My friend Peter, who lives in South Africa, wrote this account about a group of Cape Town street musicians who performed at the opening day of the World Cup:
From Street Corners to the Big Stage – A World Cup Success Story
As any Bafana striker will tell you, when your moment comes, seize it. For the four young men from Masiphumelele near Fish Hoek, who as ‘Cape Velvet’ sing opera and traditional African songs on the streets of the South Peninsula, the opening day of the FIFA 2010 World Cup turned out unexpectedly to be ‘their moment’.
Three months ago the City, cleverly spotting a developmental opportunity, contracted the Performing Arts Network of South Africa (PANSA) to find talented local performers who were not yet ‘big names’, to entertain visitors and Capetonians during the World Cup month. PANSA did an extraordinary job, unearthing many more artists than anyone had anticipated. Cape Velvet made it through the final auditions and were thrilled to be given a number of engagements, starting on Day One, Friday 11th June.
A chilly dawn found them at their first designated venue, the Park and Ride at Century City – alone, with only the car park attendant for company. The City had hoped commuters would be glad to park their cars and take the train instead of sitting in traffic, but nobody seemed to have told the commuters. Cape Velvet sang on in high spirits regardless. After all, this was it! They were singing for the World Cup! Their time up, they headed into town to wait out the day until their evening gig along the Fan Walk.
On the way they talked admiringly of the musicians who had starred in the opening concert at the Orlando Stadium. “I learned a lot from them”, said Masibulele, the group’s musical leader. “The good ones were the ones who really performed for their audience, took the audience into their hearts. The rest just sang or played.”
His musings were prophetic. Little did he know how valuable this lesson would be.
Just before 11.00 the organizers of the Fan Fest at the Grand Parade called. “Are you guys anywhere near the centre of town? We need you here.” The well-known local band that were due to perform for the crowd at 11.45 had come unstuck. A short taxi ride later a stunned but excited Cape Velvet were being given their security passes and shown into the VIP artists’ tent.
On stage the resident DJ was whipping the 17,000 vuvuzela-wielding fans into a frenzy with complex questions like “Do we support Bafana?” You might think the prospect of stepping out in front of such a crowd would be enough to frighten off these not very worldly youths from the townships whose biggest previous audience had been 200 sedate music lovers in a Fish Hoek school hall. You would be wrong. Though still in shock they realized they had a job to do – decide which songs to sing.
Ditching their more soothing classical numbers they went for livelier African numbers, ending their first session with ‘Nessun Dorma’, the stirring tenor aria made famous by Pavarotti at the 1990 World Cup in Italy. The audience loved it, even resting their vuvuzelas a while. The group’s confidence soared – they were transformed. Masibulele, drawing on his lesson from the stars, worked the audience like a pro. With ‘Shosholoza’ Cape Velvet took the crowd into home territory and they sang along willingly. Their closing rendition of ‘Nkosi Sikelel i’Afrika’ brought every voice on the Grand Parade to a triumphant crescendo.
In the artists’ tent afterwards the transformation was reversed, as it must always be. Akhona Fuzile, Mzukisi Diniso, Mbuso Diko and Masibulele Malima sat in a daze, uninterested in the food laid on for them. They were still digesting the crowd and the intense relationship they had formed so fleetingly with them. The scale of what they had done would take a while to sink in, and they now had an opening match to watch.
Mentor to Cape Velvet since they formed in late 2008