Wednesday, June 7th. It’s hard to believe I’ve been here a week. Time is flying by here, and I’ve already packed so much in. I set out this morning in an Uber to see Hillary again. This time, she’s taking me into the Manenberg township where friends of hers have been working in the community to address drug addiction. They’ve also started a small cafe to provide job training and income for the guys they are helping. It sounded like a great program, and I was eager to check it out.

We arrived for a prayer service. After some quick introductions, there was scripture reading, singing, and praying. The service ended with an annointing in preparation for a prayer walk through the township.

Manenberg is fairly different than the other township I’ve been to. Langa is primarily a Xhosa township, where as Manenberg was a colored township. Noticeably, most residents speak Afrikaans here. It’s also noticeable that there aren’t the same kind of shacks built from pallets or tin here. Housing isn’t as much of an issue. Here, the struggle is with drugs and gangs. I heard it mentioned that the government actually introduced drugs into the community as a way to undermine and control it before the the end of apartheid. I’ve made a mental note to research that more when I get home.

Our walk is lovely, and it’s rather a quiet day. Three months ago, a young man named Jaryd tells me, the violence was so bad he couldn’t even go outside his house. That’s when he picked up a guitar and started writing. Now, the violence had calmed down, but it’s still problematic.

I feel for the residents caught in the middle of the gang violence, especially the kids. These townships were built to be dependent on the city. There’s no business or opportunity. Kids have nothing to do so they end up on drugs or in gangs or both. Jaryd confirms this. For him, this group of people has given him an outlet for his music. The cafe is hosting open mic nights now where Jaryd plays. I tracked down the video, and the kid is good…untrained, needing some polish and education, but the passion is there.

When we get back to the cafe, I get the chance to talk with Patrick. He’s one of the organizers behind this group, and in charge of the open mics. I ask him what he needs, and he mentions it would be great to have a simple sound system so they don’t have to borrow it. Right now, whoever provides the gear is able to say who gets to use it which creates some issues of access. A basic PA, a guitar amp, some microphones. I’m making notes in my head, and adding up the cost.

I told Patrick to send me a wish list, that I couldn’t make promises, but I’d see what I could do to get them set up. But I see a greater opportunity as well. A few months ago, the South African Broadcast Corporation, South Africa’s version of NPR, began mandating that it’s stations play 90% South African generated content. There’s a demand for more good music by local artists. For those in the townships, the issue is education and access. Recording studios are expensive and all located in the main city, there’s nothing in the townships.

I’m interested in talking with them more, trying to get some of them training as studio engineers (on a basic level) enough to record and master their own songs. I’ve met some other contacts with recording studios that might make that possible. Once the education is there, I’m thinking of putting together backing for a recording studio in the township to enable young artists to build careers. It’s the kind of thing that has the potential to be life-changing, for those in Manenberg and for myself. I know that I have a lot of research to do, and a lot more work building partnerships here.

Go check out the Fusion organization for yourself.

Tuesday, June 7 in Cape Town. Today, I’m meeting up with Hillary again. She’s been kind enough to offer to drive down to Cape Point with me, the world where two oceans meet. But first, she’s arranged for us to meet with an acquaintance of hers, Joyce Scott.

We set out down the coast together around 9:30, heading straight to Joyce’s house. Joyce is an 80 something year old woman who’s face reminds me of my grandmother on my mom’s side of the family. She welcomes us into our house, and offers us tea. She also offers us the South African equivalent of biscotti. We sit down in her living room where a grey cat from the neighborhood wanders in and out freely while we chat.

Joyce spent years as a missionary in Africa, working in a long list of countries. She was a musician and music teacher, but along the way she realized that she needed to local music. “In Africa, anything important that needs to be said is sung,” she says. Without intending to, she has become quite the scholar of African music and ethnomusicology. The conversation continued, her showing us instruments, playing recordings, singing a few songs. We ended our time playing the amadinda together, a Ugandan xylophone of sorts.

Meeting Joyce was amazing. She has notes on songs she has learned in one of the townships, Xhosa songs. I’m trying to get back to her to copy her notes to transcribe. She also has an extensive library which she’s catalogued, and she was kind enough to let me photograph the list for me to look through later. At 80, Joyce has accumulated a wealth of knowledge that she wants to pass on, particularly to another missionary who will continue her work. I know I’m not the man for that, but I think working on those transcriptions would be a great way to help her.

After our morning meeting, Hillary and I continued down the coast to Kalk Bay. Despite being just a thirty-five minute drive from the heart of Cape Town, Kalk Bay feels like a separate world, the smell of salt from the water and a cool breeze blowing off the ocean. The main drive is dotted with little shops, and we pop into a few galleries where I saw some fantastic pieces. Eventually, we end up at a restaurant called Live Bait. It’s right on the water where the boats are bringing in the fish and hhe fish sellers are hawking them to people walking by. Locals fish off the pier. We have a nice leisurely lunch looking over the water, and time gets away from us.

Original plan was to get down to Cape Point. We managed to set foot there for a few minutes, and I snap some quick pictures before hopping the car to get back to the city. I’m scheduled to teach swing dance lessons tonight. It feels like the least I can do for this wonderful community that has taken me in this week. I teach classes on improvising in the dance, getting away from moves and steps, thinking about communicating rhythms. I want to broaden their view of the possible to return to them the gift that this trip is giving me.