Heritage Day, D6 vocal groups, and the museum that must not die

Chico Levy, Salie Daniels with The Playboys and, on right The Falcons, from left, Biba Petersen, Mana Petersen, Tommy Peters, Ama Petersen and Taliep Petersen. Click on the picture to enlarge.

Do the names The Ambrosias, The Playboys, The Falcons, The Splendours or The Emotions mean anything to you? They absolutely would, if you had any connection with District 6.

They were all singing groups who had their roots in District 6 in the late ’50s and ’60s before the apartheid regime uprooted the community and turned the area into a wasteland.

Today is Heritage Day, a day to remember and acknowledge our past . . . the things that mattered then and matters now. Heritage is about past tangible things like buildings and intangibles like customs, music dance sports etc.

For many, those singing groups are part of the heritage of people who lived there and who have passed it on to their children.

There wasn’t a stage show in the ’60s that didn’t feature any one of those aforementioned groups and others like The Telstars, The Rockets (not the pop band) and Hi-Lites. They would feature on the bill on that small stage at The Star Bioscope with the likes of Ebrahim Rodrigues, Ismail Parker, Vernon Saunders and budding stars Zane Adams and Taliep Petersen.

The Rockets vocal group, one of the most popular groups that came out of District 6 in the Sixties. [Elspeth Davids and Neesha Abrahams are the women, any help with naming the others would be appreciated.]

Those were great days for the D6 people. Life might have been a struggle for many but when it came to entertainment it was alive and vibrant. After a week-long slog on the factory floor, light relief on a Saturday afternoon was a stage show at the Avalon or one organised by “Sakkie vannie Star”.

It would feature their neighbours, their brothers or sons (daughters in some cases) but almost always someone from District 6.

Today, all those groups and entertainers and their venues have to be remembered because it is part of someone’s heritage.

There is no better institution that ensures people remember the District 6 heritage than the District 6 Museum housed in the old Methodist Church on the corner of Buitenkant and Albertus Streets. They have been doing sterling work for decades in keeping alive the memory of District 6 alive.

The museum, since its establishment in 1989, has been a cynosure for those who want to imprint indelibly in people’s memories the apartheid’s forced removals, be it District 6, Newlands, Wynberg, Claremont, Mowbray, is never forgotten.

Within its walls are mementoes and street signs bearing names of families who lived on it . . . Eckhardt Street, Pontac Street, Aspeling, Stuckeris, De Villiers . . . a link to the past but never forgotten.

A clipping from The Post in 1968. The Ambrosias in the group are Rashaad Craayenstein, Solly Junior, Gouwa Abrahams, Achmat Abrahams and Isgak Felix.

Sadly, this beacon of a community’s heritage is in danger of closing its doors, another victim of the flow-on effects of Covid-19.

The museum has relied, in the main, on donors and a steady stream of international visitors, who came to hear, first-hand from former residents of life in the area.

When the Government closed the international borders, the principal revenue stream dried up. It doesn’t get funding from the authorities, and in an effort to continue operating, it has launched a local and global appeal for people to donate any amount to help them keep their doors open. They would like donations to start at R50, the normal price of an entry fee.

Donations can be made by EFT to their Standard Bank account 0707 293686, branch code 020 909. The Swift code for foreign donations is SBZ AZA JJ.

Local artists, along with many other organisations, have joined the campaign to save the museum. Tomorrow (September 25) the Save D6 Benefit Concert will be live streamed on social media from the 44 Long Street venue. It will feature, among others, Madeegha Anders and her children Jawaahier and Ashur Petersen, Loukmaan Adams, Nur Abrahams, Jarrod Ricketts, Mujahied George and Claire Phillips. The concert starts at noon and goes to midnight.

Some of the performers have a strong link to D6. The father of the Petersen siblings is Taliep Petersen.

Nur Abrahams, one the top entertainers in Cape Town, is, of course, the son of Gouwa and Achmat who were part of The Ambrosias. He’ll be celebrating his heritage big time no doubt.

Tickets for the concert – R80 – is available until October 1 and can be bought here:

https://www.quicket.co.za/events/115443-save-d6-museum-benefit-concert/#/

I’ll be celebrating Heritage Day by tuning in and doing my bit to save the museum. As a proud Trafalgarian, I trudged to school from the station up Hanover Street and hung a right at Tennant Street, then left at Constitution and right into Birchington Road to get there.

Years later, I was to spend my formative years as a journalist working at The Post in Hanover Street, which is where I met The Ambrosias, Chico Levy and The Playboys, Mac Emeran and Colin Martin of The Splendours and a host of other performers who were local heroes.

You don’t know where you’re going in life unless you know where you come from. It’s all heritage.

To the international readers of this blog (and there are many of you, my site tells me that) please support this worthy cause. In Australia that R80 converts to $6.65, NZ is $7.19, Canadian dollar is $6.35, US dollar is $4.77, in the UK that R80 coverts to £3.75 and the Euro to 4.05.

All material on this blog is copyrighted and permission has to be obtained to reproduce any part of it. Pictures from Warren Ludski archives.

The Emotions . . . from left, Abduraghiem Leggett, Fatie Jardien, Abdullah Barodien, Mustapha Barodien.

The Splendours . . . men from top, Colin Martin, Bobby Jamal and Mac Emeran. Women, from top, are Denise Roman, Merle Hendricks and Joy Hendricks.

One comment

  1. What about the Harmony Kings. They played at practically all our our dances. I really enjoyed reading your article and had to fight back tears especially about how they demolished district six which, nobody but those who knew it, would fight back to make it a residential area once more.

    For sure the present government would not do anything about it because it means nothing to them. However, this article shows how much you were and still are involved with those legends. You and I and others are like the three wise men who came from “ afar” because we left South Africa yet we never ever forget our roots. Well times change.

    Like

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