Terry Fortune

Foster kids turn out alright — and the future looks bright

14 December 2019

Foster kids can be a bit like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. Unless of course the “foster mum” is Sophia Foster and the kids being raised are the young entertainers at her Fostering Foundation.

The veteran singer put her charges on the public stage for the first time last month with her Sistas’ Tribute To Aretha show and now everyone is beating a path to her door wanting to see more of the young talent.

The show, which was a sell-out on opening night, features an all-girl line-up, from the five front-line singers to the five-piece backing group belting out Aretha Franklin’s soul hits.

Social media was awash with Sophia Foster’s novel initiative to use her “students” to honour the name of one of the legends of music.

“It has just been the most incredible reaction,” Sophia says. “We have so much talent here, it’s just unbelievable.

“They just did their first corporate function to an amazing response from South Africa’s top corporate people. I can’t begin to tell you how it warms my heart to see the fruits of our labour get such a fantastic reception.”

Sophia says they worked flat out for about two months to get it to the point where she was comfortable putting her young charges on stage.

For those who do not know, Sophia runs the Fostering Foundation, a finishing school of sorts, for up-and-coming young entertainers. She is a veteran of the South Africa industry with more than 50 years’ experience.

“I pushed them hard. I worked with them seven days a week. The young girl on the keyboards said to me at the start: ‘Sophia, I’m sorry, I have to apologise to you, I can only read music. I play what’s in front of me’.

“I said to her, ‘No, you can do more than that. Do you know what the meaning of improvisation is?   You don’t have to just read it’. I showed her what scatting was. I changed their attitude.

“Straight after the very successful opening night, I went right back into rehearsals, telling them where they could improve. I went through everything with them.”

One of the big talking points of Sophia’s initiative was her use of only females for the performance. It struck a chord with all who saw the show.

“For me, it was all about empowerment. There is an expectation in South Africa that shows have a certain format, and that has been the view for years. Well, we just turned that on it s head. The girls can do it on their own.”

The other eye-catching element of the show was, of course, the glitz and glamour that has become a hallmark of any performance that Sophia is associated with.

“You know me,” Sophia says, “it’s all about the glamour, the costumes and the flair. People couldn’t believe their eyes with what they saw.”

She has plans to do more runs with the show but at this stage she is continuing to fine-tune her young students.

“God willing, for the new year I want to do a short run in a theatre as these young adults have grown tremendously under my mentorship.

“I already have people trying to poach my artists – as if there aren’t enough artists in Cape Town. I got a message straight after the first show asking if they could use my artists.

Sophia Foster

“I’m very optimistic about the future for them but we have to prepare them properly. To succeed in this industry it is about how you present; something that you have to develop and market and sell.

“What I’m giving them is not information they can buy. I am giving them first-hand experience. I want them to broaden their horizons; I want them to grow wings.”

Veteran entertainer Terry Fortune (now retired, much to the chagrin of many) was effusive in his praise for the budding stars.

“Man, they are just wonderful,” he said. “It warms my heart, as one who has also invested in young talent over the years, to see these youthful, dynamic performers. In Sophia as a mentor, they have one of the best in the business.”

Actor Basil Appollis, who is fast becoming the go-to person when it comes to directing local stage productions, was another who was carried away with what he saw.

“Knowing the Fostering Foundation and Sophia’s mission of nurturing and mentoring young talent, I was wondering whether the treatment would work at all,” he said. “I approached it with trepidation. Aretha Franklin is, after all, the High Priestess of Soul!

“Well, my worries soon disappeared. I was most impressed with these young new voices delivering Aretha’s greatest hits with flair and a maturity far beyond their years! It was truly magnificent and the show, on the whole, one pleasurable surprise.

“It would be unfair to single out any of these young singers because they were all directed to show their unique strengths. At some point during the show I felt a bit guilty because I couldn’t help thinking that I’d love to poach this one, then the other!”

