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Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Richards Bay centre focuses on music, dance, theatre and the visual arts. - Story by Khosi Biyela (courtesy of Tonight)

While growing up, we were taught how to dance and sing traditional songs using drums or clapping our hands, but things have changed.

Nowadays, we hear traditional African music played alongside a host of woodwind, brass and percussion instruments.

Black Coffee recently tried it, playing with a 24-piece orchestra at the Moses Mabhida Stadium and Zahara also performed with a mini philharmonic orchestra at Hazelmere Dam last month. People of all cultures went berserk.

Khula Arts Centre in Richards Bay is now doing the same, opting for a more modern way of making music while preserving African sounds.

Manager Bhekani Thabede said the centre was introducing an orchestra for youth from underprivileged backgrounds to enhance their singing abilities. Included in the project are youngsters from areas around the uThungulu District, Umhlathuze, Umlalazi, Ntambanana, Mbonambi, Nkandla and Mthonjaneni. “Our people had no access to orchestral music mainly because our communities had no platforms and knowledge of this genre,” he explained.

Thabede said he started punting the idea of orchestral music two years ago, but funds were the stumbling block. “It wasn’t easy to do it without any funding, so we knocked on different doors. We needed money for instruments and trainers,” he said.

Things began to change after they presented their idea to Transnet Foundation and Southern African Music Rights Organisation (Samro). They managed to get funding, but not quite enough, as they still needed to pay people to teach. Then the National Lottery came to their rescue.

Thabede said there was a perception that orchestras were mostly dominated by rich people, but they want to change that. He said they now had 60 members from the ages of nine to 20, who all received free training from a music lecturer at the University of Zululand, Linda Zulu. “These skills we are offering may be their ticket to much greater things. They learn how to play these instruments here and they can freelance somewhere else when they are well developed,” said Thabede.

Although the centre is situated in Richards Bay, they are planning to launch similar centres around the district. “We are still focusing on this one to see if it gets off the ground successfully. If it does, we can expand to other areas,” he said.

The centre focuses on music, dance, theatre and the visual arts.

Khula Arts Centre is at 47 Bullion Boulevard, Richards Bay. For more information, call Ayanda at 035 789 5187 or 073 520 6569. - Khosi Biyela,