Music ‘the answer’ to saving the youth

Fabian Botha

Fabian Botha, of Scottsdene, is using music to stop children from joining gangs.

The 20-year-old Cape Music Institute student lost his two best friends in a gang turf war in Scottsdene.

Wiehan Fortuin,19, and Behanco Fredericks,18, were gunned down in the same street – the one where Fabian lives – in separate incidents less than a week apart in April and May of 2018 (“Two die in turf war,” Northern News, May 2, 2018).

Fabian believes music holds the answer for young people who want to escape the community’s social ills.

The self-taught keyboardist joined the non-profit organisation – Join Bands, Not Gangs – which visited the Scottsdene High School the year Fabian’s friends died, and then he used his skills to teach “vulnerable kids” in his community.

Fabian hopes teaching youth music will keep them off the streets and out of gangs.

Founder of Join Bands, Not Gangs, Karien de Waal, 36, says she started the non-profit to teach music in “at risk” communities and Scottsdene was the best place to start her project.

Karien, a multi-instrumentalist who graduated from Berklee College of Music in America, says she had a “vision” of bringing peace between rival gangs through music.

So she teamed up with Fabian’s parents, Nicolene and Reverend Philip Botha, who now run a no-fee music school from their Park Avenue home.

Karien says the idea of making “positive changes” soon became a reality when two rival gangs joined the music school and were eager to learn how to play the drums, piano, guitar and flute.

“It was amazing to see them interacting with one another, and, instead of the sounds of gunshots, you would hear them trying to join in song.”

As word of the band spread into the community, curious kids flocked to the Bothas’ family home.

“We started off with only four kids, but now we have a big group of nearly 60 kids,” she says.

While there is now somewhere for the youngsters to learn and play music, there’s not enough instruments for everyone.

“There are only three pianos, three keyboards, a few guitars, flutes and drums,” says Karien.

Fabian has to juggle teaching music with college, but he says the young people’s willingness to learn keeps him going. He and other members of the Join Bands, Not Gangs hold classes six days a week, from Monday to Saturday at 4pm till 6pm.

“I enjoy what I do and it makes me happy,” says Faiban. “Children come in here because my home is a safe place for them. I don’t want to see them walking the wrong path, and I think the music school is keeping them on the straight path.”

Nicolene Botha says the minute she opens her door in the morning, children of all ages are queuing outside.

“There’s nothing for our kids to do, and most of them turn to gangsterism because they are getting the attention in the wrong places.”

While the school has had been good for some of the youngsters, there are others its hasn’t been able to reach, she says.

“The saddest thing for us is that we see potential walking in and out of our door, some of them come back and some of them become drug addicts and gangsters.”

Nicolene grew up in Scottsdene and says she remembers how safe it once was.

“Although it is quiet now, our children still can’t walk around like they used to because at each street corner, rival gangs wait for them like vultures.”

Some children are not interested in learning music but join the class for a free sandwich.

“This might be the only meal they eat for the whole day,” she says.

She is appealing to anyone with instruments, even if they are broken, to donate it to Join Bands, Not Gangs.

To help, contact Karien de Waal on 071 174 2373 or email joinbandsnotgangs@gmail.com or visit joinbandsnotgangs.com