Leslie Kleinsmith: Back home, ‘all wound up’, ready to rock Tietiesbaai

One of Cape Town’s finest . . . Leslie Kleinsmith knows how to work a crowd , and he’ll be doing that at Tietiesbaai next weekend and at two concerts around town in April. Photo by: Wilfred Paulse

Leslie Kleinsmith is back – in case you hadn’t noticed – and he’s “all wound up” ready to break loose at a series of big gigs in Cape Town over the next couple of weeks.

It all starts at the Jazz On The Rocks festival at Tietiesbaai next week when he fronts his first big public gig in Cape Town since moving back home from overseas late last year.

It will be followed by two concert shows in April: one at The Baxter and the other at Nassau Centre auditorium at Groote Schuur High in Palmyra Rd Newlands.

Leslie, one of Cape Town (and South Africa’s) top performers for decades, has been living and working out of France for the last few years, doing the popular cruise liner gigs around the northern hemisphere countries.

Leslie’s last CD, All Wound Up, still gets lots of airtime on local stations.

“Living in France and performing in Europe is great but it is always, always, good to be back in Cape Town. I’m in my comfort zone here,” he said.

Although he got back around December last year, he hasn’t rushed into accepting bookings, even ones at the height of the festive season.

“Moving house, especially from overseas, is a helluva thing,” he said. “Don’t let anybody tell you differently. Your whole world is just an endless line of boxes.

“I thought I would sort that out before accepting any new work.”

There has been the odd gig here and there to titillate the fans. He did the popular Sunday brunch turn at Winchester Mansions in Sea Point and he has a regular Tuesday nightspot with legendary pianist Sammy Hartman at Pigalle’s Restaurant in Sea Point.

Leslie will perform with jazz guitarist Darryl Andrews’ Big Band at The Baxter on April 9 along with – wait for it – Madeegha Anders.

It will be something of a “reunion” for the two. It will be the first time they will be performing together since their starring roles in District 6: The Musical back in 1987. Madeegha (then Velma Anders) played Mary, and Leslie was Cassiem, her love interest.

“It is going to be something special,” Leslie said. “We haven’t worked it out yet, but I’m sure we’ll be doing something from the musical. We have to, don’t we? Just for old times sake.”

Darryl Andrews is the senior lecturer in jazz at UCT and has produced a number of these very successful Big Band concerts.

The jazz concert at Nassau Centre is on April 28 with Sammy Hartman. That should be something special because a Sammy Hartman concert is such a rare occasion. And Sammy Hartman is special!

“I’m in awe of Sammy’s prowess,” Leslie said. “He is the consummate professional.”

At all three gigs, starting with Tietiesbaai next Saturday afternoon, fans can expect the normal mixture of jazz and ballads, including songs from his last CD, All Wound Up.

“I can’t wait for Saturday to roll around and see all those people on the beach and in the water, listening to the music. It is such a cool gig.”

Madeegha Anders . . . on stage with Leslie Kleinsmith for the first time in more than 30 years.

Songs from All Wound Up still gets a lot of airtime on local radio stations even though it was released in 1968.

Leslie still hopes to fulfil another recording dream . . . a compilation album of jazz standards backed by a full-on big band.

“I’d also like to do a concert like that. Maybe later this year when I can focus on things other than settling in to a new house.”

 

Related articles:

Leslie K . . . a man for all reasons

Madeegha Anders . . . ‘I am woman hear me roar’

 

 

 

 

 

Little Wing comes home to roost and ‘party like it’s 1969’

[Click on picture to see caption]

Little Wing, that popular band from the ’60s and ‘70s, is having reunion gigs next month and they want their fans from yesteryear to come and “party like it’s 1969” – the year that gave us the famed Woodstock Festival and Flower Power”.

It’s all happening over a two-week period in March when former members fly in from Australia to do two gigs at Kaleidoscope in Claremont, and the Royal Cape Golf Club in Wynberg.

All the original members of the group, bar one, will be onstage for the gigs and the repertoire has been worked out and practised in Cape Town and Sydney.

The New Beginnings band will share the spotlight with the group, providing depth to the whole initiative. New Beginnings has a strong following in Cape Town satisfying a need among older music lovers for songs of the ’60s and ’70s.

