United Colours of Africa
"No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge. " Kahil Gibran
Sakhuluntu (building humanity)
Music is blessed mostly by the support it receives to get instruments to those that require, rehearsal spaces, performances spaces and collaborative learning experiences all the way round.
There is a self-styled music project in Joza, section 9 Grahamstown, eGazini called Sakhuluntu that is taking shape in the Eastern Cape.
Almost everyday the council one roomed house of Vuyo Booi is filled with visitors. I have visited this home on many occasions showing once more that the experience of ‘township dwellers’ is absolutely human. One such visitor to Vuyo’s home was possibly the oldest man in the neighbourhood who wandered across the road on his crutches nearly everyday. Vuyo described him as being “no liki liki.” ‘No liki liki’ means he doesn’t require any ‘nice things,’ or ‘treats.’ When I offered him a cup of tea he said no.
And this is the extraordinary aspect of the township experience that makes me refer to it more as a community. People are connected and things are shared. And this can make for quite a relaxed lifestyle in certain regards. But you need the attitude. For instance Vuyo said to me, “I don’t worry for anything. I don’t worry for money, or for food, or to bath ... I worry for nothing!”
Sakhuluntu utilises a heart centred and soft approach in education. Vuyo Booi inherited a single roomed dwelling in Section 9 Joza. He immediately turned it into a cultural centre, saying, “God gave me this home to look after His children.” They have thirty kids, two big drums and hand- made instruments. They are called Sakhuluntu Cultural Group and this music project fuelled by passion alone is a clear example of how music opportunity is a great leveller for children: whether the poorest of the poor or the richest of the rich, whether the prettiest of the pretty or the ugliest of the ugly. Music makes us realise we are one. My involvement with Sakhuluntu and founding member Vuyo Booi had begun in 2007. My purpose in 2007 was at ILAM and to conduct the research that has led to the scripting proposal for the 13 part DVD series, 'Traditional instruments of Southern Africa.' When researching the work of Hugh Tracey at ILAM I received a call from a friend, Adam. Speaking in the spirit, he said to me, “check the other side.” I thanked him, turned around and introduced myself to the gentleman standing behind me, Vuyo Booi. I asked him if he could “show me the other side.” He said he could.
Vuyo took me to the other side. At that point in his life, the other side was the semi-township area of Fingo where he lived in a tin room. He explained to me that I would always be welcome to visit him, on the 'other side. The 'other side' is the so called township. I believe it is better called 'community.' The 'other side' is also a pun as there is another side. It is the ancestral realm. In a sense you have to go to the 'other side' to get to the 'other side. This is why you will find many many white men such as Hugh Tracey and Jim Bailey who travelled to Africa from Europe for their healing or like me and others who were actually born here to balance our own ancestral lines. Visiting Sakhuluntu in Gtown JOZA Section 9 was a journey to oneself and a joy to witness others. Living in the township one grows accustomed to a stillness of mind and a natural way unflustered y the external world.
The notion of poverty as a state of mind is acclaimed when the children play in bundles of joy occasionally expressing hunger which can be satisfied with a banana self shared between the dozen of them or a bowl of porridge shared with a spoon. Alcohol entrenches the township dweller with a low sense of self esteem. For the individual to choose to rise above alcohol use, they may reel against a community of users who feel threatened yanothers transformation. Lessons in how to feed a hungry child.Lessons in sharing, the spirit of generosity.Lessons in compassion, tolerance, non judgement.Lessons of the light of a child.The childlike qualities of the blissful existence that turns every day into an eternity.
Coming to noon
THE SPIRIT OF THE DRUM
Sakhuluntu and the Grahamstown festival, what is Amazing?
In 2009 Sakhuluntu created a centre piece at the annual National Arts Festival. Their collaborative performance was entitled ‘Amazing!' It was a platform for sharing their learning with the street kids or ‘streetlights.' ‘Streetlights' is the term for the street kids. It was termed by a poet from eThekwini called Mduduzi. At the National Arts festival, streetlights travel in from all over, particularly Nelson Mandela District.
