By Kwezikazi Mjuza
Cradock Melodies choir is a beautiful community choir that was established in 2016. Cradock is a small town situated right in the center of the Karoo in the Eastern Cape and it is one of the province’s smallest towns having a population of approximately 38 000. The need to build a choir came about because there is not much youth development initiatives in the town. The youth took it upon itself to gather and form a choir. There was a need for intervention because the youth was in distress. Lack of opportunities, societal issues, gender-based violence, family disorders and drug abuse are the main factors that the youth was faced with.
One of the choir’s biggest missions is to create a safe space for everyone who needs it. It started off as a youth development initiative until people out of the youth age bracket had an interest in joining the choir, they then changed the age restriction to being up to 45 years. Cradock Melodies consists of 37 members of all ages from 14 to 45. It has three branches including two other towns, Queenstown and Alice with Port Elizabeth being an emerging branch.
Being a tight-knit group, the choir does not only come together to practice and take part in competitions, they also serve as therapists amongst themselves. They have created a sense of brother and sisterhood among themselves where they can share their hardships and day to day struggles. “We come out feeling revived after every practice session we have; we really do live up to our choir’s slogan” says Mawande, one of the choir’s tenor singers. The slogan of the choir “Let’s sing for joy” is what every session is centered around, being joyous when surrounded by melodies.
Before Covid-19 hit in 2020, the choir was still emerging and post Covid-19 the choir is now determined more than ever to make waves. It has part taken in three different competitions. The choir won African piece, Western piece and also best male voice in one competition. On the 19th of August 2023, the choir sang for a Gala Dinner that was hosted by the UPCSA church in Cradock. Oscar Mabuyane the Premier of Eastern Cape was in attendance and Mawande describes the experience of singing in the presence of the Premier and having him join on stage to sing along as an “amazing yet nerve wrecking affair”.
The choir hopes that other people from disadvantaged communities could do what they have done. “There is strength in numbers and initiatives such as these save many young people from going down the wrong paths in life just by knowing they have a community that they can lean and count on” Mawande added.