Back then, when Little Wing was packing out venues, the line-up was Mike Smith (guitar), Randall Bezuidenhout (guitar), Bernie Lawrence (bass) and Noel Kistima (drums), with Jimmy Engelbrecht on vocals. Mike, Randall and Noel are flying in from Australia.

“This is going to be one helluva party,” Bernie said.

[Click on picture to see caption]

“The guys are all aged 70 or hitting 70 shortly. Mike and Noel turned 70 in December last year. So we thought while we are all still alive and kicking let’s get together and have a party to remember. It will be a collaboration with New Beginnings of course, and with friends who want to join – the project is called Little Wing, New Beginnings and Friends.”

At this stage, for personal reasons, Jimmy had indicated that he would not be able to be part of the reunion.

“We have some good vocal talent in New Beginnings and, since Jimmy won’t be there, the New Beginnings singers will handle it. Jimmy is more than welcome to join us if he wants to do a song or two,” Bernie said.

“It’s 50 years since the three-day Woodstock festival in 1969. Those were good times. Our repertoire will be the same songs we played back then – Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Mountain, Eric Clapton and we’ll segue into the Earth Wind and Fire stuff when everybody is on stage.

Randall Bezuidenhout

The opening nights are March 16 and 17 (Sat and Sun) at Kaleidoscope in Claremont and the following weekend, March 22, at the Royal Cape Golf Club in Wynberg.

On March 23, the reunion tour moves to St Aidan’s hall in Lansdowne. It is a venue that holds a special place in the hearts of the Little Wing band and its followers. That was the group’s home base and they packed them in there.

“Playing at St Aidan’s is part of a very nostalgic journey. It mean’s so much to us and I’m sure it will to many others,” Bernie said.

The group would like to do one more gig on March 21. “We’d like it to be a ‘themed’ gig, sort of like a Flower Power Party with people coming dressed in their hippie gear, bell bottoms and flowers in their hair. And maybe bring their kid and grandkids along.”

They haven’t settled on a venue for the gig yet but it is quite possible that it will be at Royal Cape as well.

Bernie was at pains to point out that the reunion was not a money-making venture.

“It is not intended to be a money generating exercise. Mike Smith is only going to be here for one week. He can’t get off from work for very long. He comes in on the 15th and has a private get-together with one of his earlier groups, The Renegades. He is gone the following week.”

Bernie has some advice for their old fans: “I’d suggest you book early. Kaleidoscope only takes about 150-200 people and some people from Australia have already booked three tables.

My brother, Ossie, on the left. Owen Adriaanse next to him. Errol Alexander on drums and on the right, me. This would have been late 60’s.

Mike Smith, guitarist with Little Wing, seen here on the right with his first band, The Renegades. Ossie Smith is on the left, Owen Adriaanse, and Errol Alexander on drums. [Picture sourced on social media.]

Sophia Foster: Our queen of song to honour Aretha, Queen of Soul

The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin . . . and Cape Town’s song queen Sophia Foster

For Cape Town songbird Sophia Foster, soul queen Aretha Franklin was a major part of the soundtrack of her life. She grew up with Aretha’s songs, she identified with the sentiments and she included many in her repertoire.

Sophia is no different from most who grew up in the Sixties listening to all the legendary soul singers – Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett, Sam Cooke, Percy Sledge, Oscar Toney Jnr.

Aretha’s passing last week hit home with Sophia, so much so that she says she feels compelled to honour the singer. She is planning to put together an “Aretha tribute” show to honour and celebrate her life.

“I am already planning it in my head and have spoken to a female pianist who accompanies me on my shows,” Sophia said at the weekend.

The focus, she says, will be on female entertainers, who no doubt will channel Aretha’s clarion call in songs like RESPECT, Young Gifted And Black, Try A Little Tenderness and Change is Gonna Come.

A young Aretha Franklin . . .

“I am busy scouting the females, as my angle here will be putting together the vintage and the current female singers,” Sophia said.

Sophia’s career started around 1967 when she joined the Golden City Dixies Variety Show as a dancer but quickly showed a talent for singing as well.

“Off course, I always had Aretha’s songs in my repertoire back then as most of her lyrics resonated with me at the time and remained evergreen . . . songs like Natural Woman. Respect. Young Gifted and Black, which is the song my Foundation kids open our show with.”

