The Cape Town Arts Festival returns after the Covid-19 lockdown with the free inaugural Beyond Busking Festival Day at the Castle of Good Hope in partnership with the V&A Waterfront’s busking programme, on Saturday October 29, from 10am to 6pm.
The Cape Town Arts Festival – previously known as the Cape Town Festival, has taken buskers through a three-week programme that includes vocal training and stage presence, life coaching, song writing, guitar lessons, and music production. The result is the culmination of the Beyond Busking Festival Day.
“Artists and musicians are the Zeitgeist of South Africa as a nation,” said the CEO of the Cape Town Arts Festival, Yusuf Ganief.
“We want to change the perception of busking in line with international standards and celebrate the joy and diverse cultural flavours that our local buskers offer our city’s spaces, communities and tourists.”
The line-up for the day will include local music, mime, poetry, Zumba, yoga, Tai Chi, live painting, live sculpting, a wellness and food market and a Cape craft exhibition.
Mr Ganief said the idea for a buskers festival came to him when he watched Simon’s Town busker Machawe play his guitar outside a well-known Simon’s Town restaurant one cold winter night.
“ …I realised the need to create sustainable platforms for buskers and help them in a way that would make them more marketable, allowing them to move from street to stage performance.”
Charity busker Zanele Mdloyi from Khayelitsha auditioned for the festival and was chosen to form part of the programme. “I have had the journey of my life, and the programme has gone way beyond my expectations.”
Zanele, who has been a singer, songwriter and performer for the past 10 years describes music as “a calling which is deeply connected to my desire to uplift people”.
“Music is the vehicle through which I express my positivity.”
She said as a female busker, it was not safe for her to street busk, so she opted to avail herself to sing at charity or community events for free. “I think the The Cape Town Festival accepted me for my vocal potential and for female representation in the programme.”
She said while street busking did not work out for her, doing free events for the community, and busking in general, was as equal in value as performing on a stage. “Artists develop their performing skills through busking and get lots of opportunities.”
Engineer turned busker Abraham van Der Berg, from Vredehoek, said he was “honoured and excited” to be included in the festival. “I feel seen and appreciated. It makes me feel hopeful and by the community.”
Abraham had been exposed to music from a young age, singing with his parents and then in the school choir, followed by playing the piano, bass and double bass guitar as a teenager. He also plays the classical guitar and teaches ukelele – he created rainbow colour coded music educational resources as the chief innovation officer for Mobile Music Academy.
After studying engineering and working in the field for three years, he went on a sabbatical for 30 months, carrying his charango with him wherever he went, enabling him to work as a busker in New Orleans, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Cape Town. “Busking has enabled me to find connection and I’ve been supported by Vernon Kirsten from Busking.com and most recently the Beyond Busking Training programme.”
He has also played in National Youth Orchestra, which he described as a “great privilege”.
Since 2016, Abraham had combined playing he ukulele and harmonica while doing the hula hoop and has been working as a busker at the V&A Waterfront. “Busking is not about the perfect performance, its about using your art to connect with people in real life.
“The culture of busking brings the community together and provides a way for artists to make a living while enriching the every day life of people through musical expression and other art forms.”
He said one of the biggest challenges of busking is to stay positive on the difficult days. “When there is too much noise around you and people walk past you and you feel lost and insignificant.”
However, he said buskers are ambassadors of hope. “We have the opportunity and the excuse to make a connection with the people that we meet while performing.”
V&A Waterfront programme manager, Marco Morgan, said he believed the combined in-house knowledge and skills of both programmes will will create a new era of development and opportunity for local buskers. “Together with the Cape Town Arts Festival we aim to change the perception of Busking in South Africa and take our rightful place in the international arena.”
Both Zanele and Abraham encouraged young artists to pursue busking.
“If you want to be a busker, go for it. There’s so many opportunities out there. Ho after your dreams and never give up on it,” said Zanele.
“If you want to connect with the people walking by, you need to find a way to make your performance special for them. Find a message of hope to share and let your light shine.!
For more information about the Cape Town Arts Festival, visit capetownfestival.org.za