Cape Malay Choir Board singers recently returned from a trip to Kazakhstan where they shared the traditional Cape slave songs of their ancestors. Pictures: Supplied
Cape Town - Cape Malay Choir Board singers recently returned from a trip to Kazakhstan where they shared the traditional Cape slave songs of their ancestors.

Board secretary Ismail Ely said they were invited to perform at an international festival organised by the central Asian country.

A total of 500 artists from 23 countries performed traditional songs.

Ely said this was an “indication that music is a universal language”.

“Singers from different countries were dressed in their respective cultural clothes. Various people told us our Cape Malay music is unique. We were also very interested in finding out more about other cultures and countries,” he added.

“We worked with a Hungarian conductor who has been working with choirs for more than 30 years. When we spoke to him, he said the festival was all about social cohesion.

“We learned from this experience that we should empower our youth to read music.”

Cape Malay songs date back to the Dutch colonial period when slaves penned their own songs, which today serve as stories from that time. The songs were passed down from one generation to the next, very much like oral history.

One of the board’s young singers, Mujahid Isaacs, was part of the team that travelled to Kazakhstan.

“At first, it was quite scary because going to a foreign country is very different. But when we arrived, we were very warmly welcomed. The only difficulty was the language barrier.”

“We used our phones to use Google Translate. We would type in words so that we could understand each other.”

As the festive season approaches, the City’s Cape Malay choirs are readying for the annual Silver Fez contest.

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Cape Argus