top of page

South Africa 2024

Wow! All of the Song Exchange trips that I have taken over the years have been wonderful but the trip organized by Karla Mundy of SongRoots

based in Vancouver, Canada definitely stands out.

It has taken me a while to go through the hundreds of photos and videos that I took.

It was very difficult to decide what to include and what to leave out!

Such a rich experience!

Here is a sample.

I arrived in Cape Town a few days before the SongRoots program was set to begin. I spent a couple of days in the beautiful city of Cape Town which is dominated by the majestic Table Mountain.

I was staying in an AirB&B that happened to be across the street from the beautiful Company's Garden in the center of the city. It was established in 1652 by the

Dutch East India Company.

Definitely worth a visit if you travel to Cape Town.

On an afternoon walk I came across these amazing young people

performing on the street

and spent an hour watching them perform.

And then wandered around in the flower market

After a lovely time of R&R I met up with the SongRoots group in order to set out to the retreat center where we would spend the next 5 days singing intensively under the direction of Bongani Magatyana, a highly skilled professional singer, music director, composer, and theatrical producer. The group was made up of 29 singers, choir conductors and song leaders, all lovers of South African choral music. We settled in at the Volmoed Retreat Center in Hermanus, about an hour and a half east of Cape Town on the coast.

This is the view from the town and down to the tidal pool that was a wonderful place to swim - a bonus treat for me - singing plus swimming!

The Volmoed Retreat Center, beautiful in sun and fog!

Our group - singers and song leaders from the US, England and Canada plus our teacher Bongani, guest teacher Isaac Skiti and South African singers, Mbey, Sandile, Esihle, Jack and Noxie who helped keep us in line!

Photo credit: Andy Sheppard

Bongani teaching a Xhosa wedding song

Our South African teachers sharing how the dance moves are done

Singing a song in the Clap and Tap style learned from

guest teacher Isaac Skiti

After 5 days of intensive practice we had 8 close-to-performable songs. We moved to a guest house in Kalk Bay, another beautiful spot on the coast which is closer to Cape Town, and began participating in a week of performances at various

locations around the city.

Some images around Kalk Bay including our guest house by day and the view from the guest house under the full moon, the Kalk Bay harbor, and best of all for me, another tidal pool for my daily swim! Always my favorite way to start the day!

Here we are dressed in our concert outfits and

ready to perform what we have learned.

Photo credit: Andy Sheppard

During the week that followed we performed at several churches, a couple of schools, art centers and a prison. All of the choirs we met were a joy

to perform alongside and with.

Some videos taken at various locations are below.

Indongo Sweet Melodies - Clap and Tap Choir led by Isaac Skiti

It's clear from this video why the style is called Clap and Tap!

I love the little ones casually incorporated into the action on stage.

Here we are with the Langa Methodist Church Choir

Various groups who performed with and for each other at Sophakama Primary School

One group that stood out - Iminqweno Yethu Choir. Yanga in stripes in the image below is the director. Drummer in white is Nasiphile. An incredibly dedicated and talented group. They rehearse six nights a week. It shows!

Photo credit:Andy Sheppard

After the show was officially over the music continued as we were leaving, first inside the school and then in the courtyard outside. The singing was unstoppable!

The Abantakwethu Brothers performing in the Isacathamiya style at the Makhaza Youth Center in Khayalitsha Township. Many people are familiar with this style because of the the group Ladysmith Black Mombazo and their work with Paul Simon back in 1986 on his album Graceland.

Old Apostolic Church Teen choir, one of many choirs connected to the church that our teacher Bongani helps to direct. Everyone who is a member of the church is in a choir starting at 5 or 6 years old. The way it should be as far as I'm concerned! Not that I'm biased...! The assumption is that everyone can sing. They can and they do.

The prison wardens choir - yes, the prison wardens have their own choir. As do teachers and many other organizations. Photo credit: Andy Sheppard

The Khayalitsha Childrens Choir directed by Bongani.

Our group singing with the Old Apostolic Church Elder Choir directed by Bongani - 400 strong! An amazing experience. If you look closely you will see me rocking out in the front row center!

Video credit: Andy Sheppard

I can't resist adding this photo taken by Andy Sheppard of the ladies in their lavender hats. Fabulous!

In between all of the performing we also did some wonderful touristy things not to be missed even though our focus was very much on the music. Of course, I took photos and some are below.

A visit to Table Mountain by cable car

On the ferry to Robbin Island where Nelson Mandela spent 18 out of 27 years in prison.

Looking back at Cape Town and Table Mountain

Tours of Robbin Island are conducted by former prisoners

Mandela's cell. Impossible to imagine 18 years here.

Cape of Good Hope. Sooooo beautiful and a good hike!

Photo credit: Andy Sheppard for the group photo

And not to be missed a visit to the Cape penguins on a very windy day!

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens - Gorgeous even though it was March, heading into the fall season there

After touring the gardens we had a wonderful lunch in the restaurant there

and a couple of us had our faces painted.

This is Noxie, Bongani's wife, wonderful singer, dancer and chef!

After the SongRoots tour was over I spent a couple of extra days

in Cape Town decompressing

before heading home and again spent some time

wandering around different areas of Cape Town.

One of my favorites was the Bo-Kaap neighborhood, famous for its colorful houses

and shops that sell fabulous African art.

And I found another great place to swim before making my way back to winter in the United States - free for seniors like me!