Music of the Cape Flats
Music of the Cape Flats

La la la la la laa, Won't you take me home
La la la la la laa, Back to old Cape Town
La la la la la laa, la laa ,la laa

The above is the refrain of one of the songs from District Six: The Musical, which was written by Taliep Petersen and David Kramer. It is a song which is a typical example of the music of the Cape Flats- very upbeat and catchy, with a strong latin (mainly Brazillian) influence. I suppose this requires some explanation.

It is surmised that the music of the Cape Flats has been strongly influenced by, amongst others, Brazillian music, mainly as a result of the slave trade which brought people from Brazil to Cape Town. How true this is, I do not know, but credibility is leant to the story by the fact that during the main holiday period (December-January), Cape Town traditionally has a coon carnival, similar to the Carnival in Brazil. The local term for the groups which participate in this carnival is "klopse" derived from the word "klop" (knock) and seems to be with reference to the beating of drums which accompanies the music played during the celebration, not unlike the Brazillian carnival. So yes, the similarities are there and the story may be true.

I know, however, from the time I spend listening to music from all over, that some of the more jazz-oriented music which originates on the Cape Flats, bears a strong resemblance to the Brazillian Samba, to the extent that songs even have titles which reflect this connection. For example, there is a song composed by Capetonian Tony Schilder, titled Obrigado Brazil which has the unmistaken sound of the Brazillian samba, but is not quite a Brazillian Samba.

The diversity of the music which I collectively call the "music of the Cape Flats", is reflected in the types of music and styles of the artists which have emerged. Ranging from the traditional sounds of Amampondo, to the more Western soul/R&B music of Vicky Sampson and the combination of opera and traditional songs of soprano Sibongile Khumalo, the Cape Flats has been blessed with a wealth of musical talent. Not to mention the numerous jazz artists like Basil Coetzee, Winston Mankunku, Ezra Ngcukana and Robbie Jansen, who have all contributed to the development of what is uniquely, South African jazz.
Cape Town has also produced some fine musicians, many of whom have reached international stardom. Probably the most famous of them all is Dollar Brand, also known as Abdullah Ibrahim, the world-famous pianist whose music continues to rejoice in the hopes and joys, as well as laments the hardship and suffering of the people of the Cape Flats, and indeed South Africa as a whole.

A song which deserves special mention, is one by Robbie Jansen and is called Freedom (I think). The song is not unique because of its overt political content, but rather because of the fact that it uses the language of the Cape Flats, to describe the quest for freedom. With reference to freedom, it says:

Ek soek hom ommie hoekie, ek soek hom ommie draai
Ek soek hom da ver, ek soek hom hier naby
Ek soek hom daboe, ek soek hom hie onne
Ek soek hom, ek soek hom

Translated, it means:

I'm searching around the corner, I'm searching around the bend
I'm searching over there, I'm searching right here
I'm searching up there, I'm searching down here
I'm searching, I'm searching

The sad thing about all of this, is that the music industry in Cape Town stinks. There are very few opportunities for artists to make a career out of their music, unless they leave Cape Town to make a name for themselves, usually in Johannesburg and sometimes internationally. Of course, once they've become famous, there's no end to the pride associated with the fact that they are "children of the Cape Flats".

A recent positive development has been the proliferation of venues which promote local music. The problem, however, is that most of them are quite small and remain relatively unknown. Yet, it is a beginning and it could lead to bigger and better things. In the meantime:

La la la la la laa, Won't you take me home
La la la la la laa, Back to old Cape Town
La la la la la laa, la laa ,la laa

Here is a tune that I composed and recorded.
I'm not sure that it is a typical Cape Flats tune, but it comes close to it.