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Siyakhula Music Project, Umlazi Township

Siyakhula is a music project in Umlazi Township, near Durban, South Africa. It is led by the jazz trumpet player Brian Thusi and visited us the London Borough of Haringey in July 2001. This was a return visit, following Haringey's very successful visit to South Africa in 2000, where the drum group, orchestra, and big band met and worked with young musicians at a number of schools and projects. Siyakhula seems to have made a very deep impression on the Haringey group and we were very excited to have them here in the borough.

The project teaches brass playing along with singing and dance, to young people from about 8 years old to young adults. It is not a rich organization by any standards. The Haringey musicians on their SA visit were surprised to see instruments, some shared between several musicians, carried in in bin liners instead of cases.

They've did a concert at Kenwood on Hampstead Heath, alongside their Haringey colleagues and the Crouch End Festival Chorus. They make a fantastic sound and are clearly very dedicated musicians. They had another gig at Alexandra Palace and are did many other school visits and workshops.

Nqobile, the tiny nine-year-old who stayed with us during the visit, doesn't yet play with the band, but sings and dances. However, she did mention that she was learning the baritone (note to non brass players - a thing like a small tuba) and I asked her if she would like to play a little bit to me on our Eb horn (another one!). She's quite a beginner but has a GREAT sound and a really careful, thoughtful approach - she has clearly been taught to care about what she is doing with music and if this start is anything to go by is going to be a lovely player. I was quite moved by the few notes she played me.

Brian is not only a stunning, fantastic trumpet player but also a wonderfully charismatic leader. I would have gone to the gig just to hear him play anyway, but to get the sound of the whole group, the young players coming out to take solos, and the singing and dancing, made it a great afternoon with a really wonderful spirit. And that's why I wanted to raise some money to help them. (There is more about this on the "Neville" page".)

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