The foundation she refers too is her Fostering Foundation she founded last year to nurture young, raw talent in Cape Town.

Sophia first became aware of Aretha when she heard her singing A Change Is Gonna Come 50 years ago.

“It was at the height of apartheid. I cried and cried listening to her lyrics and thinking; ‘will there ever be a change in our country’?

“The same year, RESPECT came out and I learnt the lyrics of these two songs and performed it at a club in Soweto. I kept lifting the arm of the long-player needle to catch up writing the lyrics in long hand.

“Then in 1968, there was People Get Ready and I waited in anticipation thinking the revolution was coming.

“Aretha’s style was unique in the sense that you heard the truth from the get go. That’s what became, like, my mantra – to sing with honesty first..”

Her favourite Aretha song is A House Is Not a Home. “I cry when I sing it.”

Much has been written locally and internationally about the impact of the song RESPECT. It became something of a battle cry for black oppressed and for women. It was first a hit for Otis Redding but Aretha took it to another level.

Its significance wasn’t lost on Sophia back then already: “Back then there was nobody to tell you what you were worth and a regime that made you feel you did not fit in, degrading you at every turn, no hotels, sleeping on a bus, on stage, washing in a hand basin, no hot water, and even in a cowshed .

“And all we wanted was respect and dignity.

“I’d like Aretha’s story of hardship and suffering to serve as a classic example of how we can overcome adversity. She can be a role model for the youngsters in my Fostering Foundation by teaching them the meaning of Respect and the price we artists had to pay back in the day.”

Sophia says she already has the RESPECT show mapped out in her head. “I’ve got in mind to open with something potent, and then weaving her life story through dialogue in between.”

Sophia Foster . . . remembering Aretha.

Any show highlighting Aretha’s contribution to our lives would be like revisiting some of those heady times of 1967-68 when the soul fever hit Cape Town.

Who can forget hanging around Jay Jay’s record bar at Athlone Station listening to this exciting new sound blaring from inside. It was a “cool” time, things were “uptight and outtasight”.

If you were old enough, you could catch, “live”, some of the hit songs at Jay Jay’s nightclub, The Soul Workshop, around the corner. Bands like The Chayn Gang, Wild Thing, The Cheyennes and Respect belted out those song with as much fervour as the US stars. I have an idea Respect chose that name as a tribute to that great song.

Aretha will be buried later this week but there will no doubt be a major event in the US at a later stage.

I look forward to Sophia Foster and her Fostering Foundation presenting their effort on stage.

Related Articles:

Sophia Foster — The Lady is a Vamp

Diva Foster does exactly what that last name means

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Lunar 5, Respect, Little Wing . . . a last hurrah to re-live the sixties?

Respect . . . from left Issy Mohamed, Mel Da Silva, Noel Kistima and Issy Ariefdien. There is talk, just talk at the moment, of a reunion. And there may be other bands involved.

In the Sixties and early Seventies, three of the top bands in Cape Town were the Lunar 5, Respect and Little Wing/Big Daddy. Each, in its own way, had huge support.

There were others, of course, too many to mention. For the moment, let’s focus on those three because something very interesting is bubbling under with some of the members of these old bands.

All three are talking of having one final reunion.

Those who were in the Lunar Five – Charlie Ismail, Mel da Silva, Bernie Brown, Raymond “Vonkies” Charles, would all be aged in their 70s (Raymond Meade, the drummer, has died).

In Respect, Issy Ariefdien, Noel Kistima, Ivor Wagner and Bernie Lawrence are all still with us, And, of course, Mel da Silva played with Respect. (Original vocalist Issy Mohammed hasn’t been seen for years and their other vocalist Tyrone McCranus has died.)

Mel Da Silva and Charles Ismail when they were part of the Lunar 5 back in 60s.

In Little Wing the personnel was Randall Bezuidenhout, Mikey Smith, Jimmy Engelbrecht, with Noel Kistima and Bernie Lawrence being part of them as well.

As wonderful as the idea sounds – and wouldn’t it be a blast if it were to happen – it would take one helluva logistical exercise to pull one of them together let alone all three. They would have been living separate lives.

Interestingly, the Lunar Five guys were talking independently of a reunion, as were the guys in Respect and Little Wing.

