Cape Town’s Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) and Cape Town Opera (CTO) are fighting back against threats to classical arts across the globe. From COVID, conflict, censorship and loss of funding, the arts are being silenced and something has to be done.

In response, they have launched a silent album titled Cwaka. The Silence. The initiative will be used to raise funds needed to continue their work, both on stage and developing talent at grassroots levels.

Cwaka The Silence album. Picture: Sydelle Willow Smith
Pictures Sydelle Willow Smith

Add to your Spotify playlist

With creative expression being stifled, the CPO and CTO have focused on Cwaka. The Silence – the album features recordings of silent versions of some of their greatest works. It also includes an original 49-second title track, Cwaka. The Silence. (isiXhosa pronunciation available here at 1:20 seconds)

The release comes after the two organisations were forced to either stop live performances altogether or to perform to extremely limited audiences for 18 months now, leading to a significant earnings loss.

The call for donations is being done in a simple manner. South Africans are 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).

Those with a love for artist William Kentridge, who has designed the vinyl cover, can bid for one of 40 limited edition fine art print copies of the vinyl via the auction or purchase one of 50 limited edition copies of the vinyl.

The funds raised in this campaign will go directly towards supporting the classical arts in South Africa via the Duet Endowment Trust. Soprano Pretty Yende is one of the alumni who entered the global stage via the Cape Town Opera. They will also ensure the organisations can continue their work at grassroots levels in local communities where they are always on the lookout for bright young talent who has been underrepresented within the classical music industry.

Cwaka The Silence album. Picture: Sydelle Willow Smith

Arts under threat

Says Nicholas Ackerman, Director of the Duet Endowment Trust, “When we embarked on this campaign, it was a direct response to the devastating effect of the pandemic on our orchestra and opera company. As we now approach the launch date, we see just how much the 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.”

“We were inspired to do two things: firstly, to raise the funds we need to keep our beloved Cape Town, South African and African classical institutions alive, but also as a rallying cry 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,” says Ackerman, who is passionate about raising awareness and donations for the Duet Endowment Fund which was founded by his grandmother, Wendy Ackerman.

People can listen to the album on Spotify, or other streaming services here, and via the campaign website, where one can also watch a performance of the title track, donate to the fund, buy one of 50 limited edition copies of the vinyl, or register for the auction of one of 40 limited edition fine art prints (along with the vinyl), numbered and signed by William Kentridge.

What: Cwaka The Silence CPO CTO album