Soweto to go big in Ger­many

CityPress - - News - NOMPUMELELO MAGAGULA por­tia.magagula@city­press.co.za

Not ev­ery­one who grows up in a dusty township gets to be a part of an or­ches­tra and be suc­cess­ful.

It is no se­cret that most kids from townships love play­ing sport in the streets – from net­ball to foot­ball and other sport­ing codes. Some neigh­bour­hoods have diphala (brass bands), usu­ally found in churches and whose mem­bers were his­tor­i­cally mostly men.

But three Soweto women are about to change the face of diphala and make it big in Ger­many.

Be­ing part of an or­ches­tra, they are some­times called weird or snobs as or­ches­tral mu­sic is still seen as “white man’s stuff” in the townships.

No­musa Bapela (23), Atle­gang Mo­hale (22) and Zinhle Mfama (24) en­joy be­ing part of the Jo­han­nes­burg Youth Or­ches­tra, some­thing that seemed like a dream not too long ago.

Two months ago their or­ches­tra was in­vited to Ger­many and the three are ex­cited to visit the coun­try.

“Girl, bona, ex­cite­ment e reng mo ng­wa­neng? (Girl, look, we are so ex­cited) ... we are count­ing the days,” says Mo­hale with a laugh.

Be­sides play­ing the trom­bone, Mo­hale is a qual­i­fied teacher and an HR stu­dent. She has been play­ing the in­stru­ment for seven years and says it has been a chal­leng­ing but fun ex­pe­ri­ence.

Mfama plays the bas­soon and has been in the game for about 13 years now. This year she au­di­tioned for an or­ches­tra fes­ti­val and was cho­sen to play in Dur­ban.

“I played with the pro­fes­sion­als. It was so nerve-wrack­ing be­cause those were world-class mu­si­cians. I had to live up to that stan­dard, but it was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Mfama.

She con­fesses that learn­ing to play the in­stru­ment wasn’t easy.

“You have to be per­sis­tent and pa­tient. I had to jug­gle both school and mu­sic. Hav­ing to get dis­tinc­tions is hard, but you have to man­age your time prop­erly – prac­tice and study.”

Bapela grew up in Protea Glen and has been play­ing the French horn for 13 years. She started play­ing the in­stru­ment when she was in Grade 5.

“There are not a lot of women who play the in­stru­ment. It is ac­tu­ally one of the most dif­fi­cult, so when­ever I play it I feel so proud.

“Most women tend to run away from it; they would rather go for the sax­o­phone, vi­o­lin and other in­stru­ments,” she says.

Mo­hale cuts in to say they all play in­stru­ments that are male dom­i­nated. “Women power!” they say, laugh­ing.

The Jo­han­nes­burg Youth Or­ches­tra also had a visit from an­other or­ches­tra all the way from the US and it is now their turn to take their first-ever in­ter­na­tional trip.

“We are look­ing for­ward to see­ing how the peo­ple live be­cause what we see on TV does not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect their life­style. We want to get that in­for­ma­tion and bring it back to South Africa,” says Mfama.

All three of them once wanted to join a mil­i­tary band, but those plans have changed for Mfama and Mo­hale.

“I wanted to join the mil­i­tary band be­cause there are bands in the churches where we are not al­lowed. I I was go­ing to get an op­por­tu­nity to do what I love – the drills and mu­sic,” says Mo­hale.

She adds that she stud­ied teach­ing be­cause she was link­ing it to mu­sic so that she could pass both ex­pe­ri­ences on to oth­ers.

“For me, play­ing for a pro­fes­sional or­ches­tra will be an ul­ti­mate dream come true,” says Mfama.

They can­not wait to learn more about the Ger­man cul­ture and the in­stru­ments they play.

“When they [the Ger­man or­ches­tra] were here I no­ticed that they did not use per­cus­sions, but they im­pro­vised and used chairs to make them sound like an in­stru­ment. I would like to learn and un­der­stand that too,” says Mo­hale.

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