Cape Malay Choirs: spectacle of magical voices

Every year, the Cape Malay choirs hold a competition to celebrate the best singing talent in Cape Town. Below is an article and photos that I had written in March 2013.

Written Yazeed Kamaldien
A “spectacle of competitive vocal magic” unfolded at the Good Hope Centre in Cape Town this weekend when the annual Cape Malay Choir Board announced Calypso Singkoor as the best singing team.
On Saturday night, Calypso beat seven other teams in the 73rd annual Top 8 singing competition for Cape Malay choirs. The other teams were the Continentals, Modern Boys, Ottomans, Shoprite Jonge Studente, Young Caballeros, Young Men and Young Zinnias.
Shafick April, the board’s president, said at least 5,000 people attended the event. He said they wanted to “achieve community upliftment” and that the event was an “enabler of friendship, tolerance, unity and inspiration.”
“We are not poor in wealth but rich in smiles and celebration… We are not stoned on narcotics but intoxicated with melody… Simply put, we are survivors and know how to deal with difficulty and overcome hardship,” said April.
Ivan Meyer, the Western Cape provincial government minister for cultural affairs and sport, said this was “an important event in the annual calendar of the Western Cape.”
“I’m inspired each year to see the depth of this culture. We in the Western Cape government will continue to support them. We give them financial support. We support them with solid music development,” said Meyer.
He could not immediately confirm how much financial support the provincial government gave the board though.
Spectators from across the Western Cape crowded the event venue. Moegsien Galant, a plumber from Grassy Park, said he joined a Cape Malay choir when was 14 years old. He is a member of the Violets choir.
“It’s part of my culture… This music and the Nederlands (old Afrikaans) songs are important to us. It’s what we have been singing all these years,” said Galant.
“I meet people that I haven’t seen for ages. If I don’t see someone here then I ask around where he is because he could be dead if he’s not here.”
Fauzia Mohidin, a health care consultant from Athlone, said it was her third time at the competition.
“I started coming because most of my friends who are very traditional. I’m not tradition but was interested to find out what this was about. When I came here I met lots of people that I haven’t seen in years,” said Mohidin.
She added: “This is part of the tradition for some Muslim families in Cape Town. I know people who are part of the choirs because their fathers and grandfathers were part of it. It’s been passed down from generation to generation.
“I don’t know much about the music. But it’s different. I’m intrigued by it. I learn about it every time I come. There are different facets to it.”
Daiyaan Toffar, a 16-year-old Grade 10 learner from Surrey Estate, said Cape Malay choirs and the annual competition was a “family tradition for us.”
“It’s exciting. I have been coming here since I was a baby. Young people are definitely interested in this,” he said.
“My father is part of the Young Caballeros team. It takes up a lot of time so I’m not part of a team. I have school and exams so I don’t have time.”
He added: “This brings family and friends together. It brings people who are rich and poor together.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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