If music be the food of love, play on.
If I’m honest, at the beginning of my time working for Ithemba Projects, there was no love lost between myself and the children of the Drop in Centre. My inability to communicate with them effectively, meant they pushed all the boundaries that one could push. If it wasn’t that they were screaming, then they were pulling the guitar strings, taking each others food, jumping up, eating crayons, trying to hug you – you name it, they crossed it. So this morning, whilst the African Rain was still pelting Hilton hard, I was mildly concerned when my colleague explained I would once again have the privilege of going solo to the crèche. She had a meeting, I took the guitar.
As Sweetwaters and Hilton are located on an escarpment, they are often covered in a dense mist, when the rest of Martizburg is enjoying sunshine which will happily tip 40 degrees. I had effectively deceived myself before I left – an African winter was more or less a UK summer. Therefore, I failed to pack both a rain coat and a jacket. With one real jumper, and a thin excuse of a jumper, two Primark cardigans and lots of t-shirts, I thought I was prepared.
Swaddled then, in seven top layers, long socks and jeans, I bravely entered the crèche, gingerly hopping over the spooling mud pool that had transformed into the welcome mat; having only one pair of trainers and two sandals, I could literally not afford to get my feet wet. The poor weather had created a poor turnout in the usual bursting crowd of children that I am normally confronted with. Yet the cries were still as loud as ever. So breathing, I said to myself – although you can’t speak isiZulu, they say music is a universal language – so play on.
Guitar out, capo on, loud voice at the ready, hacking cough kept to a minimum, I began. It is incredible, the power music has to captivate children’s attention. How creative you can be. With pretty much the chords, Em, C, G, D, Am and F in my repertoire (once in a while dropping a dodgy strummed C#m for luck), basic children’s songs and worship songs mutated into new chants. Throw in some dead chords and a regular tap on the body of the guitar and you have a drum beat, which means rhythm, which means dancing.
Although the children didn’t take part in their usual activities of painting and puzzles, and considering the appalling weather, the outside wasn’t even a near possibility, they got themselves into a neat train (stimela) so we could sing ‘Shoshloza’, before switching into Ageko o Fana no Jesu. And when my voice caught that didn’t stop them. Every song in my repertoire and then some was used, and the children came alive inside of it. Dancing, clapping, involving their teachers, playing games, eating quietly, talking quietly. Where cacophony normally shrouds the crèche, a serene peace was being spooled out at the strum of a few metal strings.
All children need is a but of stimulation, something exciting, creative, something new, and it opens up the world of possibilities that waits outside their wire fence, for them.
Prayer for Day 18: That as the Drop in Centre crèche grows and the teachers excel in their teaching skills, new and innovative ways of inspiring the children would be revealed. That the world of possibilities would enter the crèche and brighten their lives. That more music would find a way into education systems the world the over.