By Heather Dugmore
Creating something wonderful from nothing is the art of the artist and that’s how LwandoSessions was born.
“‘It literally started in our back yard where a bunch of neighbourhood musicians got together,” says Cape Town-based musician, poet, activist and cultural entrepreneur Samantha Bekebeke, aka Miss Morena, who brought out her first album this year, titled 2021 The Mixtape.
‘During the lockdown, we wanted to bring people together safely through music and art and to uplift each other in the entertainment industry, as we were facing a daunting future. We thought: 'Let’s form a band and make people happy while maintaining social distance. So we started holding sessions that we called ‘LwandoSessions’ in our backyard in Observatory and people really enjoyed them.
“When the demand increased, we managed to rent an art studio five floors up at InSitu – a creative space at 199 Albert Road in Woodstock with a rooftop that offers incredible sunset views and space to seat people two metres apart.”
Living up to the name Lwando, which means “to grow”, and with grant assistance from the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT), funded by Nedbank, the project grew beyond the usual backyard sessions and that's when Lifestyle Explore, a creative production business, came into being.
Miss Morena manages the business and Ishmael Khumalo, a businessman and chef by profession, became the CEO. Khumalo also encouraged Miss Morena to start recording her music in 2015.
“We managed to purchase our own musical instruments instead of hiring it. We also established a music production company that shoots music videos and does sound recordings. Soon LwandoSessions became known as Last Sunday Sessions, where we would come together on the last Sunday of every month and create a market hub space in the Woodstock studio, bringing together musicians, chefs, cooks, entrepreneurs, clothing designers, performing artists, writers, jewellery makers, book store owners and more, providing an array of talent with a platform.”
To date, they have held 21 Last Sunday Sessions and also started live-streaming the sessions. The first live streaming event had a Motswako theme – a genre of hip hop that combines Tswana hip hop and rap.
The live sessions would start at about 3pm when the markets were all set up and DJs would play while members of the public explored the stalls, met the artists and enjoyed delicious food and drinks. At about 5pm, everyone would gather to experience an immaculate sunset from the rooftop and the musicians would then start playing and invite people inside the studio. Each session was about an hour long and ended at around 9pm.
“The sessions helped to expand their creative territory by exposing them to a larger, more diverse audience to grow their names,” Miss Morena explains. “We put a lot of effort into finding talent all over Cape Town, including outstanding talent in the townships; real musicians who are not trending every day or appearing on the covers of magazines. We identify artists by the stories they tell – artists with messages that bring people together.”
One of the artists is Inkosana, a vocalist, songwriter and performer living in Langa and originally from the Eastern Cape.
“We came across him doing live performances in Langa and it was a wonder to hear and see this man who sings about his community and his manhood as a Xhosa man in an urban world,” Miss Morena says.
“We had monthly themes; in August we celebrated Women’s Month with an all-female line-up, including artists like Louise Nicholls, a contestant in Idols SA. She was an amazing inspiration for the whole of Cape Town, especially for the coloured community. Another artist on Idols SA who played with us is Chosi, who sings and plays the uhadi musical instrument – a traditional Xhosa musical bow. We also did a duet, 'Sisters Miss Moreni featuring Chosi', that celebrates sisterhood and women.”
One of the objectives of the LwandoSessions/Last Sunday Sessions project was to increase the musical skills of the participating musicians and to provide theory and practical training.
The sessions were also rich in social, political, economic and cultural currency. As Miss Morena puts it, “Everyone gained developmentally by participating and overcoming barriers of cultural, racial and language differences”.
The project also offered opportunities for 10 volunteers who offered their time while training and gaining new skills. Miss Morena’s organisational and project management skills have also been critically developed.
“Because of Covid-19 and budget constraints, we haven’t had Last Sunday Sessions for a few months now, but are looking forward to bringing the energy back. Making music can’t stop, it has to continue,” she says.
For more information on the Nedbank Arts Affinity visit: nedbankarts.co.za and visit LwandoSessions on Instagram for more information.
About the Nedbank Arts Affinity
The Nedbank Arts Affinity, in partnership with the Arts & Culture Trust, have supported the development of the arts over the past 27 years. Since it has started in 1994, Nedbank, together with its Arts Affinity clients, have donated more than R25 million to the Arts & Culture Trust for over 800 arts, culture and heritage development projects in South Africa, at no cost to clients.
You can also support inspiring artists by banking and investing with Nedbank. Simply open a Nedbank Arts Affinity-linked credit card, current, savings or investment account. Then link your Nedbank Greenbacks to the Nedbank Arts Affinity via the app to support the development of arts, at no cost to you.
Visit any Nedbank branch or call the Nedbank Contact Centre on 0860 555 111 for more information.