A trip into the township

August 6, 2017

This year I decided it was time to do another field recording trip and as I had recently received an offer to move to Germany for a permanent job I thought I would record something truly South African before embarking on my overseas journey.

 

The townships here in Cape Town are a huge mystery for most people because no one ever wants to go there. I had only been there on one occasion before and that was for a film shoot for a roadside safety advert.

 

Generally speaking there is a lot of violence, drug trading and simply just bad living conditions in the township and most areas are run by very established gangs that spread fear among the people there and are one of the main reasons why the townships are considered to be "unsafe".

 

Some townships however are experiencing an upswing of development subsidized by both government institutions and NGOs with the hope that more and more people can get access to clean water, electricity and that informal settlements can be converted into solid housing solutions.

 

One of these "developing" townships is the township of Langa.  Langa in Xhosa means "Sun" and it is one of the oldest townships in Cape Town. The community center in the middle of town offers daily tours for tourists as well as locals interested in Langa's cultural history. And you will be amazed at the amount of stories that this suburb has to offer: from the time of its foundation in the first part of the 20th century when it was created by the Apartheid regime to house black Africans, to the resistance uprisings in the sixties - this place has seen a rough century of violence and surpression but many generations later the suburb has evolved into a very arty hot spot in Cape Town and it is home to many creative workshops that are being hosted by local and international companies.

 

This suburb fascinated me and so one day I decided to  go on a guided walking tour with my friend Matthias who was taking amazing photos while I recorded the hustle and bustle in the streets. We had a very friendly tour guide who filled us in on the history  of the neighborhood he grew up in and how as a child he was forced into gang related crime. It really shocked me to hear that in those environments you sometimes don't have a choice to simply "walk away" from those things. 

 

I spent 2 recording sessions in the township and managed to capture a broad variety of different atmospheres -  a highlight came right at the end of the first tour when we came across a group of women that were busy preparing a meal  around a big cooking pot and were singing a Xhosa worship song - it was truly a humbling experience listening to their beautiful voices and improvised praise melodies! 

My tour guide even took me inside one of his favorite local shebeens which was basically just some person's living room converted into a bar that had a couple of benches on the side with a pool table in the middle!

 

The experience of learning about this suburb's history and finding out about the people who live there has inspired me to explore many more areas like these. The recording session was both a fun challenge as well as a perfect last project to work on while still living in South Africa.  The things you learn from such a trip will not only change your perspective on the world ,it  really leaves you speechless, humbled and wishing you can do more to help people that are in need.

 

The result can be bought on Asoundeffect for $20.

 

https://www.asoundeffect.com/sound-library/langa-township-ambiences/

 

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