While things remain the same during the colourful, vibey street parades, behind the scenes, the dynamic of the Cape Minstrel fraternity has changed drastically over time. The Kaapse Klopse has become the face of Cape Town and is more than just an annual parade in the Mother City. Its long standing history has helped shape the Cape Town culture to what it is today.
According to Cape Cultural writer for Independent Media, Moeshfieka Botha, the Cape minstrels has often gotten a bad name, by being associated with gang and drug activity on the Cape Flats. But these days, minstrel groups or bands has become the only safe haven for young hopefuls in the local communities of Cape Town.
“It is a safe have from the drugs, abuse and evil domestic circumstances that many youth fall under. This road march offers young children an opportunity to shine.”
Botha has worked extensively with various minstrels troupes in the local communities. From her experience, the bands offer members of the youth in largely poverty stricken areas, an opportunity to be a part of something that is both positive and uplifting.
The minstrel group includes musicians, often children from the local communities who are trained in the instrument of their choice. Generation through generation, these musical skills were handed down from the older minstrel members to the hopeful youth members. Groups often train throughout the year, in preparation for the Tweede Nuwe Jaar Parade in Cape Town.
Across the Cape Flats, neighbouring communities take a competitive stand during this time and compete for the top performers of the year. Each group has its own musical theme, colourful uniforms and contagious enthusiasm.
Many of the children involved in the minstrels find comfort in their group throughout the year. The regular practice sessions are sometimes the only time when they even have a plate of food to eat.
“In Lavender Hill, when the gangs are shooting and children are unable to attend school, the Minstrel troop go and fetch the children at home, brings them to a safe place together and provides them with educational lessons,” Botha said.
“People don’t realise that the minstrel practice is the only sense of belonging and family that these children have. We have got to acknowledge that our communities are not what it should be. We have children heading up households on the Cape Flats because their parents are out binge drinking or doing drugs. It is the band leader or the troupe owner who are the ones to stand in as the next of kin for those children.”
Botha added that the amount of energy and positive input that goes into rearing these young members of the troupes often go overlooked. VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)