Bernie Brown . . . could be part of a Lunar 5 reunion in Cape Town and belting out She’s A Yum Yum and HI Hi Hazel.

Given that there was an overlap of membership – Da Silva played with the Lunar 5 and Respect; Ariefdien, Kistima and Lawrence played with Respect and Little Wing/Big Daddy. Also, Bernie Brown sang with the Lunar 5 and had guest spots with Respect.

The biggest hurdle would be for the overseas players to get themselves to Cape Town. Bernie Brown lives in Brisbane, Noel and Randall live in Sidney and Mel lives in Canberra.

Here’s me just thinking aloud: What if there was a suitable venue, like say the Wittebome Civic Centre where people could sit down as well as dance?

And what if all three bands were on the same bill? Two or three bands at one gig was all the rage those days. Bands would do a two-hour set, pack up and head off to another club to do another two-hour set.

The nice thing about having all three at one venue on one night would be the opportunity for fans of music and bands of that era to enjoy a nice walk down memory lane.

A set from the Lunar 5 would include their hits like She’s A Yum Yum, Field of Yellow Daisies and Hi Hi Hazel and Bernie’s Sing Out Glory.

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Respect never recorded but their fans would certainly like to hear, one more time, their take on Hendrix’s Hey Joe, Joe Cocker’s Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, Spooky Tooth’s Society’s Child, Vanilla Fudge’s You Keep Me Hanging On, and The Kink’s Tired of Waiting.

Likewise, fans of Little Wing grooved on Jeff’s Beck Jody, Santana’s No One To Depend On, and Cream’s Crossroads at the home venue, St Aiden’s in Lansdowne.

The Little Wing/Big Daddy sound is still being heard through the group New Beginnings. With Clive Fester and Bernie Lawrence steering the ship, New Beginnings has regular gigs around the Peninsula, offering a ’60s-’70s sound to a solid following who like to reminisce.

This may all be pie-in-the-sky stuff, but let’s all to do a bit of positive channelling and maybe it’ll happen.

Below is Respect’s Mel da Silva (bass) and Noel Kistima (drums), and Issy Ariefdien (lead) and Ivor Wagner (organ) as they are today. Click on the image to see the full picture/

Related articles on this blog

Bernie Brown . . . the Sixties Sensation who had so much to give

The life and times of Ivor Wagner

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At Montreal: Anatomy of a hit song that gets them moving in Cape Town

The late Tony Schilder . . . composed At Montreal more than 30 years ago to boost the profile of a club and the song turns out to be one of the most popular tunes on the Cape scene.

 26 May 2018

At Montreal, you can always have a ball

Where the girls are so pretty

And the guys seem to know they have it all

Picture this: a jol or a stage show is as flat as last week’s beer and going nowhere fast. Then someone plays Montreal and voila! – the joint comes alive and everybody’s clapping, stomping their feet, dancing!

That’s it! That’s what that song can do. It’s like an adrenaline shot for a slow-moving gathering that’s just short of rigor mortis.

But why? It’s not as if it is purple prose. It’s not an international hit. It’s not even a South African hit. But it is a Cape Town hit. A big hit.

What is it about Montreal and the people of Cape Town, particularly those from the Cape Flats, (and those in the diaspora in Melbourne, Sydney, Toronto . . .)?

This is my little effort to try to put it all on the record, as it were: how Montreal came to be one of the most popular songs around. Music historians like to do it for songs like Hogey Carmichael’s Georgia On My Mind and Paul McCartney’s Michelle. 

So let’s unpack Montreal.

Bassist Gary Kriel . . . was with Tony in the recording studio to lay down tracks for At Montreal. 

 

Tony composed the song almost 40 years ago, with his daughter, Delene, contributing to the lyrics.

But there is so much more to the story than just those bland facts.

The song refers to a nightclub in Manenberg that was extremely popular in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Initially the venue was called The Sherwood, also very popular in its early days, but the patronage dwindled after a few years. To get the place back on its feet again, the management called in Taffy du Toit who sang with jazz combos in Cape Town nightclubs before moving, briefly, to Canada.

