In 2020, the Jakes Gerwel Foundation offered, in collaboration with the Suidoosterfees, a mentorship programme for songwriters who create original hits in Afrikaans, English or isiXhosa. The target group is young artists who can benefit from the experience and guidance of a mentor in order to produce fresh and catchy lyrics or songs. The selected artists also had the opportunity to work with their mentor, Frazer Barry, lead singer of Tribal Echo, as well as other professional artists on a musical production that was a veritable highlight during the Suidoosterfees earlier this year.
Some of the participants have the following to say about the mentorship programme:
The time of mentorship was very special to me because it changed me as a person. Before my departure to Paulet House in the Eastern Cape, I actually no longer had any faith in the arts and in my future as an artist. What I received and learned was like a refreshment and I came to love the arts again. I realised again that I have a real love for literature and creative writing and I gained a deep insight into what this involves. I learned that I can do far more than I thought and that I can create really vivid images with my words. I don’t have to rush when I’m creating, but I can take my time to work on my creations. I reached new heights of word art and have a totally new perspective on my creativity. I apply the things I learned when I create something new. I can express myself and my thoughts more easily in words. Even better, I find it easier to express my opinion and experiences in writing and in music. I learned what is inside me as an artist. The mentorship definitely changed my life and gave me new focus. Also with the run-up to the Suidoosterfees and our musical production I could share my experience with the fellow artists in my circle of friends. The Jakes Gerwel mentorship not only made me a better artist and writer, but also a more complete person.
When I arrived at Paulet House in Somerset East, I had an idea of who I am and what kind of music I make. But, Frazer Barry, you taught me to first forget about all the outside influences and I finally found, through your method, my true voice, my who and what I am and what music I make.
When I was uncertain, you listened and understood what I said, and you helped and led me out of my uncertainty. Throughout the whole experience up to the Suidoosterfees I never stopped learning and growing. It was a great experience for us to be the first to do the song-writing programme and to be able to break away for two weeks to focus only on song-writing.
To me personally, it was really special to surround myself with people with the same passion for songs and who do the same things I do – and then to have such an incredible and understanding mentor. The fact that you were passionate about my own writing and music was extra special to me. You inspired me and encouraged me to find the voice inside me, to develop it and to have confidence in myself.
My growth during this time is owing to the Jakes Gerwel mentorship programme and to your method and approach. I feel deeply grateful and have great appreciation for this.
Before the workshop in Somerset East with Frazer Barry I knew that I had to shake myself out and be ready to learn new things and to better myself. But Mr Barry wanted clean sheet to start with. We wrote our own stories right from the start about where we come from, or thought we came from. When we finally succeeded in, to use Mr Barry’s words, ‘digging open our fountain of creativity’ we could start with song-writing.
The sweetest sounds and words – like homebrew magou and oven-baked bread – started flowing from my lips. Somerset East was like my home; I learned to carry my home with me like the tortoise that is the emblem of Paulet House. Because, through the mentorship, I learned that everything that I want to attain in my music career is to be found inside me and here locally around me. Each of us is unique, so that what flows from me will also be unique and be in demand. The heaven inside me has been unlocked and I don’t have to run after other sounds.
I’m so glad that I could be part of the first mentorship programme for songwriters and of the première of Drome het vlerke at the Suidoosterfees. Under the guidance and mentorship of Mr Barry any musician can only give wings to their dreams!
My thanks also to Theo Kemp of the Jakes Gerwel Foundation and the people of Paulet House and in Somerset East who welcomed us and made us at home.