Basil had nothing but praise for the girl band. “They were so dynamic! And so refreshing and appropriate. I’m sure Aretha – one forgets she was a brilliant pianist – was smiling down on them.”

Basil Appollis . . . impressed.

“The presentation was one long, exhilarating medley of Aretha’s famous hits with no break to catch one’s breath. I couldn’t help feeling the performer anxiety with the many (wonderful) costume changes! That is something Sophia is famous for – and it should really be written up in the Guinness book of Records! They’ll get there.”

There was one thing that Basil thought Sophia could do to take the show to another level: “This is personal taste entirely . . . I would’ve appreciated an anecdote or two about Aretha’s inspiring life story.”

More power to you Miss Foster! R.E.S.P.E.C.T!!

All material on this blog is copyrighted. Permission should be obtained before  publishing any party of it.

Alistair and Loukmaan and ghoema in Sydney. What’s next?


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sydney rocked to ghoema music as Alistair Izobell and Loukmaan Adams – ably assisted by their musical director, pianist Trevino Isaacs – brought a touch of the Cape Flats to the Harbour City last Saturday night.

Performing at the Hurlstone Park Club, filled practically wall-to-wall with expat Capetonians, the two singers thrilled the more than 350 people with a set that went from funk and blues to “opskud” and ghoema.

They belted out perennial Cape Town dance floor hits like All Night Long, Shining Star, Give Me Hope Johanna, Hot Hot Hot, toned it down with a Malay Choir Song and a moody Misty, before cranking it up with the “traditional” stuff – Daa’ Kom Die Alabama, Januarie Februarie, and Dina Na Kannakia.

It was all hi-energy, dynamic and vibrant. One wouldn’t have expected anything less from these two seasoned performers. As they are wont to say on the Cape Flats: Die jol ruk!!

The occasion, a swish Black & White Ball, was a “fly-in-fly-out” one-off gig put on by Beryl Crosher-Segers as part of her project to raise funds for scholarships for needy pupils in Cape Town. It was sold out months before the event.

Beryl Crosher-Segers . . . bringing a bit of "local is lekker" for expats in Australia.

Beryl Crosher-Segers . . . bringing a bit of “local is lekker” for expats in Australia.

Beryl, who lives in Sydney, has had much success over the years with this type of show. She’s brought over Leslie Kleinsmith, Terry Fortune, The Rockets, Alistair, and the late Tony Schilder and Zane Adams. The Jonathan Butler show was the only concert-type performance she arranged.

Her dinner-dance shows certainly strike a chord in the South African ex-pat community in Sydney (with its distinctly Cape Flats flavour mind you) and one is left in no doubt that at midnight they’ve had a great time. The dance floor was always full.

As nice as it is though, it serves only to satisfy a particular need, and that is to provide the crowd with that nostalgia fix, a catch-up with old friends, and that warm inner glow of their times at, say, The Galaxy.

But isn’t there more to what our performers have to offer? Wouldn’t it be great if we had a bit of change of speed . . . like maybe a concert that displays the full range of skills? Local is lekker . . . but shouldn’t we be wanting more of them?

And does the ex-pat community have to restrict itself to just music performances? Is there scope for theatre?

What if someone kicked along the idea of bringing My Word! Redesigning Buckingham Palace, the late Richard Rive play about District 6? Or A Class of One: Cold Case – Revisiting Dulcie September, a play about the late Athlone ANC activist assassinated in Paris in 1988. The first stars actor/director Basil Appollis, the later acclaimed actor Denise Newman.

Both theatrical works are part of the political narrative integral to the community’s history. It is part of the nascent process of documenting the stories before they become folklore.

I’m no expert in the costings involved (I have not seen either show) but . . .

One option that could be looked at is crowd funding. In fact, the Dulcie September production was put on the boards earlier this year in Cape Town via crowd funding over the Internet.

These observations aren’t directed at or intended to put pressure on Beryl. She has done her fair share. They are, I hope, the start of an on-going discussion to kick this idea along.

Discuss away. All comments welcome. There is a box for a comment/reply below. Please use it.

