Handout : Rosa choir - OneBillionRisingEventGardensFeb2014

Cape Town - The discovery of a Xhosa and English translation of a traditional Afrikaans/Dutch song a few years ago sparked a musical project in Cape Town which continues to do its part in bridging the cultural divide.

The Rosa Choir Project was started in 2012 by the Cape Cultural Collective (CCC), which promotes social change in communities through musical projects.

Rosa is an iconic song rooted in Malay culture. The discovery of the translation started it all, said CCC co-founder Mansoor Jaffer.

“The discovery of the translated versions was really mind-blowing as it was an iconic song in the Malay community and it was moving to see it done in two other languages as well.

“The premise of doing well-known cultural songs in different languages was what got us started. Our goal is to bring people together from various backgrounds through song.

Choir members come from across the Peninsula - Langa, Mitchells Plain, Manenberg and Muizenberg. They are mainly drawn from the CCC, the Langa-based Umbon’omhle Community Youth Group, and the Bayestars Cultural Group from Lentegeur.

The songs they sing in all three languages include Daar Kom die Alabama, Mbube, I Believe and My African Dream.

Jaffer said the choir was creating a form of cultural integration that had the potential to destroy persistent apartheid ideologies. “We want to break down the barriers of the past, the mental and physical restrictions that apartheid exposed to us.

“We need more projects like this. Ones that have a diverse composition that transcends geographical, racial, cultural and class boundaries.”

The legacy the project aims to create is illustrated by three of its members, who have different backgrounds but share a common love for music.

Thulani Nxumalo, 39, from Langa, is a singer and is one of the founding members of the choir. He said the choir provided a window for people to explore and learn different cultures in their city.

“One thing that we have seen about Cape Town is that it is a very divided community. A project like this will not only bring people from different racial backgrounds together but help them learn each other’s languages.”

And the participants’ enthusiasm meant the initial difficulty in adapting was not a “big problem”.

Aziza Davids, 31, from Manenberg, is a music teacher at Saambou Primary in Manenberg and has been with the choir for a year. She is a lead singer.

“When they first asked me to be part of it I refused, but I eventually joined.

“You get to meet different people from different cultures and I am enjoying it. Rosa is like my new family.”

Mike Metcalfe, 52, an IT professional from Muizenberg, has been with the choir almost from the start and is a singer and occasionally plays the guitar.

“I absolutely love being part of this choir. You get to interact with people regardless of where they are from or who they are.

“Singing is a binding force that can unite people, and it is currently being done among ourselves in this choir.”

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Cape Argus