Eight young St Francis Bay musicians jetting off to China on a trip of a lifetime

Breaking…

By Bev Mortimer

Eight Sea Vista children in St Francis Bay and members of the local Marimba and Steel Band have been given the chance of a lifetime… a trip to China to play and entertain during the Chinese New Year celebrations in China next month.

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The pupils, all talented musicians aged between `14-17 with their 25 year-old leader and teacher, Sihle Dean Kalo, left Sea Vista this afternoon on the first leg of their all expense spaid trip to China. They have been invited by the Jincheng City Municpality to perform in the  Chinese New Year Festival in in February.

Tonight they are staying overnight in a in a Port Elizabeth Hotel ahead of their trip to China early tomorrow morning via Hong Kong.

There was immense excitement at the Talhado Chidren’s Haven at lunchtime today as parents of the boys came with family and friends to see their offspring board the bus to Port Elizabeth. For some of the band members this was their first trip out of Sea Vista.  Emotions  ran high and immensely proud moms and dads  almost cried in describing their pride and joy at  their children’s achievements.

 The trip has been fasciitated by the Sarah Baartman District Municipality in the Eastern Cape and Jincheng Municpaliuty in China. Apart from playing in ther band overseas, the eight pupils will also be taken on a tour of China.

The Marimba and Steel Band was established in 2001 to enable Sea vista children to develop their considerable talent for music. Over the years many youngsters from this disadvantaged community in St Francis Bay have been members of the band and have gone from strength to strength.

The unique sounds of the music they play have led to the band being invited to perform at weddings, parties and for overseas guests. They also play regularly at the St Francis Bay morning market and and at local festivals, such as the Port St Francis festival, aka Nautical Festival.

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The members of the band are from Talhado Children’s Haven in Sea Vista, which was started in 1998 by local resident Lesley Moore,  to address social, physical and educational needs of disadvantaged children in the St Francis Bay area.  Moore is still running the Haven  and was on hand today to help the pupils with last minute preprations.

Band leader, Kalo became a member of the band when he was at school. Kalo is now a competent teacher of the band and doing well for himself. He is also a volunteer worker at the Talhado Children’s Haven.

There is a strict condition that all band members must attend school. Apart from Kalo the member s of the band are: Logan Harels, Sagin Rhala, Abulelo Silolo, Ayanda Hlele, Jo-Andre Swarts, Balele Speelman and Bafana Santi.

In a statement , the Sarah Baartman District Municipality says it is is immensely proud of the group of performers who are going to China. “We trust the experience will be an enlightening one and will open doors for these youngsters. It is an honour for the district municipality to be able to afford these kids such a golden opportunity to explore the world outside of Sea Vista,” Executive Mayor, Khunjuzwa Eunice Kekana, Sarah Baartman District Municipality said.

In 2008, the former Cacadu District Municipality entered into a partnership agreement with Jincheng City Municipality, Shanxi Province, Republic of China. The purpose of the agreement was to find ways of alleviating three major challenges within the District, namely unemployment, poverty and inequality.

Over the following years a number of areas were identified for co-operation between the two entities, including economic development, technology, skills development, health care, education, sports and culture. Chinese delegations from Jincheng City have visited the Sarah Baartman Municipality area.

During a recent visit visit, a MOU was signed, committing to the facilitation of a mutually beneficial learner/student exchange programme. In August 2016, a delegation of 20 from Jincheng City arrived, comprised of 15 students, 2 teachers and 3 municipal officials.

This delegation spent time in the Kouga area in particular and was treated to a performance by the marimba and steel band from Sea Vista. The Chinese were apparently bowled over by the talented Sea Vista musicians and invited this group to perform in the Chinese New Year  festivities next month.

The City of Jincheng is located in the southeast of Shanxi Province, in the north of China. It is an industrial city, with coal mining being an important industry.

The population is approximately 2.2 million strong. The presence of such a large coal industry has given Jincheng a reputation for air pollution and in recent years the local government has invested heavily to promote better air quality in the city. This includes tree-planting, establishing and maintaining large parks and ecological reserves, shutting down or relocating some of the worst-polluting factories, and the generalized use of coalbed methane, which burns much cleaner than coal.

Article and Photos by Bev Mortimer, St Francis Chronicle ©

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