Musicians play for township children: Classical 'buskers' serenade cricket fans travelling to South Africa's historic Test match at Lord's

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Buskaid, the charity founded to help train young musicians in South African townships, raised thousands of pounds with performances around London yesterday.

More than 100 classical musicians, including members of the London Mozart Players and London Sinfonia, took part in the day-long event, with recitals at Victoria and Euston stations, the Covent Garden piazza and Broadgate in the City.

Cricket fans arriving at Lord's for the opening of the first England-South Africa Test in 29 years were also entertained by a flautist and cellist at St John's Wood Tube station.

Rosemary Nalden, chairwoman of Buskaid, said this year's event had been timed to coincide with the historic sporting occasion.

'We thought it was such a significant event; it shows how much things in South Africa are changing, she said.

Ms Nalden, a professional viola player from Hampstead, founded Buskaid in 1992 after hearing of Soweto-born violinist Kolwane Mantu's work in teaching music to children in the township.

Mr Mantu studied at the Royal Northern School of Music in Manchester, but abandoned a promising career in Britain to return to South Africa. Despite a desperate shortage of instruments and sheet music he founded the African Youth Ensemble, South Africa's only black classical orchestra. Some of its members performed at Nelson Mandela's presidential inauguration earlier this year.

Buskaid started with Ms Nalden asking a few friends to perform free of charge to raise money for Mr Mantu. A total of pounds 16,000 was collected, and the project later became a registered charity.

Ms Nalden will use the proceeds from this year's event to buy items from a musical shopping list supplied by Mr Mantu. In 10 days' time she will fly to South Africa with the first consignment, including 50 violin bows, two violas, assorted metronomes and music cases, and 16 brass instruments donated by Kneller Hall, home of the Royal Military School of Music at Twickenham.

According to Ms Nalden, the music projects have a vital role in the townships, giving a sense of self-worth and aspiration to children living in grinding poverty. She points to South Africa's strong choir culture as a way in which music can be both a form of self-expression and of protest.

'People might say there are more important things to organise in South Africa than music. I went to a township in Cape Town, and I have never seen such degradation. A man there told me that if you can raise people's souls and spirits the rest of life begins to improve. Music is a tremendously powerful way of chanelling energy into something uplifting; it can change people's lives.

'I have heard kids in Soweto playing string quartets and it is the most moving thing. As musicians, we know we are very lucky - this is a way we can help others to develop their talents. And people support it because they know that the money is going straight to the townships.

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