Kaunda Selisho

By Kaunda Selisho


Nando’s partners with Bridges for Music to bring music education to Langa

Bridges for Music has, over the years, taken many forms, all with the main aim of enriching the lives of musicians and creators who otherwise would not have a direct link to the most formal parts of the music industry. 

Nando’s in partnership with the Bridges for Music Foundation have partnered up to take everything you think you know about music schools and turn it on its head with the launch of their first-ever Bridges Academy in Langa, Cape Town.

The Citizen recently got to explore the facilities of the academy and speak to the first batch of students, whom they refer to as co-creators, in order to understand exactly what Bridges Academy aims to do. 

According to the academy’s founders, the choice to place the academy in Langa stems from the fact that it is a township with strong musical roots. Additionally, it is where Bridges for Music conducted its first workshops with internationally acclaimed artists long before they had the idea of evolving into a school. 

The fact that the township is home to legendary South African singer late Brenda Fassie is just a happy coincidence. 

Founded by Valentino Barrioseta, Bridges for Music has over the years taken many forms, all with the main aim of enriching the lives of musicians and creators who otherwise would not have a direct link to the most formal parts of the music industry. 

Bridges for Music Academy

Bridges for Music Academy Logo | Image: Supplied

One of the ways in which Bridges for Music has done this over the years, under the leadership of Barrioseta, Trenton Birch and Thulani’ DJ Fosta’ Headman, is through hosting tours and workshops in disadvantaged communities featuring internationally acclaimed musicians such as Ed Sheeran, Black Coffee, and Skrillex.

While Bridges was achieving a lot through this approach, the team was always plagued by the feeling that they could be doing more. It wasn’t until they received the support of Nando’s South Africa through its marketing manager, Jake Johnstone, that they could do this. 

And so the idea for Bridges Academy took flight.

“The academy is a hub of creation and learning where young, talented students can pursue their creative dreams, develop their skills and share their passion for music among other art forms,” explained Nando’s. 

A Nando’s statue at Langa’s Bridges for Music Academy Logo | Image: Supplied

“This is a culmination of the Nando’s company purpose concentrated in one place. We’ve always been driven by three creative platforms – art, design and music. With Bridges for Music, we have been able to bring to life all of these creative outlets and results in a powerful and authentic partnership,” added Johnstone.

The academy welcomed their pilot student intake earlier this year, compiled with an emphasis on gender parity, to experience their unique curriculum.

The Bridges for Music team pride themselves on the curriculum they developed, which they say goes beyond music and incorporates entrepreneurial training and a mindfulness program providing a cutting-edge approach to creative education.

Perhaps the most striking part of their curriculum is the mindfulness program, which their students say has helped them immensely when it comes to overcoming obstacles in their mental health as well as conquering social anxiety and other disorders. 

The main exercises in their mindfulness program are the morning meditation and check-ins they do every day in the facility’s communal space which they have modelled after the Xhosa concept of ubuhlanti – a sacred space.

The space also has its walls adorned with notes on the lessons learned from the various talks they have received from the school’s monthly guests and these are taped up alongside motivational quotes and messages of affirmation.  

Creating such a positive and healing space was very important to the founders and staff of the school. 

Bridges Academy’s Rachel Smith explained: “I strongly believe that if we can create a space first that allows someone to check in with their heart, speak their traumas, be allowed to feel their traumas, been allowed to be who they want to be, bringing their light and their dark into the space, their anger, their joy, everything, step in as fully as they can be with all of their stuff, then that brings an ability to then learn and open the mind.”

The school’s staff even took things such as interior design and art into consideration in this regard. Thanks to their partnership with Nando’s, they were put in touch with Lynch-Lee Studios, who curated the look and feel of the space using items sourced through the renowned Nando’s art and design programmes. 

“I’ve grown very much in coming here, I’ve grown as an artist and as an individual. Through being in this space, I have learned that there is a distinction between uBonga the individual and Bonga Kwana the artist,” said one of the academy’s students, Bonga Kwana.  

“I’ve found my feet in the setting. And I feel I’m okay… I’m doing really well actually, I’m flourishing. I think the magic in this space is the heart,” she added.  

Barrioseta, who used to manage one of the biggest night clubs in Ibiza, said he had had first-hand experience of the negative ways in which the pressures and unsavoury elements of fame could affect artists. 

Creating a new wave of artists with a solid emotional base and a set of tools to deal with their emotions and maintain their mental health is something that Barrioseta and Headman placed emphasis on from the beginning. 

Another positive element worth highlighting is the opportunities provided to students to showcase their talent to new audiences by tapping into the networks of the school’s founders.  

As a result, the academy’s students have performed at events such as the Basha Uhuru Freedom Festival at Constitutional Hill as well as the Nando’s Music Exchange at the iconic Roundhouse venue in London.

The Nando’s Music Exchange is an event that “brings together young musicians from across the Nando’s world for cross-cultural musical collaborations and mentorship with accomplished music industry experts.” 

“We are proud of the partnership with Nando’s and the collective work done to get the academy open. It’s the first school built entirely through the collaboration of numerous companies and friends in the music industry and beyond, who are now actively engaged in delivering opportunities and a world-class program,” said Barrioseta.

Applications for the next intake of students closes on December 5 and can be accessed on the Bridges for Music website at bridgesformusic.org. 

The aim is to educate youth who are from low-income families and who reside in Langa or surrounding communities, but anyone who has completed matric can apply. 

In the case of being granted a scholarship (to the value of R35,000), a sign-up fee of R1,000 will be required as a deposit and will be returned upon completion of the course if your attendance rate is over 95%. 

Student’s fees are paid for by sponsors who can get involved by speaking directly to the school’s staff by emailing connect@bridgesformusic.org. 

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