Students from the Tshwane School of Music (TSOM) in South Africa were recently in Kuwait, regaling audiences with a series of contemporary jazz performances. The 27-member troupe of young jazz musicians was part of the cultural delegation headed by South African Deputy Minister of Arts & Culture Thizwilondi Rejoice Mabudafhasi, that arrived in Kuwait with the aim of strengthening bilateral cultural relations.
The music troupe performed at various venues across Kuwait from 1 April till 7 April, with the highlight of their tour being a performance organized by the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters to celebrate Kuwait being designated as Arab Youth Capital in 2017.
Speaking to The Times Kuwait in an exclusive interview, the CEO of TSOM Freddy Arendse discussed at length the music school, its activities and the talented young band’s experiences in Kuwait.
He began by pointing out that since its inception in 2013 the school’s goal has been to provide a creative outlet for students. “Music also enables students to better handle the social troubles in the country. Children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds are often affected by the social disorders that afflict communities in South Africa. We try to use music to bring about restorative effect on such students and help them deal with social issues, while encouraging them to work towards a purpose,” said Mr. Arendse.
“The school is not about creating the next Michael Jackson; our music program provides a platform to instill values and dignity in our students, and encourages them to persevere in their dreams. We want our students to think they can actually do something more with their lives,” he added.
Elaborating on the school’s music program, he noted, “We provide accredited music education to school children in the age group of 9 to 19. The students enroll for a very informal music program; they attend an instrument class, music theory class and an ensemble class every week. Then, each student gets to join one of the school’s bands. The essence of the program is that students can play in an ensemble and learn from each other as a group.”
Detailing some of the challenges in maintaining and developing the school and its programs, the CEO pointed out that though music and other arts were very popular in South Africa, the school was not subsidized by the government and hence had to build a sustainable model to fund TSOM.
“We are now in the process of looking for funding to provide better facilities and improve on the opportunities we offer at the school. We are also seeking partnerships with organizations in Kuwait that could help us upgrade the technology and facilities in our school,” said Mr. Arendse
Coming to the young jazz troupe’s performances in Kuwait, he said, “South African music is very international, and while traditional elements are there, our young students have an appreciation for a popularized version of jazz music. They are not tradition-minded and because of social media and globalization, they are exposed to a wide range of music styles. We too encourage them to play a variety of music styles such as classical jazz, different African-inspired popular music, and fusion jazz. We try to create a sense of diversity in our music performances. During the Kuwait concerts, the students played a combination of African sounds, but mainly contemporary jazz.”
“The band is trained on different music forms and instruments, making it easier for them to adjust and tailor their performances to make it entertaining for the audience. Though the ensemble comprises a bass, keyboard and rhythm section, as well as a choir, the students can carry the act as a soloist or perform together with few instruments. It largely depends on the venue and what instruments are available.”
“Our experience of Kuwait has been fantastic, and we got to explore a lot of local culture. Meanwhile, the children realize they have the responsibility to represent their country as ambassadors and the tour is also an inspiration to others. It will help foster enthusiasm and hope in all our students,” said Mr. Arendse in conclusion.