Despite the hard road to becoming a full-time musician and busker at the V&A Waterfront, Danielle Astrid Didlof, known as Didi, was always drawn to music, and found a way to make it work despite financial setbacks.
Didi grew up in Kuils River and was active in church, where she was first exposed to music.
Her sister, Chrizelda, played the recorder and violin, and taught her how to play the recorder when she was 12 years old. At the time, they played in the church orchestra.
She was then inspired to play the violin but there were no formal lessons at school.
“A friend of mine recommended a violin teacher, so lessons were after school. I didn’t have money, so I ran an illegal tuck shop – selling chips, clusters and sweets – to pay for my lessons.” She auditioned for the Cape Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, but due to financial difficulties, she had to drop out.
“I couldn’t find a job, so I became a street worker, sweeping the streets of Kuils River to pay for lessons. After my contract expired, I did some odd jobs to do a few more lessons before rejoining the Cape Philharmonic Youth Orchestra months later.”
She also auditioned for the South African National Youth Orchestra, and played with them for four years, travelling through the country for workshops, lessons and concerts.
“Through the workshops, I was inspired to play double bass, and I couldn’t find a tutor, so I had Skype lessons with renowned double bassist Leon Bosch. It took months for me to learn – it’s a difficult instrument to play.”
She decided to study music at Stellenbosch University, but didn’t complete the diploma due to financial constraints. She instead studied marketing management at Boland College.
“My sister said I was good at selling things, so it was a good fit. I was also very shy, so the course was supposed to help with that.”
She applied to do a double bass course in Germany, but there was no more space in the class. However, someone dropped out, and she received an email to say a space opened up.
“I was reluctant to go because I didn’t have the money, but then he gave me a discount, so I knew I had to do it. I held three fundraising concerts and managed to make enough money to go. When she returned two weeks later, she landed an internship at the Baxter Theatre as a marketing intern.
“Although I worked in marketing, I got so much exposure to local artists who came to perform there. it was another world for me. I sometimes performed at opening nights and for corporate groups.”
After her contract ended, she became a full-time musician and partnered with singer and artist, Julian Wenn.
They auditioned for the busking programme at the V&A Waterfront, and have been playing there for two years.
Didi said there were many times she wanted to give up, mainly because of financial difficulties, but something just kept drawing her to music.
“It keeps finding me – I tried to do many other things – retail, call centres, but I always ended up with my music. Now I’m a full-time musician – its liberating. You get to play to people’s heartstrings and change their moods, playing healing music.”
She considers herself a versatile artist, however, when she is busking, she and her duo-partner Julian play conscious acoustic music and their own renditions of pop.
“Playing at the Waterfront, you meet many people – locals and international. Its also a great opportunity to expose tourists to local artists and show them what our history and culture is about.
“Busking is tough though, you just have to keep going, growing, learning, collaborating, networking and creating content, those who enjoy us buy CDs and stand to listen. It is challenging, but so much fun to see the results, adding to people’s lifes through music, happiness. Busking is a great platform for upcoming musicians to practice their art publicly.”
Busking had brought in enough money for the duo to produce and release their EP/CD, called Sound Journey: Didi and Jules, which they sell at the Waterfront.
Due to the national lockdown, the Waterfront has suspended the busking programme, leaving Didi and other buskers unemployed.
“We are trying to stay positive and create content to keep the mind active and the creative juices flowing.
“I’ve also been collaborating with other artists online. There is also the realisation that we need to better prepare for situations like this.
“As artists and community through this time we all should stand together, even our radio stations, supporting our artists,” she said.