WATCH | How music is creating harmony between rival gangs

Cape flats, join bands not gangs initiative founder (R) Karien de Waal.
Cape flats, join bands not gangs initiative founder (R) Karien de Waal.
Image: Beautiful News.

In the Cape Flats, rival gangs are experiencing unexpected harmony. While violence has infiltrated many of the neighbourhoods, composer and music director Karien de Waal is offering these communities an alternative.

JOIN BANDS, NOT GANGS is an initiative that empowers the youth to make music instead of giving in to the violent call of gang affiliation. “Music has the power to change lives,” De Waal says.

By initiating musical programmes within at-risk communities, the NGO gives people the means to explore other tunes of life.


“A gangster is thought of as a problem that needs to be solved,” De Waal says. “We come in and say, ‘No, you do actually matter.’” Picking up instruments such as guitars and drums, budding musicians can now contribute to a future without conflict. “It’s creating a touchpoint for peace,” De Waal says.

Since launching in 2018, De Waal has recorded songs with over 60 musicians to raise awareness and funds.

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Through her work, R150 000 worth of instruments have been gifted to the community so far, while one of the group’s youth members has obtained a bursary to study music.

Most importantly, De Waal is stepping into forsaken territories to mediate with melody. “We’re bringing hope to a community that feels that they’ve been forgotten,” she says.

But it’s Bolsen’s dedication and commitment that gives the centre its power. She sells slap chips every Friday to bring in additional funds.

As a successful alumni of the initiative, Bolsen has experienced how it changes lives. Now, she wants to be a foundation of support for the development of others.

“My vision is to create strong leaders,” Bolsen says.