My song sharing adventures in South Africa began in earnest when I arrived in St Francis Bay to stay with my old friend Frances Becker. Frances and I met in NYC in the early 80's when we danced together in a small dance company. Frances grew up in South Africa but had moved to NYC to perform and teach dance. After apartheid ended she moved back to South Africa and founded a small company called "Nomvula's Knitters". Her dream was to create much needed jobs in an area where unemployment is very high. This she has successfully done. (For more information about Nomvula's Knitters go to http://knitters.co.za/about-us/)
Over the years Frances and I have stayed in touch and when she heard about my Song Exchange Project she said immediately "You must come and sing with my knitters! They sing all of the time!" This year I was able to make the trip.
The women of Nomvula's generously shared some of their traditional songs and dances. I also taught them a few songs and we worked together to develop a welcome song that they will sing when the knitting factory is visited by tour buses.
Thobeka, who runs the Nomvula's shop, singing Miriam Makeba's Click Song for me.
Here is Miriam Makeba singing it - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onBLru8SfOk
Thobeka is very involved in the community and one of the wonderful things she has done is to help some of the girls from an area called Sea Vista form a club to practice and perform traditional Xhosa songs and dances. I had a blast watching, listening to and teaching these girls. As you can see from the images below they are SO alive and excited to share and learn.
Get this girl a drum! After I shared with them that I taught drumming the girls asked if I would bring them a drum next time I visit. Who could resist?! I have asked a couple of local music teachers to help me find these talented girls a drum. I can't wait to see/hear how they put it to use.
Thobeka also took me to the choir rehearsal at her church in Humansdorp. Gorgeous harmonies!
And I visited and sang with the folks at the Disney preschool in Sea Vista,
the Talhado Primary School, also in Sea Vista,
Woodridge College and Preparatory School, close to Port Elizabeth,
and finally on my last morning I sang with the children from St Francis College in St Francis Bay.
I had so many rich experiences and since returning home I have already established contact with several of the teachers I worked with via the internet so that we can continue to share songs through Skype and email.
And now the Song Exchange Project continues at home. I have begun sharing songs that I learned while on my trip locally at libraries, schools and at my monthly Community Sings.
And my plan going forward is to share these songs and the many that I have gathered over the years with as many organizations, businesses and gatherings of people as possible. I have learned from my own personal experience, and from witnessing others who sing in community, about the incredible power of song. My goal is to help every day people sing in community every day. There is now plenty of scientific evidence that supports what we can feel when we sing together - there are clear physical, psychological and sociological benefits to be gained from singing in a group.
If you are interested in organizing a workshop or Community Sing in your area or would like to explore ways to bring singing as a group to your workplace to build communal spirit and a sense of well being I would be happy to work with you.
If you are interested in supporting my work financially please get in touch with me directly and/or make a contribution through Paypal at http://www.bewellsing.com/#!song-exchange-project/c1msy
I look forward to hearing from you.
Raise your voice!