Rosemary Nalden started Buskaid nearly two decades ago to give township children the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument. Being Rosemary Nalden, it wasn’t enough that the children just learn to play. They had to learn to play to world class standards. They did. What is more is that thrived on this demand.
Buskaid now has its own orchestra. The orchestra has played nationally and internationally and made many friends around the world. It has been declared to be one of the most inspirational orchestras in the world.
Every year the orchestra plays, amongst other numerous engagements, a concert at the Linder Auditorium. I was there on Saturday 15 August 2015, to enjoy their most recent offering.
Buskaid hasn’t changed much over the years. The organisation has grown, the players age range is wider with BMus graduates at the upper age range and younger children at the lower range (I understand that the pupils start from about four years old). They still play with passion, joy and skill.
The programme encompasses everything from French Baroque to South African township sounds. It is all played with distinction. I thoroughly enjoy the concerts as well as Rosemary Nalden’s somewhat didactic comments (this time mainly through the excellent programme notes). I was sitting next to someone who was attending her first concert and she was enjoying everything as much as I was. That is a tribute to the dedication and enthusiasm which is very much a part of these concerts.
Rosemary Nalden and her team now include instrument repairs and instrument crafting into their programme. Sonja Bass has taken this task on in addition to administration and teaching and now the programme employs young people who do this delicate work. It has grown now to the point at which instruments can be “Made in Soweto”.