Renate Engelbrecht
Content producer
3 minute read
6 Dec 2021
12:00 pm

Artists fight for classical arts with unprecedented album release

Renate Engelbrecht

The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and Cape Town Opera have launched a silent album in response to the arts being silenced, saying something has to be done.

Cwaka. The Silence. Picture: Sydelle Willow Smith

In a world with so much noise, silence often screams louder than words.

This is the stance the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and Cape Town Opera have taken with their latest campaign – the launch of a silent album named Cwaka. The Silence, fighting for the survival of classical arts.

With the album, which was launched on 1 December 2021 they are fighting back against threats to classical arts across the globe – from Covid-19, conflict, censorship, displacement, loss of funding and even natural disasters. These threats are real and are turning down the volume of one of humanity’s driving forces: creative expression in the form of classical arts.

The release of the album follows the forced termination of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and Cape Town Opera’s live classical arts performances due to lockdown, and the past 18 months’ very limited audiences, leading to a significant loss in earnings.

The album features recordings of silent versions of some of the two classical arts organisations’ greatest works, as well as an original 49-second track, Cwaka. The Silence which is also available for streaming on Spotify and other platforms.

This serves as a simple and effective call for donations, with South Africans being encouraged to add the track to their Spotify playlists as a way of raising awareness and funds for the cause. Royalties will top up the fund each time the song is played, at no cost to the listener.

The funds raised through this unique campaign will go directly towards supporting the classical arts in South Africa via the Duet Endownment Trust.

They will ensure the organisations can continue their work at grassroots levels in local communities where they are always on the lookout for discovering bright young talent from diverse, vulnerable, impoverished areas who have previously been underrepresented within the classical music industry.

Nicholas Ackerman, director of the Duet Endownment Trust, says: “When we embarked on this campaign, it was a direct response to the devastating effect of the pandemic on our orchestra and opera company.”

He says they’ve come to realise how much the classical arts are under threat around the world.

“Whether it’s Covid-19 here in Cape Town, or the Afghan Women’s Orchestra being oppressed by the Taliban, or visual artists like Ai Wei Wei who has recently spoken about being exiled and censored; or even the cultural funding being quietly eroded away in places such as the UK.”

Classical arts funding campaign
Classical arts funding campaign. Picture: Sydelle Willow Smith

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Ackerman says they were inspired to do two things: raise the funds they need to keep their beloved Cape Town, South African and African classical arts institutions alive, and create awareness for the artists around the world being silenced.

“We believe the arts are at the heart of what makes us human, what brings joy and meaning to life, and that they’re worth fighting for. Yes, we are asking people to listen to our silence – and then we want them to go out and support their own local creative voices as well.”

Forty exclusive vinyl albums, with fine art covers by celebrated South African artist, William Kentridge, will go on auction in January 2022 to raise funds and an additional fifty limited edition print copies of the vinyl can be purchased online.

Donations can also be made on the same campaign website.