Buskaid – Soweto
20 years ago, Rosemary Nalden, British viola player and founder of Buskaid, persuaded distinguished musicians to busk at British railway stations to raise funds for a string project in a South African township. She now directs the thriving stringed instrument school in Diepkloof, Soweto.
The Buskaid Trust was founded in the UK in 1992 by British viola player Rosemary Nalden in response to a BBC programme highlighting the difficulties besetting a string project in Diepkloof, Soweto. Rosemary enlisted the support of 120 distinguished UK professional musicians who took part in a simultaneous fundraising “Busk” at 16 British Rail Stations in aid of the young African musicians. A number of similar charitable events were held over the next few years.
In 1997, Rosemary established the Buskaid Soweto String Project. Based in a tiny run-down church office, the little project was soon overwhelmed with requests from local youngsters eager to join. With rapidly increasing numbers, these facilities were woefully inadequate; and in 1999, assisted by generous grants from South African companies and trusts, Buskaid built its own dedicated Music School in Diepkloof.
The Buskaid Music School now offers specialised string tuition to approximately 110 youngsters aged between four and 30. Over the years the school has had to turn away hundreds of students through lack of resources. In 2002 Buskaid implemented a very successful teacher-training scheme and currently employs nine senior students as assistant teachers to Rosemary and Sonja Bass.
In fifteen years the school has produced an outstanding string orchestra that, through numerous performances and CD releases, has generated significant revenue for the Buskaid Trust. The Ensemble has toured internationally and in 2007 became the first South African orchestra to play the Proms
Whilst providing a first-class training ground for the exceptional musical talent to be found throughout the townships, Buskaid also challenges its members to attain to high standards in all aspects of their lives, giving them confidence and a great sense of optimism about their future.
Image credits: Graham de Lacy (boy, above)