Capetonians stake out best spots for historic Malay Choir parade

2015-12-30 14:00
Badroeniesa May books a spot on Darling Street. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Badroeniesa May books a spot on Darling Street. (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town - Badroeniesa May is such a huge fan of Cape Town's famous Cape Malay Choir nagtroepe (night troupes) that she has already spent a night on Darling Street to book a prime viewing spot for the event which starts on Wednesday night.

"It was fine, there were some people going home late and some security, but no problems," she says from her spot opposite Grand Central Building.

"I'm just waiting for my mother now to come with the tent and then I will go and brush my teeth," says the Delft resident excitedly, a whole day early for the parade which starts at 22:00 at Rose Street in Bo-Kaap.

With her granddaughter Aaqila Schippers in the family's advance party, May holds the fort in her camping chair, with a miniature camping chair for Aaqila placed firmly next to her to stake out their turf.

With the street barricades already up, May's 79-year-old mother Fatiema will rest on the pavement on the blow-up mattress stashed in one of the shopping bags around her feet, and a shop near them is letting them use their bathroom.

She has come prepared with blankets, toiletries and clothes - and sleep is not on the agenda.

Besides her mother, her daughter and two more grandchildren are also on their way.

The four generations are looking forward to the 21 choirs that will entertain them with a mixture of traditional, moving or cheeky songs, as well as the outfits, the carnival atmosphere, the choirs' cute voorlopertjies (front runners), and reminiscing about her parents roots in District 6 and Bo-Kaap.

While little Aaqila looks down Darling Street hoping to be the first to see granny, she sings some of the old folk songs that have run through the generations.

"By one o'clock this place will be full," says May, waving a hand down Darling Street. '"I come every year, and this is my space."

City officials have said the event is so large and of such cultural significance to Capetonians that it will close off parts of the city from 21:00 on Wednesday night, December 30, to 04:00 on Thursday.

Yes, you read right - it is not being held on New Year's Eve this year.

Parade brought forward by a day

Shafick April, president of the Cape Malay Choir Board, explains that it traditionally takes place on New Year's Eve, but this year the 31st falls on a Thursday. This creates a clash for the mostly Muslim choristers and fans because the parade and the follow-up invitations to sing at venues around the city will run into the Muslim holy day, Friday.

So it has been brought forward by a day. It is also the first time the board is organising the event and it was touch and go, but they finally received R495 000 from the City of Cape Town and R200 000 in grants, and sent money to the companies contracted for all the services such as crowd marshals and cleaners. 

"It is still a bit short, but we will try and cut it here and there," said April.

When the parade through the city is over, the choirs board buses and are taken to different places in the city where they have been invited to perform, giving those in Cape Town plenty of chances to enjoy the historic event which dates back to the late 1880s when choirs moved through the streets carrying lanterns.

After the parade through the city, they are expected to sing at Shelly Street in Woodstock, then they will go on to venues in Lavender Hill, Mitchells Plain and Bonteheuwel.

In April, the choirs compete against each other over four days at their new venue the City Hall, after the Good Hope Centre was sold to a film company.

On January 1, another parade is held through the city, this time by the minstrels, and they start in the opposite direction, ending up at Bo-Kaap.

Read more on:    cape town  |  culture

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