William Shakespeare in his book twelfth night writes “If music be the food of life, plays on” for many people music is like sunrise after a long night, it gives them something to look forward to. Consumerism teaches us that one’s music preferences are determined by their demographic, class or even race, for a long time society has dictated that young black people love hip hop, house or even pop and do not pay attention to other genres of music, which is why I was constantly teased about my love for classical music when I Was in primary school. My father would drive in to school every afternoon with music by Mozart, Igor Stravinsky or Beethoven and my friends would immediately start making jokes about how my dad’s music was the 18th century version of Casablanca, famous house music at the time. Since then I’ve often wondered if our choices are really made by us of if their dictated by the society we live in, do we enjoy hip hop because we love it or do we enjoy it because we’re socialized into thinking that hip hop or any genre of music is well suited for people like us and that we can’t allow ourselves to listen to anything else.
This project seeks to challenge the stereotype that one’s demographic, race or even class should dictate what s/he consumes. Classical music has often been referred to as a form of music created for rich, old, middle class white people and through the AYE I aim to change the narrative that classes young people in the townships as ignorant to other forms of art. I will use a series of portraits and still life images depicting young people who show immense love and dedication which is inspired by their love for good music.
In 2009 I was introduced to the African Youth Ensemble (AYE) which is based in Diepkloof. This is a young people’s orchestra which consists of young, black, working class artists from Soweto. This dynamic group of young people which was formed in 1987 by ntate Kolwane Mantu also known as Bra k. Watching these young people fill up the Diepkloof hall with their violins in hand led me to believe that perhaps I was not the only township resident with an unusual preference in music, children as young as 6 years old line up for lessons from Bra K who gives different classes to different age groups every weekday and weekend. They [play classical music and sometimes even fuse it with modern day beats and sounds, their smiles as the song reaches its climax and their exhilarating joy when they all play in sync is inspiring, it is a clear sign that indeed music is the food of life and thus it must always be played on, no matter what genre it is.