THE CITY HALL SESSIONS: Concerts Where Music Celebrates Freedom

Music is a universal language that brings together an entire social spectrum around human fairness. The City Hall Sessions is an annual musical festival that first came about to celebrate South Africa’s first post-apartheid elections in 1994. From then on, each 27th of April the City Hall Sessions take place to celebrate what today is known as Freedom Day. These concerts are definitely a taste of diversity, inclusion and freedom.

As an example of this cultural diversity, take a look at this beautiful performance of Amaryoni-Azapella. This South African-a capella band is strongly influenced by the Is’cathamiya and gospel styles becoming very popular amongst the people of townships.


On December 5th 2013 the Nobel Peace Prize and freedom fighter Nelson Mandela passed away. He was a man that changed the world forever achieving what no other leader could make possible in human history. In 1990 he was released from jail after spending 27 years in Robben Island. He ran for the presidential election in 1994 becoming the first black president of South Africa.

Built in 1905, the City Hall is not only the home to the Cape Philharmonic Orquestra but also the host of the music festival. This beautiful cultural space and auditorium has been seen across the world. It was the place where Nelson Mandela addressed a crowd of over 100,000 supporters from its balcony after his release from prison in 1990. I’m pretty sure that the 2014 festival will be full of thrills and many events honoring Mandela’s memory.


These series of concerts started in 2011 bringing to the city a unique blend of the best musicians from Africa and the rest of the world. The objective of this program is to showcase Africa’s both social and musical diversity. The City Hall Sessions are trying to establish Cape Town as a center of cultural innovation and appreciation for people in Africa.  This local festival is becoming more global every year building stronger connections between musicians, music industry and the Capetonians.

The local-Capetonian composer, pianist and extraordinary jazz musician, Paul Hammer remembered in a comment the local social environment when he was music student during apartheid days.

“I was a music student at UCT (University of Cape town) and we used to get cheaper tickets to come on a Thursday night to the Philharmonic concerts in the City Hall. But my father didn’t want me to come. He said, ‘There’s a permit for this place to be open to people of colour,’ [people of colour needed to be permitted access to public buildings during apartheid]. And I retorted, ‘There is a permit at UCT for people of colour to be there.’ And he said, ‘Well, that is for your education.’ And I said, ‘This is also for my education”.

In 2013 he played his music for the city hall sessions. Enjoy this amazing performance:





The “City Hall Session” is a project developed for Creative Cape Town, which is a Cape Town Partnership program and supported by the National Lottery Development Trust Fund. The company Making Music is in charge of the technical and organizational production of the event. The prestigious local-producer and music documentarian Steve Gordon is the head coach of the festival.

The festival has had many performances of very well-known African and world musicians  such as Ray Lema (Democratic Rep. of Congo), Didier Awadi (Senegal), Steward Sukuma (Mozambique),  Chico César (Brazil), among others.

In 2012 one of the most representatives of the Pan African musicians, Ismaël Lo from Senegal played one of his most popular songs “Dibi Dibi Rek”.  He fills the stage with his Afropop and reggae rhythms in a sold out concert. This video shows his brilliant performance with the Cape Town group “Azania Ghetto Sound” in support.





I think this kind of festival provides not only the opportunity to enjoy the musical performances of a different bunch of musicians, but it also brings important benefits for the people of Cape Town promoting social cohesion. This remarkable effort of social and spatial reconstruction after apartheid is the main objective of Cape Town partnership.


We’re giving musicians a much-needed platform (medium-sized performance venues in the city are few and far between), creating jobs in the industry, and using the medium of music to help create new citizen memories in a historic city space” Cape Town Partnership CEO Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana.








AFRICAN MUSIC #5: Music in Africa – Getting creative and proactive in this changing decade


It’s obvious but not evident to everyone. Music from Africa has a lot to offer to the world, however not too many business’ eyes are on the ambitious project of making this big.


There are though, organizations and people that make the exception. Let’s take a look at two….


‘Africa unsigned’  is a joint initiative by producers, artists, music promoters and managers who believe in the future of African music. Currently there are approximately thirty people involved across the globe. They have presence in Europe, in South Africa, West Africa and in East Africa. It possesses an Amsterdam based website and uses crowd-funding, the known method which allows people to pool their money online to raise money. The funds are directed to African and Africa diaspora musicians that you cannot find in record stores, commercial radio or local versions of MTV. Most of the site’s visitors are from Europe and America, but now Africa Unsigned is targeting the continent. They’re targeting mobile phone users. Kenya is one of its firsts targets for revenue reasons.

Music in mobiles is unique here in Africa because there are more mobile phones than toothbrushes!! Sounds funny, but it’s true. People like music and mobile is one way they can take their music with them wherever they go. Since not so many people have Internet on a computer, and more have access to Internet on their phone, there is a huge opportunity.  This has given rise to content that consumers from the African continent might really start to like. It is to these growing consumers that we are making more content available, by bringing them music on their mobile in a sustainable and rewardable way for the creators/artists and record labels.


‘OkayAfrica’ on a different perspective is a web-based organization that links the latest news on politics,culture and music  coming from Africa and the Diaspora. They even have projects placed in kickstarter to do fund-raising. Find in this website blogs, news, music, political opinions, etc…

On a final note, (according to one of the 2011 blogs by popular BEOBAB), “Artists are making music, but are conscious of what their role is, wanting Africa to be different than the Africa they have known.”

Let’s be creative to help new sounds find their way though all ears. Let’s use music to change the continent of Africa! Or should we just say.. continue to do it.. there’s a lot of effort back there and the sounds are already around the globe…..

AFRICAN MUSIC #5: Zangalewa, Zamina or Waka Waka?


Who would have thought that the song featured by Shakira con the 2010 World in South Africa was part of the repertoire to soldiers and boy scouts in Cameron? The rhythm is for sure catchy and it served as a song march for many years. Zangalewa is a 1986 Camerronian song that sometimes is called Zamina. So let´s take a look at what happened in the music world?

The Golden Sounds of Cameroon composed this piece in the mid 80´s. The song features Zolani Mahola of the South African group Freshlyground, singing in one of the official languages of that country, Xhosa.

There was a speculation that a dominican Wilfrido Vargas singer wanted to sue Shakira for the chorus of Waka Waka, which was no as well his original work. But much important than this, is that the original author of the work knew about the infringement of the copyright at the moment of the World Cup back in mid 2010. Did the major label play nasty against a minor artist? I wouldn´t discard the work of Shakira or even the producers, which truly brought to life a great remake of the song; However that song could have meant a lot to the people in Cameron. Is it fair to use someone else’s work if this has a strong and deep meaning for them? So it’s not only about copyright. Similar cases such as Lambada used by Jennifer Lopez in her release “On the floor” had a fair use because there was no copyright infringement. Whether the brazilians liked the sudden mainstream of this catchy phrase or not is another topic of discussion.

In July 15, 2010, an article in Africa was released discussing why an african artist was not chosen to perform in the World Cup of the same continent. Later on, many africans, the Golden Sounds band accused Shakira of copyright infringement and demanded compensantion for the use of the music. Actually, another artist Kéké Kassiry from Cote D’Ivoire, which claimed to have registered the song in France,  said that the song was originally his.

There’s not enough information on the case whether it has been solved or not but what do you think readers? What can be changed in the music industry to make it fair for everyone? Businessmen with power in the music industry can sometimes do whatever they want, but where is this going take us?