The concept of Amazing was the sharing of opportunities and public platforms with these streetlights. The concept began in the communities with the community youths. Youths see no separation. Amazing began in 2009 as improvised street theatre and community development driven by passion alone. Amazing was an integral initiative in integration: bringing the communities to the festival and the taking the festival to the communities. Sakhuluntu youth and the Streetlights collaborated to produce an integrated performance programme. The collaborations and live rehearsals with the street kids and the cultural group begin on day 1 of the festival, and by day 11 a diverse performance programme was prepared and performed. The Sakhuluntu cultural group youth performers under the directorship of Vuyo Booi have been rehearsing for years. Their impact on the township life in Joza has been amazing. And now their impact on the National Arts festival has been Amazing and so their impact on the entire region will be Amazing. Sakhuluntu cultural group has dancers, drummers, actors and performers from four years of age and older. Their performances include traditional dance, gumboot dance, polyrhythmic music and street theatre.
At the 2012 festival Sakhuluntu diversified and expanded their approach to include the Art factory, the Giant Puppets, traditional instruments of Southern Africa festival and carnival. The Art Factory took on the initiative of grooming and coaching the street kids into a united group of well-trained street performers. Festival goers were given wonderful free entertainment as they saw the painted children of Art Factory participating in stylish, animated, humorous and joyous street theatre.
The Giant Puppets provided free entertainment. Standing 2.7M tall they were greatly enjoyed as they walked the public spaces daily bringing great joy and laughter to groups, areas and gatherings within the festival.
A cultural crew called Mzantsi visited for festival to ensure that social upliftment was tuned up to a maximum by conducting recycling workshops at the Sakhuluntu premises in Joza. They taught the art of making and using recycled materials for musical instruments and carnival costumes. Any variety of percussive musical instruments and carnival costumes were created from a collection of bottle tops, empty drums, etc. The Mzantsi crew used bright spray paints (like the decorations for a trance party) to brighten up the musical instruments. The fruit of this work and the energetic rehearsals were displayed at the closing carnival and parades.
eGazini Natural carnival
In 2012 a carnival walked the streets of eGazini uniting people from the town and from the communities, through expression. A carnival is 100% participative. A giant turtlephone was to lead the carnival. The 'turtlephone' is an innovative way of creating a carnival float. Several musicians played this instrument at once creating a percussive melodic orchestra that sounded unique.
Right behind them were Sakhuluntu. Throughout the carnival the Sakhuluntu youth performers from Joza township played a steady yet conversational rhythm. It became like a carpet on which we could all walk parading our unique skills, sharing our passion and purpose with humour.
When the French marching band took to the streets and joined the carnival, the cats were set amongst the pigeons. They brought a sense of purpose and unconquerable spirit married with humour, spontaneity, generosity, friendship and improvisation. There was a moment when marching down High Street, magic melted into the music, the instruments and the people. Marcus Wyatt brought the whole of High Street to life with the jazziest New Orleans styled solo that made the other horn players on the line raise their horns above their heads and dance! Passion makes a carnival.
A carnival is completely integrative. It is participative and onlookers can join the carnival at the marching pace and rhythm, in culture we are together. As we walked the streets together, actors and festival participants were joining the carnival acting out their characters in a flamboyant street parade. This is true soul food. When the French marching band broke into jazz music, they fell at least 22 paces behind the steady march of Sakhuluntu and the giant turtle musical instrument.
Even with a variety of styles of music playing together, and different groups within the carnival going off on their wonderfully expressive tangents, the carnival could not split up. For instance within the large gap between Sakhuluntu youth drummers and the marching band, some incredible performers provided the glue that kept us all together. They are a band of performers known as Hypno-Lunatics! There was an eye, a hunchback, a little prince, his friend and a farmer from the great outback. They all danced, sharing their ideology of 'Water' through their own unique expressions of themselves and their emotions in the most spontaneous expressions where movement and music became one.
The sound of absolute one-ness was born when the beating of their drums latched into synchronicity and matched the pulse of the Sakhuluntu youth performers. There was an extraordinary power that can only be described as the exuberance of beauty recognizing itself. And so we marched together all the way home.
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