“They gave me carte blanche to get the place up and running again,” Taffy, who now lives in Adelaide, said. “I had been in touch with Tony, with whom I had sung in a white club before I left. When I came back he was playing in The Surwell with Gary Kriel and Leslie Kleinsmith. It wasn’t exactly a swinging joint with hipsters.

“When the time came to launch the revamped Sherwood, I didn’t have to ask them twice.”

Taffy du Toit . . . named the new club Montreal.

How did it come be called Montreal, then? “I had spent some time in Montreal in Canada and I found it to be such a vibrant  place, it left a lasting impression on me. When it came to naming the place, I couldn’t help but think of the good time I had in Montreal.

“One night, Tony and the band surprised me by playing At Montreal. It blew me away. It was such a nice gesture. The crowds just loved it.”

The song itself was recorded in 1984 at UCA Studios in Bloem Street for Paddy Lee Thorp’s Mountain Records. Tony recorded all three of his albums on that label.

“I don’t know how many takes were necessary in the recording it but I suspect that Tony and the guys were pretty well rehearsed. It would have been recorded rather quickly,” Paddy said. “Montreal first appeared on the album Introducing Tony Schilder. It was quite popular and went out of print pretty quickly.”

Ten years later, Paddy took the group back into the studio to redo the track for a CD and add Jonathan Butler’s voice as a duet with Robbie Jansen.

A feature of the recorded song was the fact that neither Jonathan nor Robbie sang the lyrics the way Tony had written it.

“It annoyed the shit out of Tony from the very beginning,” Paddy said. “I think the only guy that knows what the real lyrics are is Leslie Kleinsmith. He was the one who used to sing it with Tony at the club.

“Jonathan and Robbie come from a school of singers who don’t pay a helluva lot of attention to lyrics. They will get it right and see to it that it rhymes but they would come with the most incredible lyrics.”

Paddy said there were quite a few versions of Montréal recorded.“

“I have recorded three versions. The latest version is the one that is going to be part of the forthcoming Cape Jazz volume, which is an instrumental version by Ramon Alexander. The Sons of Table Mountain played it as did Tony’s son, Hilton, with his various groups.

“If you talk about standards, it is a jazz standard in the Cape. It is among the top five jazz standards in the Cape, along with Seventh Avenue and Mannenberg.

Paddy point’s to another irony of the song Montreal.

Paddy Lee Thorp . . . released At Montreal on Mountain Records.

“The most popular version of Montréal on the radio was Leslie Kleinsmith’s version. He recorded it with the SABC as part of their transcription recordings. It was never released commercially. It was one of those unfortunate things that used to happen in those days. The SABC only circulated these recordings internally. They never had the commercial rights to the recording. That belonged to my record company.

“Tony was allowed to do the transcription recording and the SABC played the hell out of it .

“Robbie’s version was not as well known as Leslie’s version. When we finally did the Jonathan and Robbie duet, it became the version of choice.”

Leslie has his own particular memories of Montreal.

“Tony, Willie van Bloemestein, Cecil Ricca and myself were playing at Scruples in Welcome Estate when Taffy came in one night and said he was re-opening Sherwood as Club Montreal . . . and two weeks later, there we were.

“We opened Club Montreal and I broke the song. We played at the venue two or three years, every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.”

What many people ask is: if Leslie was the regular singer in the group, how come he never recorded it with the band for commercial release.

The way he recalls it, it was all a bit of miscommunication about being at the studio on the day they were due to record.

“I got a call from Paddy about 11am wanting to know where I was,” Leslie said. “Well, I had had a late night from coming home from the gig and watching movies until the wee hours.

“Apparently Paddy had organised with Tony and Tony was supposed to give me the message but he didn’t. Words were spoken and I didn’t end up doing the vocals, Robbie did.

“How do I rate the song? For me it is one of those obscure songs that you never really pay much mind to and then it shocks you. That’s how the public reacts to it. For me it is just another song but it turned out to be almost a national anthem for the club goers.

“What amazes me about the song is it’s simplicity; it is straight forward, it’s got a nice dance groove to it. But I do cringe every time I hear it on the radio and I hear the wrong words.

“Everywhere I go I have to sing it. At the recent Suidooster festival, I did a medley that included Club Montreal and Flying High. They crowd hears the introduction and there is this roar from the audience.”

Hilton Schilder said they played the song whenever he did a tribute to his father “and the crowd always goes bonkers”.

