Sunday, 21 April 2013

Music in Slovo

The architecture honours group was sent on a mapping exercise in Slovo Park informal settlement, in order to propose a development that will aid the community in creating a brighter future. For those of you who don’t know, Slovo Park is a squatter camp located to the south of Johannesburg, South Africa. Majority of the people are unemployed, have improper housing, no electricity, no running water and no sewerage. It is a community facing many problems, but one filled with hopes, dreams and aspirations.

We (a group of 16) spent 2 nights in Slovo and all I can say is WOW! What an incredible experience!! I learnt more in those few days than I did the whole of high school!

We spent the first day walking around the settlement (with a resident as a guide) observing places and interviewing people. As we walked around, it quickly came to my attention that music was an integral part of the community’s life. Our guide even stated that if each home had electricity, music would cover every corner of the settlement. Taverns (commonly known as shebeens) are the main social areas within Slovo - there are constantly people in them, drinking, talking, dancing or playing pool.

Considering my interest in music, I was most intrigued by the jukeboxes located in the taverns....”What is it that this community listens to?”...”What music keeps this community happy?”...Going through the options I was rather surprised! I found everything from Lionel Ritchie and Whitney Houston, to Lucky Dube (a South African artist) and house remixes of traditional “African” music. Dancing to music is common, whether it be in the streets or in the or night.

As I walked to where I was sleeping on Friday night, I realised that the music within the community had a dark side to it. Friday nights are notorious for being the time when people go to taverns and get drunk. With this drunkenness comes debauchery and violence. I remember the music, blaring across the dark sky, was some gangster rap artist promoting sex. As I walked past yet another shebeen, I heard some house music coming from within. Drunken people wandered around outside, some looking rather aggressive (drunken fights occur on a daily basis). As I lay in bed (water dripping on my pillow)...still not feeling very safe, I heard the various sounds from shebeens all over the settlement. I don’t know why, but I felt that the music was aiding in these debaucherous activities – GOD’S creation, used as Satan’s tool.

I don’t know if it is because God heard me that night, but the next day I was exposed to the positive side of music within the community. While interviewing the youth of the settlement we quickly realised that one of the main issues was the fact that they were bored! There wasn’t much for them to do...this opened them up to activities like vandalism, theft, drugs and alcohol.

We met a group of boys (probably around 17 years of age) selling tickets to a cultural dance/music show to be performed this coming Saturday (27 April 2013). It later turned out that an older member of the community saw the need to keep the youth busy, and saw music and dance as a perfect platform to do this. He started a choir, which later grew to consist of a dance group and has now grown so much that it has a few aspiring rap artists!

My heart jumped for join when I watched them rehearse!  Children of all ages were involved in the dancing and singing. When speaking to the group leaders I learned that this was much more than a mere “choir”, but it was a movement within the community...fighting against drug and alcohol abuse, theft, violence, vandalism and teenage pregnancy. They focused on developing each child to be moral citizens who have the potential to reach their highest dreams.

It was such an emotional couple of days...sleeping in a soaking bed, getting electrocuted, being fed the greatest food by the most warm-hearted of people, being threatened from across the street, learning that no matter what your circumstances you can make a difference in someone’s life and that there are so many people out there (just like you and me) who need our help...I felt called to start something in the community, but not too sure what this space:p

I pray that you all have a fantastic week! And on a related note...just give God a special thank you for everything He has done for is SO easy to take things for granted! Just take a moment to reflect and give Him praise.

I’ll definitely follow this post up as our architecture group proposes an intervention that will hopefully benefit the community of Slovo Park!

Peace and Love everybody

1 comment:

  1. if you need some volunteers when you start your 'something' you have your first one! :) R