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STEEL DRUM FESTIVAL (article first published : 2005-08-16)

Rhythmic music and energy will fill the air at Durban Botanic Gardens on September 10 as dozens of KZN learners beat large half-moon shaped steel drums. Eyes sparkling with concentration and vitality, they enter into good-natured competition with other schools during the much-anticipated Steel Drum Festival.

They are among 2,400 learners making up more than 90 different bands who eagerly look forward to their weekly lesson given by one of the six teachers of the Steel Drum Foundation.

Founded by professional musicians Bryan Clarke and Dobri Paliev, the Steel Drum Foundation was established 11 years ago to enable KZN youngsters to experience the multiple benefits of being part of a steel drum band.

“Anyone who expects the steel drums to sound like ordinary drums are in for a wonderful surprise,” said Bryan. “Although the action is the same – you beat the oil drums with sticks – they are far more versatile. They can produce any tune from Yellow Bird to Rock around the clock and the catchy island rhythm and rich tones make you itch to get up and clap along.

“What is so exciting about the steel drum is that it is so easy to learn,” says Bryan. “Using our specially developed teaching methodology, children with no musical training are quickly able to pick up the basic techniques. We can introduce a brand new song at the start of a lesson and they will be playing it quite well by the end of the lesson.

“We are changing lives here. The lesson is the high point of the week for many of the children, particularly those from impoverished backgrounds who have little opportunity for constructive and fun leisure activities.”

The annual Steel Drum Festival is one of the highlights of the year at Durban’s picturesque Botanic Gardens. Nedbank has sponsored the steel drum programme for the past four years and last year‘s festival was attended by between 3,000 and 4,000 people.

“Nedbank has been a longstanding supporter of the arts,” says Elizabeth Maepa, the company’s head of corporate banking in KwaZulu-Natal. “This programme opens up an exciting new dimension of empowerment and education for youngsters who would not otherwise be able to experience the delights of learning to play an instrument and performing in public. It offers young people accessible musical education, a constructive and healthy alternative to inactivity and so much more. We are delighted to be involved with such a worthwhile project.”

The festival will take place on September 10 between 10h00 and 14h00. About 35 bands will compete against each other for trophies for the best primary and high school band. Whilst the judges deliberate on the winners, members of the public will enjoy a performance by the KwaZulu Natal Youth Brass project.

Bryan Clarke can be contacted on 083 777 6762.




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