An audience of Palestinian refugees enjoyed the music of some of South Africa’s finest young musicians when the Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble performed in Yarmouk last month.
The 20-strong youth group treated the crowd at the Arab Cultural Centre to some of the 20th century’s most famous pop songs - from ABBA‘s Mamma Mia to Son of a Preacherman by Dusty Springfield.
UNRWA’s Nimreen Children’s Music Ensemble complemented the Buskaid group with traditional folk songs, to the cheers of the local audience.
The performance, supported by the South African Embassy in Syria, helped foster peace and understanding between the young people.
Thirteen-year-old cellist Katlego Legodi said: "For me this has been a very nice experience. Syrian people are very welcoming and friendly, and have one of the best cuisines I have ever tried.
“It has been very interesting to be able to interact with young Palestinian refugees that share with us a love for music despite our different cultures and traditions."
The concert gave the Buskaid performers the chance to exchange ideas, hopes and music with their Palestinian counterparts from the Nimreen Children’s Ensemble, part of UNRWA‘s education programme in Yarmouk Camp.
Hanlie Booysen, counsellor of the South African Embassy, said: "In South Africa, we believe in the inevitability of justice. Tonight this marvellous group of young and talented musicians is here to prove that through their craft, they can build bridges between both of our nations and give hope a chance."
The Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble was founded in 1992 by British viola player Rosemary Nalden, in response to a BBC programme highlighting the difficulties that beset talented young musicians in South Africa‘s historically disadvantaged communities.
Ms Nalden collected funds to found what became the Buskaid Soweto String Project in 1997, and with generous grants from South African companies and trusts, she was able to establish the Buskaid Music School in Johannesburg, which now offers specialised string tuition to nearly 90 students, aged 5 to 30, from the township of Soweto.
Text and photos by Diego Gomez-Pickering