Trevino Isaacs, one of the new breed of Cape Town musicians who give hope for growth in musical development on the local scene.

Trevino Isaacs, one of the new breed of Cape Town musicians who give hope for growth in musical development on the local scene.

This material is copyrighted. Prior approval has to be obtained before any reproduction.




Robert Davids . . . a life unfulfilled

Robert Davids . . . playwright, musician, composer.

26 August 2015

Robert Davids, Cape Town musician and  playwright, died  last week, aged 79.

In the early days of my journalistic career, back in the late Sixties, when I plied my trade as an entertainment reporter at that august yet sensationalist tabloid, The Cape Post, I must have dealt with hundreds of musicians.

The majority have faded in the mists of time, in part due to the fact I have been out of the country for 30 years.

But Robert Davids I do remember. Quite distinctly. Quite emphatically.

He stands out in the memory because he was . . . different. Not peculiarly different. Not funny different. No, different as in a class above most of the others.

I may not be able to detail the minutiae of all of our interactions but the gist of it was he was always looking for a write-up on some project or other.

I do remember his music play, Goodbye District 6, and his passionate belief in it. Unfortunately, that passion was not shared by as many people as he would have liked. More’s the pity.

robert in young days

A young Robert Davids

Almost 20 years later, another local work, District 6 The Musical, was a resounding success. Was it that Robert was too far ahead of his time? Too prescient?

In all he wrote five plays: Goodbye District 6, Friday Friday, Sound You Fool, a one-man satire Sugar Coated Pill, and a children’s space fantasy, Monsters. He also penned numerous musical compositions.

I remember him wandering into our newspaper offices on a few occasions to update me on his latest project/venture or band he was with. On a number of occasions I saw him playing with various groups around the traps. Not contorting himself in a vocal frenzy, not laying down some heavy licks on the guitar. No, just quietly pounding out an enchanting rhythm on the congas. Congas? Yeah, that’s what Robert brought to the table. Something different, something to bend the dominant paradigm.

Unfortunately, newspapers of the Sixties and Seventies servicing the black communities did not lend themselves to in-depth interviews in the entertainment space.

It would have been something special getting into his head and having a deep and meaningful with Robert. He had the intellectual rigour that could have produced something eminently readable – and given us an insight into his musical thought processes. He would have been a marvellous subject for an interview on this blog.

Now we are left to ponder on what might have been. More’s the pity again. He will be, he should be remembered.


Terry Fortune’s Tribute

Terry fortune

Terry Fortune . . . Robert wrote a song for him in the musical.

It was early 1969, I had just turned 20 and was still living with my parents in Allenby Drive ,Retreat. One day I got a call: “Hi, it’s Robbie.”

“Who?” I asked, puzzled.

“Robbie Davids . . .”

“Oh hi,” I answered. After the normal pleasantries he said: “I’ve written a musical theatre piece about District 6 called Goodbye District 6′. It contains vocal songs and instrumental pieces . . . all original.”

“Ok, come around”, I said. He did, early the next morning in his 1966 Volkswagen fastback. I listened to the music and loved it. He had written a song for me to sing called Mr Hammer Man, a protest song pleading with the bulldozers to stop the destruction.

Goodbye District 6 was written nearly 20 years before the famous musical by Taliep Petersen and David Kramer’s District 6 The Musical’.

We rehearsed for months and eventually staged it at the Space Theatre in Long Street, and then a jazz venue in Green Point run by Merton Barrow. We also performed it at the Lansdowne Civic Centre and various other community halls.

On keyboards was Aubrey Kinnes and Robbie played vibraphone. I also remember he had his two brothers, Cyril and Stan, helping with the technical stuff.

Goodbye District 6 received rave reviews in the local newspapers but it finally ran aground when we did the Wynberg Town Hall and the impresario ran away with the money – the story of our lives.

