Soweto Sounds: Cross-border Collaborations

A chance meeting between Ruth Daniel of In Place of War (IPOW) and Malose Malahlela of Keleketla! saw the creation of a project that would result in legacy lasting beyond a week cross-border collaboration. Working with creativity and music in places of conflict or communities with conflict, IPOW organises music collaborations between famous international artists and local musicians as well as education programmes that help develop skills and share ideas around creative entrepreneurship. These two aspects, musical collaboration and training, aim to help people in those communities take their creative or music talent and make it into something more sustainable.

The creative entrepreneurial programme developed by IPOW is based on work they have done in 40 countries looking at examples of innovation and best practice. Having come to Johannesburg in November 2016 for the first round of training IPOW will be returning in September to continue their work, this time with the aim of embedding the training in Soweto. “The idea is not that we would always come out and train people in the programme but that we would train trainers in the programme,” explains Ruth Daniel.

Home to this training will be Trackside Creative, a studio in Soweto which also played host to the musical collaborations of Soweto Sounds. The goal is that those trained in the programme will be able to take it out to the wider community around Trackside Creative. In support of this IPOW has also secured music studio equipment from various sources in the UK including a mixing desk from London’s iconic jazz venue Ronnie Scotts to further enrich the creative possibilities as Trackside Creative.

Along with creative entrepreneurial training, September will also see IPOW bring across more musicians – including DJ Yoda and hip hop artists from Brazil – for more collaborations, sound engineers to train the use of the studio equipment and activists from the UK and #BlackLivesMatter activists from California for activism workshops.

The musical collaboration which took place at Trackside Creative at the beginning of the year saw the worlds of electronic music and jazz, and artists from the UK and South Africa meeting to create new, experimental works of music. The experimental Johannesburg based label Mushroom Hour Half Hour organised the South African musicians which included Thabang Tabane on percussion, Sibusile Xaba on guitar, Tubaist Mpho Moloi on vocals and flute, Tally Ngove on the bass, Nono Nkoane on vocals and Dion Monti as sound engineer. Joining them from the UK were electronic music pioneers Coldcut. The 5 day collaboration resulted in the production of 7 new works of music which will be released on Coldcut’s infamous underground electronic label Ninja Tune. The week of collaboration culminated with a performance of the works at King Kong in Johannesburg.

Beyond the week of musical collaboration and the release of the music, there are musings about touring the collaboration. For now though the South African musicians that took part will be heading to the UK in August and September for a number of performances at summer festivals. Of the musicians, vocalist Nono Nkoane will also be taking part in a special collaboration in the UK alongside 9 women vocalist and producers from Zimbabwe, Ghana, Venezuela, Brazil and across the world. The project entitled GRRRL sees these women coming together to tell their collective stories of life, conflict, inequality and change through music. Fusing together sounds of dark techno, ghetto bass, hip hop, dancehall, reggae, soul and electronica this will be dance music packed with purpose and a message to tell.

Through Soweto Sounds, IPOW and Keleketla! have created a project that has a legacy which extends beyond training workshops and collaborations and has grown into something larger with a life of its own. Aiming to help empower the musicians at Trackside Creative and its surrounding community, the project is helping to change the possibilities for creatives in Soweto, Johannesburg and South Africa at large.

Photographer: Dwayne Innocent Kapula
VideographerJonathan Kyriakou


Coldcut – Electronics- UK

Thabang Tabane – Percussions
Sibusile Xaba – Guitar
Tubatsi Mpho Moloi – Vocals & Flute
Gally Ngove – Bass
Nono Nkoane – Vocals
Dion Monti – Sound Engineer
Co-curator: Mushroom Hour
Organisersed by Keleketla! Library & In Place Of War

‘This article forms part of content created for the British Council Connect ZA 2017 Programme. To find out more about the programme click here.’

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