Bridges for Music: from Ibiza’s club scene to South Africa

Valentino Barrioseta was blown away by the power of music in South Africa and in particular in Langa, one of Cape Town’s oldest townships. When he first set foot there in 2012, he fell in love with Langa’s strong musical heritage with beloved artists such as Brenda Fassi and by how youth look up to DJs as their role models: “There is truly a special connection between kids and DJs that I haven’t seen anywhere else”. 

Building a community around the music

It was only natural to open Bridges for Music (BFM) there, a nonprofit organization and creative school where music is the main pillar and vehicle through which to teach teenagers about mindfulness, nutrition and entrepreneurship. “We see music not only as this cool thing that kids want to do because they want to be the next Black Coffee, but we actually see music and sound as a new-age educational model that can be used in many shapes and forms. Music is a proven tool in conflict resolution and to heal trauma”, says Barrioseta.

“Music is a proven tool in conflict resolution and to heal trauma”.

Bridges for Music’s main goal is to enable employment opportunities for people in and around Langa. Just as important, Bridges for Music is not only about how music can help a community, but also about how it builds community.  

Black Coffee, Richie Hawtin and others at BFM

One of the first workshops organized by BFM brought South African DJ Black Coffee with his soulful deephouse music and British-Canadian DJ Richie Hawtin and his minimal techno sound. “It was about bringing together someone who was big in the local, black communities with someone who was big in the white communities and bridging that gap. It helped show teenagers who dream to work in music that no matter where you´re born, you have similar fears and pressure from your parents and society to follow a more traditional route, regardless if you´re born in a township or in Ibiza.

One of the first workshops organized by BFM brought Black Coffee and Richie Hawtin.

Many other artists have come to BFM to share their insight in music such as Ed Sheeran, Skrillex, Loco Dice, Dixon, Tale of Us, and Dubfire among others. 

These visits give artists a chance to step back and reconnect to how their love for music led them to choose this life path. It also offers them a meaningful break from their non-stop schedules and a real-life, heartfelt experience to hear directly from the youth in Langa.  

Scholarship program for local talent

BFM has many ongoing programs and initiatives such as a scholarship program which gives local talent a chance to gain exposure at some of the world’s biggest festivals such as Tomorrowland, Glastonbury and Amsterdam Dance Event.

So far, around 23 kids have taken part in this. “It is a life changing experience for them to get on a plane, play in a festival of that caliber, see fans from completely different backgrounds appreciating their art, high-fiving them and just discovering the world outside their own box”, explains Barrioseta.

Richie Hawtin: “Hopefully some of these kids will go on to become professional DJs”.

Richie Hawtin sums it up well, “Hopefully some of these kids will go on to become professional DJs whether that’s in a township, Cape Town, Johannesburg or at Sonar Festival in Barcelona”. Or even at Ushuaïa Ibiza ! 

The burgeoning local market

Yet Valentino points out that there are many possibilities in the music industry in addition to deejaying, such as event production and promotion. He highlights the burgeoning local market for DJs in townships thanks to a rising middle class with disposable income that is starting to go out. “There is a very special scenario in this country where electronic music is the biggest music genre by far in the poorest communities”, he says. 

The organization has teamed up with diverse partners such as artist agencies, record labels and companies such as Resident Advisor and Pioneer DJ to find opportunities for local youth. It’s best explained by student Siphe Fassie in an interview in 2014: “When I heard the name Bridges for Music, I thought, ok, this is a bridge that’s going to take me out of Langa and somewhere else and I thought, let me just take this”. Today he is 19. Thanks to Bridges for Music who sponsored his high school studies, Siphe is already deejaying and enrolled in the next program at the school. 

Barrioseta explains they are “working now to open our 1,000 square meter school in Langa to international students”.

A new project

The next step? Barrioseta explains they are “working now to open our 1,000 square meter school in Langa to international students interested in a six-month life changing experience”. Valentino adds, “and why not bring this educational model to other developing communities around the world?.

Go Top