Robbie was eager and hungry for success. But by the ’70s apartheid bit savagely. There was no room for artists to be creative, let alone for protest music or theatre in an apartheid South Africa. Due to this and other factors, many of my peers in the music industry regrettably never achieved their dreams but they did sow the seeds that that’s artists should nurture and use to develop.

During the ’70s I saw Robbie lugging his vibraphone and congas to the Sherwood, the Goldfinger, the Beverley in Athlone, and the Jolly Carp, jamming with the guys. He loved being part of the industry and playing music.

Then he disappeared off the scene and I didn’t see him for years until fairly recently. It was Greg and Fiona’s renewal of their wedding vows and Robbie was there. He said to me: “I’ve rewritten Goodbye District 6, added new songs and want to do it as an opera.”

He was as eager and enthusiastic as ever. Next year it will be 50 years since District 6 was proclaimed an area set aside for white occupation . . .

So . . . Robbie my bro’ . . . you will probably knock into Zane, Taliep, Monty Weber and the other main “manne”. Give them our love . . . and if you guys decide to put on something – and you are looking for a singer – don’t look my way! I’m staying right here . . . I’m not going anywhere soon.

Greg Davids – a son remembers

Our Dad did not hold down a 9-5 job. He did not leave at the crack of dawn or return before sunset exhausted from a day of unappreciated toil in the service of another’s dream. Nor did he conform to the expectations for a black man in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s’ worth to be defined by the daily sweat on his brow or the callous-formed hands of one who was used to hard labour.

Instead, he dared to dream about how greatness could exist from within. He considered creative expression as a nobler alternative and reasoned that when sculpted as a platform for social commentary, the arts would eloquently give voice.

Robert Herman Alexander Davids, with the burden of a long name and a difficult childhood – the effects of which would often weigh heavily on his relationships with others – chose his innate creativity to make his mark.

To achieve this, he defied the convention of the time, the staid societal norms and the constraints of an unjust political system. Without reference and the support of but a few, he redefined the stereotypical image of the musician of the day – he did not drink or smoke, he worked hard and he went straight home most nights.

With self-actualisation as his strongest attribute and steely self-imposed discipline, he helped re-invent the role of the musician in South African society. He became a househusband, one of the first local musicians to trade a steady day job in order to commit time to developing his craft. His dream was to become an accomplished music composer and arranger.

Our father diligently spent each day carrying out first the duties of tending the children and the home and then with discipline and focused intent, honed his ability to read, write and arrange music.

He also created several clever inventions that saw him face-to-face with a business world for which he was no match. A big part of his routine was practising his instruments: drums, congas, vibraphone, piano and voice. This daily practice regime exposed us to culture – the arts, music, and an appreciation for theatre.

We grew up singing our Dad’s catchy songs, recorded and performed by great local artists, played back live, on the reel-to-reel, long player and eventually the wireless: Hammer Man, Friday Friday, We Live In A Double Bed, Fight For True Love, and Hello Ms Phone – how cool was that!

He was a lifetime SAMRO member. At night, after he helped with supper, often cooking the family meals, he would slip onto the music club scene and became the alter ego of his daily self, the Hip Cat, the Conga Man. With his psychedelic painted congas, bongos and timbales he created a role for Latin percussion on the SA jazz scene.

Appearances with the bands of the day, The Four Sounds, Henry February Band, Sabenza, Pacific Express, pre-Tananas Steve Newman, and many others, his playing added new colour to their music and helped build a solid swing groove which became his signature sound.

His spirited performances and soaring percussion solos informed generations of music lovers. These nightly gigs sadly never realised the intended income for our Dad or most of his generation of musicians.

Much of the money remained in the hands of exploitative club owners, promoters and bandleaders. Robbie Davids served music first, and with little pressure to financially support his family, seldom insisted on payment. Our Mom, Marj, the main family breadwinner, unrelentingly supported our Dad with his art in spite of the personal price she continued to pay throughout their 52 years together as the wife of a struggling musician.

