Just over a year ago, a new home for music and creativity opened it’s massive wooden sliding door in Durban’s Rivertown precinct. While most of the Rivertown “urban renewal” project in Durban has pretty much failed, with spaces that were promised to become cultural hubs, like 8 Morisson and ‘The Shed’, laying dormant, there’s a space that’s been providing some of the best parts of what was promised by outside developers, and it’s run and owned by locals.
The Werehouse is a youth/lifestyle center and special events venue founded by Aewon Wolf (Arnold Phillips) and his partners Kruban and Santush. By day, the space is kind of a rec center for Durban’s creative youth. It’s a rehearsal space, there’s a fully equipped recording studio, a performance stage, and there’s access to musical instruments, Wi-Fi, and learning materials that helps youngsters to gain knowledge in their chosen creative field.
The costs of all this are offset by the place also being a for hire venue that caters to corporate functions, birthdays, weddings and other events in that vein, and also by hosting musical tours, listening sessions, album launches and a variety of gigs. So far I’ve hit up Muzi’s Afrovision listening session, Shane Eagle’s Yellow Tour, and Red Bull’s 3 Style finals, Lalela sessions, and a couple hang out sessions and braais. Each has had me eager to go back and see what’s happening next. It’s a comfortable space, not too flashy and not too rustic, but with touches of class and grit that give it character reminiscent of Aewon himself.
The idea for the space came to Aewon when he pulled away from the mainstream music industry in 2016 and sought a way to give back and help other creatives in Durban. This lead him to meeting two brothers-in-law, Kruban and Santush, who shared his vision of upliftment initiatives for the youth and helped him achieve it.
Since opening the doors of The Werehouse, Aewon has helped launch and elevate a number of careers and given a few young artists purpose. Artists like Cheesemanchild, who started out as part of the cleaning staff and now manages the place. Having this room to flourish by the space has helped him develop as both an artist and as a person.
While there have already been a number of hits and chart-toppers to come out of the studio by the likes of Khumz, Mnqobi Yazo, Garde, Earl Evans, Tim Lewis, Lil Parker, Kaien Cruz and a whole host more but it’s not just about sky-rocketing kids to success. The Werehouse has brought in counsellors and even a psychologist to help the youth at The Werehouse deal with their problems and take care of their mental health. There’s a holistic approach to things with a focus on mental and physical health that extends beyond just The Wolfpack X and Werehouse crew. The Werehouse also hosts a lifestyle training program that provides physical training sessions with qualified trainers, and info sessions by qualified dieticians and nutritionists which is open to the public every Wednesday.
Many venues have come and gone in my 15 years of attending gigs in Durban. Each provided a space that gave what was needed at the time, but failed to adapt to changing times and tastes. The Werehouse will have to avoid these same pitfalls if they want to succeed long term, but by investing directly in the future by giving others a space to bloom, The Werehouse will live on long after it closes its doors one day.