Fiche Groupe
Musique Danse
The Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble
Afrique du Sud
Genre : Groupe de musique
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Buskaid is a charitable trust registered in both South Africa and the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1992 by British viola player Rosemary Nalden, in response to a BBC radio interview highlighting the difficulties of a group of young string players in Diepkloof, Soweto. Rosemary enlisted the support of 120 of her professional colleagues who took part in a simultaneous’Busk’ in March 1992 at sixteen British Rail stations. In two hours they raised £6000 for the benefit of the young township musicians. Since then several hundred distinguished musicians have participated in a further four’Busks’. Funding now comes from corporate sponsorship and individual donations, as well as from CD sales and performances by the Buskaid students.

The Buskaid Soweto String Project (BSSP) was established by Rosemary Nalden in January 1997 when she first came to work in South Africa in response to requests from the local Diepkloof community. Initially the BSSP consisted of some members of the original Diepkloof Project and a few new beginners. Since then it has quadrupled in size, and currently comprises approximately 70 students ranging in age from five to twenty-four, and all drawn from the less privileged local community. Sadly however hundreds of children have been turned away since the Project’s inception, owing to lack of resources.

Although there have been many remarkable events in Buskaid’s short history, perhaps the most extraordinary of these was Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s visit to South Africa in February 1997 to celebrate the opening of the new Project. Sir John Eliot spent a week in Soweto with twelve members of the English Baroque Soloists, working voluntarily with the young Diepkloof students. The culmination of this week of intensive musical activity was a concert in which each Buskaid student played alongside one British musician with whom he or she had studied for the entire week. This unique event not only raised awareness of Buskaid’s activities, but also highlighted the great potential that music has to unite communities of widely differing culture, education and environment. Since then Sir John Eliot Gardiner has conducted the Ensemble at two major public concerts in London (1999 & 2002) and plans for a similar event are currently under discussion.

In the six years of its existence, the Buskaid Project has produced a string ensemble with a formidable reputation for high standards of performance and a sophisticated grasp of musical style. As a result, it has become widely sought after for a variety of functions, many of which are of an extremely prestigious nature. These include appearances with a number of international artists such as Steven Isserlis and Bernarda Fink, several performances in the presence of Nelson Mandela and President Thabo Mbeki, as well as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Duke of York.. To date the young musicians have generated nearly R1 million for the Buskaid Trust through such events.

By mid 1997 it had become increasingly evident that the tiny church office in Diepkloof, which was the Project’s only teaching location, was far too small to house the ever-growing number of talented youngsters eager to join the Project. No two teachers could work simultaneously unless one was prepared to teach outside – an arrangement wholly dependent on favourable weather conditions! A lengthy search for new premises finally led to the procuring of a suitable site in Diepkloof for a purpose-built music school. The funding for this unique project was provided by South African trusts and companies. The building, which consists of seven studios, a music library and a large rehearsal room, was opened in early 1999 and is a thriving hub of activity in the community.
Over the past five years the Buskaid Ensemble has toured internationally ten times, performing with huge success in the UK, France, the USA, Ireland, Holland, Germany and New Zealand, and as guest artists at the City of London, Cheltenham and New Haven International Festivals. Its first visit to the USA was hosted by the actress Gillian Anderson who is a loyal supporter of the Project and whose fans have organised a number of fundraising events for the benefit of the Buskaid Trust.

In 1998 the young musicians recorded their first CD, an album of Christmas Carols. Buskaid’s second CD Soweto Dance was released in South Africa in 2000 and several thousand copies of both have already been sold. In the course of its 2002 tour to Europe, the Buskaid Ensemble recorded its third CD of its own township kwela arrangements, Tshwaranang (‘Unity’), at the Snape Maltings in Suffolk. Tshwaranang was released in South Africa in July 2003 and has been warmly received worldwide. It is now available online. A further CD, Buskaid Live!, a compilation of live international performances, will be released in 2005, whilst Buskaid’s fifth CD (of popular 80’s hits) which was recorded in July 2004, will also be released in 2005.

In 1999, Rosemary Nalden won the Shoprite Checkers SABC3’Woman of the Year’ Arts and Culture Award, whilst later that year the BSSP won the Arts and Culture Trust (ACT) Award for best Cultural Development Project. Most recently Rosemary Nalden was awarded an MBE in the 2002 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, and the University of Auckland’s Distinguished Alumni Award, 2002. In 2003 the Project was named joint winner of the Most Successful ACT-funded Project.

In 2002 two innovative programmes were successfully launched. The first was a teacher-training programme for a group of BSSP senior students, who now assist Rosemary Nalden and Sonja Bass on a regular basis, and the second, an’in-house’ instrument repair project, run by Sonja Bass, who has received specialised training from J&A Beare, the highly reputed British violin repairers. In October 2002, Sonja spent a month at the Newark School of Violin Making and in Beare’s workshop, working alongside top UK instrument restorers.

In April 2004 the Ensemble visited Dublin to perform at the South African Embassy’s 10th Anniversary celebrations, and to present a public concert in the National Concert Hall. A few days later, the Buskaid String Quartet flew to Germany to perform in the presence of the German Chancellor and Mrs Zanele Mbeki. In June twenty-seven members of the Ensemble travelled to Holland to present a series of workshops and concerts on an exchange with Dutch teachers who visited Buskaid in February. From Holland they travelled across to the UK for further recording sessions, and two highly successful concerts for the City of London and Cheltenham Festivals.