In 1999, the Little Giants Music Project was established by two well-known jazz musicians, Ezra Ngcukana and George Werner. The Little Giants became, and still is, a performing Afro/Jazz youth Big Band. The initial purpose was to provide youth from the townships of Cape Town with a positive outlet for their talent and potential. By teaching these teenagers their own arts and culture, the group provides an alternative to drug abuse and negative activities in the townships.
While this group was skilful and successful, it was difficult to find new young musicians as the older ones move on. The problem was that there was no music education at a primary school level in these disadvantaged areas. In 2007, the Institute for Music and Indigenous Arts Development (IMAD) was created to address this.
The organisation’s vision is to develop music and indigenous arts. With a mission to provide accessible music and indigenous arts education to all. Their strategy is to engage in grassroots programmes (schools and local communities), to develop people (tutors and learners) and lastly to develop partnerships.
IMAD has implemented a five step strategy plan where in stage one music tuition is introduced in primary schools. In the second stage, they will continue to develop Little Giants a well established band under their organisation. In their third stage, they plan to build relationships with high school learners through their Saturday outreach programmes. In their fourth stage they groom their participants until they can go study further in the University of Cape Town or the University of the Western Cape. In their final stage, the groomed graduates can then pursue a career in music and become professionals.
Primary Schools Music Programme
IMAD runs weekly classes at two primary schools – Eluxolweni in Khayelitsha and York Road in Lansdowne. Experienced musicians teach the grade 4-7 children theory and reading, and to play an instrument – trumpet, trombone, sax, piano, guitar, bass or drums, and they have the opportunity to play in an ensemble. The repertoire concentrates on South African traditional, popular and jazz compositions, as well as other music genres.
In 2012, IMAD ran a total of 312 weekly classes at the two primary schools. In 2013, the organisation plans to run a total of 525 weekly classes at these schools.
This group of young musicians, aged between 15-20 years, from the suburbs and townships of the Cape Flats and greater Cape Town, have developed into a tightly knit integrated unit, bonded by their youthful enthusiasm and shared cultural experiences. Their repertoire of African standards, jazz standards and fusion, as well as their own compositions, has wowed the crowds wherever they have played.
The combination of traditional rhythms, solid brass and saxophone sections has provided the Little Giants with a big band sound that is not often found in community projects of this nature. In 2012, the Little Giants highlights were playing at the annual Cape Town Big Band Festival, at the Grahamstown Festival, at the Sekujalo/Edujazz festival, and as part of the French/South African Big Time project. The band continues to perform regularly.
Future Planned IMAD Activities
IMAD already has musical instruments which have been donated by different organisations and individuals. These are used for classes at the two existing primary schools. However, some of the children need to have loan instruments so that they can practice at home. Additional instruments are required to be loaned on the existing programme, for the extension of the primary school programme in 2014, and for the Saturday Outreach programme.
Relationships with High Schools:
IMAD is in the process of creating formal relationships with local high schools. This will facilitate the move to high schools with an established music department for talented graduates of the IMAD primary school programme. Once these relationships have been established IMAD and the headmasters of the two primary schools will brief grade six and seven parents about the different high schools to which their children might move, how to handle the applications, and if there are bursaries available.
At present, most of the children who leave IMAD’s two existing primary schools go on to a high school without a musical programme. IMAD’s intention is to start a Saturday morning music school in 2014 for these and other high school learners. The programme will be based at the existing two primary schools. It will use the teachers from the existing primary school programme.
This will add value and credibility to the work that IMAD does.
IMAD has entered into partnerships with four other local organisations – the University of Western Cape, ComArts (a community arts project in Elsies River), Christel House (another primary school in Ottery) and the EduJazz project. IMAD will assist these organisations by providing music tuition and workshops.
IMAD has also partnered with a French production, Big Time, a music project involving the youth of Cape Town and musicians from Paris. This is a two-year project for which IMAD will assist in the administration besides providing the youth component necessary for the project.
At present, IMAD is housed at the two schools. There is no need for the organisation to pay for teaching and storage space. IMAD has been allowed to use the facilities of these schools, such as photostat machines, etc. The instruments available have been donated by institutions and individuals.
From November 2009, the organisation acquired the services of Nick Green Consulting cc to handle IMAD’s administration. The administration costs are sponsored by Nick Green Consulting cc, and so all funds raised go to running the project.
To view the Institute for Music and Indigenous Arts Development in the Prodder NGO Directory, click here.