His numerous creative endeavours did not live up to the commercial success that he promised it would. It did however “set him apart” as an innovator and as a musician who, if the support were different and the creative economy better acknowledged, he might have gone on to enjoy the success his talent deserved.

Robert Davids, through his projects, helped influence the careers of Zelda Benjamin, Terry Fortune, Darryl Andrews, Danny Butler, Vernon Castle, Leslie Kleinsmith, Vinette (7de Laan) & Vincent (The Kumars) Ebrahim and many others. He wrote five locally acclaimed musicals, most notably Goodbye District 6 that preceded the famous musical by a number of years.

He composed, arranged and produced several tunes and recording sessions. He studied part-time music courses at Stellenbosch University, UWC and UCT Music School and continued to study and write music right up until his death.

His last major work was to compose a full suite of tunes for jazz orchestra. His practice and composing regime never slowed. Our Dad was an inventor and an artist, a gentleman and a life long musical scholar.

His earlier works were never without political perspective and he used his creative talent to address inequalities foisted upon the South African people. His music and theatre contributions often were expressions of freedom. To many of his peers he was loved and respected, especially because of his well-mannered demeanour.

His legacy is most evident in his children and grand children. He infused us with passion, creative intellect, critical thinking ability, the gift of time and most importantly, integrity.

As his eldest, the very essence of my joy – music, a lifetime of musical associations and deep friendships – are thanks to my Dad. It is an ever-continuing gift that champions many of my happiest moments.

A daughter’s insight: Janine remembers

My father, Robert, or Papa as he was known to his grandchildren, was a complex man, a man who did not conform to any stereotypical image of a person of his generation.

He was a highly creative individual with a strong moral code.

He was a musician, playwright and inventor who followed values of his choosing and did not drink alcohol, smoke or eat meat. He was a highly private person who shunned large social gatherings and parties.

If he had been born into a privileged family he would have been eccentric. As it was, he merely marched to the beat of his own drum . . .

We’ll remember him for his strong work ethic and discipline and how he was always pursuing some or other project – unfortunately, none was ever commercially successful.

We will also remember his unfailing punctuality – he always arrived early for an appointment or pick up. He was our informal safety officer at home, driving us crazy with his constant reminding to lock doors, pull out plugs and switch off appliances. We often joked about him having OCD and being paranoid, but the firm boundaries that he constructed for himself and those around him provided a home environment that felt safe and secure.

We grew up in a house where music was always played. Papa was always singing and drumming his fingers on tables and work countertops when not listening to albums of classical music. He may have been a jazz musician but he was not a music snob and kept abreast of what was happening on the pop scene by listening to pop music programmes on TV, often with the volume turned up very loudly.

Perhaps because our relationship was often complicated, I don’t think I appreciated, as a teenager, just how cool a dad he was! I am pleased that my children grew up around him. They appreciated him with all his quirks and idiosyncrasies and had a better relationship with him than I ever had.

He often looked after them when we went out because we knew that we could trust him to take care of them. For a long time they considered him their go-to-person for toasted cheese sandwiches and there were days when he spent a good afternoon, and a loaf or two, making their favourite snacks for them. It is a memory that will stay with them forever.

Papa became a vegetarian in the early ’80s and never wavered from the choice he made. In terms of food though, his one absolute weakness was sugar. He loved cakes, ice-cream and chocolate in any form. Family dinners were always very funny because we always tried to get him to wait for all of us to be seated before he started eating and my mother always tried to limit his consumption of desert, to no avail.

As an adult I realised that he had a stronger influence on all of us than what we were ever willing to recognise. He helped shape who and what we’ve become today and I know that we’ve acquired many more positive qualities and characteristics from him than negative ones. Papa, we will miss you, your laughter and tears and your particular brand of madness. Family dinners will not be the same without you but we will always have a bite of something sweet in your memory.

This material is copyrighted. Prior approval has to be obtained before any reproduction.Robert Davids with some of the cast of Friday Friday,

Robert Davids with some of the cast of Sound You Fool, singer/actor Connie Beukes and flautist Calvin Humbles.