A few members of the media have filed into the back of a rehearsal room at the second Amped Africa workshop, and I sit there and feel the goosebumps prickle up from my wrists to my shoulders. Oliver is one of the teachers in the vocal category of the workshops and the way she encourages a young girl to stop being afraid of her gift is touching.
There are many moments like this during my visit. Started last year, Amped is a youth talent development competition that targets high schools in Gauteng. Pupils from Grade 9 through to matric are given opportunities to showcase their skills in vocal (which includes singing, rap and poetry); dance; presenting and, as of this year, brand management.
About 200 schools were visited and, over a three-day workshop, the under-19 talents were whittled down to find the top 10 that will perform at Amped Fest - a concert that will take place in the last quarter of the year - as well as those who will compete in the digital voting competition.
Each of the selected performers in the different categories has already been assigned a manager and it’s fascinating to watch these young people in action. The managers sit in a room where brand archetypes and the personalities that belong to them are hung on the walls. Stars like Alicia Keys and Nomzamo Mbatha are pictured under the archetypes, which must inspire the young guns every time they look up at the walls.
The presenting room has an electric energy and the few pupils who get on stage show they are confident.
And if you factor in that they are from schools with varying economic and societal differences, it’s a feat to see how most of them consider themselves good enough to make the top 10 and maybe even better than their competitors.
Not all of them are born with that, as we see in the session where Oliver coaches a girl out of her shyness. Having teachers who are dedicated to seeing the pupils become the best versions of themselves is crucial to the Amped Africa process. It also showed in a session where the pupils went through what was called “Price Tag”.
These were cards that had varying morality and integrity questions that inspired the pupils to think about what kind of artist they would like to be, whether they win here or not. This makes Amped Africa a 360º workshop, where the youth are encouraged to push their passion and to hold on to their values in what can often be a soulless industry.
Amped Africa is led by Anthony Morgan, who has over three decades of experience in the entertainment industry. You may also remember him as a Coca-Cola Pop Stars judge, so if anyone knows what the talent competition landscape is all about, it’s him.
“As a business manager in the States, I had to do all the finances for artists,”Morgan said. “Basically, here we have people who want to be in the industry on stage and on the business side. We teach them what it takes to build a brand.
“Even if you’re a doctor, you’re still a brand. So now we have the creative side and the business side. They learnt all these things in the last workshop; now they have to apply what they’ve learned. Amped Fest was put together to give people a platform to showcase themselves.”
You can follow the progress of these pupils and see who gets to perform at Amped Fest through the organisation’s website: www.ampedafrica.com