentary shot, new camera, beginner, sorry) being coached by Berklee instructors in a performance of Mongezi's Feza's tune “You Don't Know Me Because You Think You Know Me”.

It took place at the Vuyisile Mini Centre in Gugulethu, named after an activist who, during his lifetime, inspired many community theatre and music groups, before being executed by the apartheid regime in 1964, and where I saw part of the festival's education programme in action this morning. The Festival's Training and Development Programme is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, under the inspiring guidance of Gwen Ansell.

Ma Afrika at Vuyisile Mini Centre, Gugulethu

There was a real buzz in the hall about this vocal trio from Gugulethu Ma Afrika, who write their own, strong and characterful material.

Adam Glasser at Vyusile Mini Centre, Gugulethu

And talking of inspiring, London's own Adam Glasser played a  set and has loads of harmonicas to give out and teach with for aspiring players. Adam also met legendary vocalist Sathima Bea Benjamin, who was married to Abdullah Ibrahim for many years, and had earlier talked a group of journalists through the story of how Abdullah and she had taught A Nightingale San in Berkeley Square to Billy Strayhorn in Paris. I'm not making this up.

Sathima Bea Benjamin and Adam Glasser

This community project is at an early stage. Gugulethu is very close to the airport, but is not - yet - a proper suburb of Cape Town , and is not somewhere to which foreign visitors would normally be shown. It is very much within the plans of the centre - SEE WEBSITE to develop partnerships with foreign educational institutions, to bring young students from abroad to work together with the young population of Gugulethu. And with backing from figures such as Kgalema Mothalante who came to a project launch unveiling plans for a new build by Makeka Design (event reported here):

He talked of a "comprehensive developmental plan to deal with the destructive legacy of apartheid and to transform Gugulethu from a racially defined dormitory township into an integrated suburb of the city".

Yes indeed, there is definitely national-level clout behind the project. Councillor Majidie Abrahams talked me through it. The building was an important focal point of plotting the future in the bad old days of the apartheid regime, and Abrahams explained, from the heart, its potental to be a beacon for the "hope of the new nation".

Cape Town Jazz Festivl Training and Development website

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating. Thanks for the insights which show some of what is happening at grass roots level and how music cuts across so many boundaries and can reach the youngsters.

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