“It’s a feelgood song and it’s local song with a local composer, not something imported. It’s just a happy song.”

Last word from Gary Kriel, the bassist on the recording and long-time band member with Tony Schilder: “It was just an advert for the club, man. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Leslie Kleinsmith . . . best known version of At Montreal but never recorded it for release.

MONTREAL lyrics (courtesy of Leslie Kleinsmith)

At Montreal,

You can always have a ball

Where the girls are so pretty

And the guys seem to know they have it all

Club Montreal

the jazz is wild and free

You can swing with your lover

And your wife can discover

She’s a queen

(Chorus) In your jeans or your sable

You’ll find you are able to fly

With a glass in your hand

And the sound of the band you’re not shy

So come one, come all

To the place that has it all

Where the vibe is so happy, ask a girl or a chappie to dance

It’s a social experience, summer winter or fall

When you hear the good vibes call, at Montreal

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Leslie Kleinsmith: now you see him, now you don’t

Leslie Kleinsmith . . . a whirlwind visit to Cape Town. One performance at Artscape on Friday and then he flies out on Sunday back to Europe.

26 April 2018 

Leslie Kleinsmith is back in town and the good news is, he is here to perform.

But blink – and you’ll miss him.   The gig is at Artscape on Friday night and by Sunday he’ll be back on a plane and heading for his regular work, which is performing on cruise liners for those lucky folk who can afford to drift around the Mediterranean.

Leslie is in Cape Town to be part of the Kaapse Khoi Jazz II being presented at Artscape on 27 April as part of the Freedom Day celebrations.

The show also features Allou April, Alvin Dyers, China van Rensburg and Amanda Lois Stone. The classy Camillo Lombard is the musical director.

This is the first time Leslie is performing in Cape Town since Remembering The Lux finished its run two years ago. For the last few years he has lived in France with wife Isabelle and has been a frontline entertainer on the luxury cruise ships.

The Freedom Day gig happened by chance for Leslie, who had been in his hometown about 10 days ago. He was here to fix up documentation for further employment on the ships.

“As it happened, Terry Fortune and I went to a show at Grand West and Camillo spotted us in the audience,” Leslie said.

“One thing led to another and the next thing I was on the Artscape show. The only problem was, I had to go back to France first to sort out some things.”

Leslie left Cape Town about 10 days ago and when I got hold of him on Tuesday, he was in Paris, waiting to get a flight back to Cape Town. He got in Cape Town on Wednesday night, rehearsals on Thursday, show on Friday, and he flies back to Paris on Sunday.

“It’s a bit hectic, ain’t it?” he said. “I’ll be home in France for a few days and then I’ll be back on the boats.”

Leslie says that he has to start thinking about getting more gigs in Cape Town because, come November, he’ll be moving back to Cape Town for longer periods.

“My wife and I bought a place in Cape Town last year, so we are going to be based there for a while.

“It is all still being sorted out. But I am optimistic; whenever I am in Cape Town, the phone tends to ring and gigs start appearing. And I will start thinking about generating work myself.”

Leslie will feature a number of songs from his last CD, All Wound Up. The CD features some of Leslie’s own compositions, and some by Alvin Dyers and the late Al Etto. He will have copies of it available for sale on Friday.

It has been a while since Leslie last recorded. Now he is thinking of his next studio effort.

“I have always had, in the back of my mind, the idea of doing an album of cool jazz standards with a tight trio. Sometimes the trio becomes a quartet and then strings and the like. It will happen.”

In the meantime, those of you who have warmed to Leslie’s sound for the past 40-odd years, catch his show tomorrow night at Artscape. He’ll be gone on Sunday!

Related article:

LESLIE K . . . A MAN FOR ALL REASONS

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Diva Sophia Foster does exactly what that last name means

Singing diva Sophia Foster with some of her proteges on stage at the launch of her exciting project, The Fostering Foundation, that mentors young talent in Cape Town.

13 December 2017

Songbird Sophia Foster launched officially last week her young artists mentoring project, The Fostering Foundation. If you’re into nominative determinism, it’s a job Ms Foster was born to do.

For the past year or so, Sophia has been tutoring a group of young performers on how to handle themselves on stage. With more than 50 years’ experience to call on, who better to learn from than an icon of South African stage entertainment?

In true Sophia style, she launched it at a glitzy show that drew rave reviews from those lucky enough to attend, and lit up social media with people praising her for her initiative.

The Fostering Foundation has been set up to “transfer skills and develop the talented youth of the Western Cape”.

For Sophia, it is the culmination of a long-held dream. Mindful of her own experiences when she started in the entertainment business in the mid-Sixties, she nurtured this vision of running a skills program for up-and-coming youngsters.

“The mentoring idea was always there. I spent most of my life mentoring people in the industry. I got this idea that one day I could have my own group of kids who wanted to be in the industry and I’d teach them all kinds of skills,” she said after the launch.

Sophia Foster performing at her foundation’s launch.

“For me, it was always going to be an holistic approach to give them a grounding in all facets of a stage performance . . . microphone control, voice projection, stage presence, choreography.”

It all started to fall in place when her husband, Craig, converted their garage into a mini-studio. It was fitted it out with mirrors, a sound system, microphones.

“All I needed to get going was the space,” Sophia says. “It was a proper, professional set up.”

Through word of mouth, she attracted her first intake last year. They were a diverse group from different backgrounds and came from all over the Peninsula – “Maitland, Belhar, Khayelitsha, even one from Paarl”.

“When they came to me they were quite introverted, they had no confidence. My God, when I looked at them at my launch, it was like day and night.”

“Shortly after I started the project, I managed to get them showcased at Artscape, during Youth Month. I asked Artscape if my kids could open show. Now my kids have been booked to do two shows at that venue.”

Although Sophia is polishing these young entertainers as part of her group, she says if they managed to get opportunities on their own, she would not hold them back.

“They are like family and I have to factor in that they are still at school. It does mean that sometimes I have to put things on hold while they are busy with exams but I was quite firm when I told them I don’t want anyone to put music first at the expense of education. It’s a balancing act for us.

“I also made them understand what opportunities would be available to them if they were properly equipped with the right skills.

“My generation did not have that luxury. They must be aware of the people who came before them. It was a struggle for us and, in choosing songs for them to perform, I opt for music from the likes of Nina Simone and Billie Holiday that epitomises that struggle.

Sophia has had a good response from her friends in the entertainment industry to offer their expertise.

“I got one of the best sound engineers in the country offering to help and a former dancer who made a name for herself at the big hotels up north and in Paris is going to be involved with choreography.

“The response after the launch was phenomenal. I even had offers of sponsorship on the night.”

Obviously running a mentoring academy requires funds and Sophia is hoping that government and business will come to the party with financial assistance in the form of grants and sponsorships.

It is a commendable effort from someone who has paid her dues in the industry over and over again. And it is a long way from the teenage girl who ran away from home in 1967 to strut her stuff on stage.

You can get an idea of what she has achieved  with  the youngsters when they perform at Kaleidoscope in Claremont on Sunday, 17 December.

Click on the link below to read more about Sophia’s career that spans about 50 years.

Sophia Foster — the lady is a vamp

Comments from social media

Student Celeste Florence: No words can express my gratitude. You have planted a seed in me that’s unstoppable. Thank you for taking the time out to groom myself and fellow songbirds to becoming the best at what we do; to give it everything we got inside and leave it all there. We have learnt to be more confident. Thank you so much for doing it so unselfishly. Many thanks to Tills, Salvana and hubby for this journey of love. You are an amazing example to all of us. Many thanks Sophia love you forever.

Businesswoman Roslyn Dantu: Awesome Awesome Awesome.  Thank you Sophia for what you have done.  The kids were confident, excited, happy and really, really talented.  And I loved the wardrobe and the wardrobe changes.  I support all of what you are doing in “fostering” these young adults.  My admiration for you and Craig and Tiffany knows no bounds. Thank you to all three of you for opening your hearts, your wallets and giving this amazing young talent a voice and also an opportunity to shine.  Keep shining Ms Foster.  You are a bright light.  Love you lots.

Singer Melanie Scholtz: Yes, Aunty Sophia Foster. Yesssss !!  I salute you, Queen.

All dressed up with everywhere to go . . . Sophia Foster’s proteges being presented at the launch of The Fostering Foundation last week.

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