Music van de Caab keeps Khoi and San music alive

 Cape musician Johannes Coetzee specialises in playing the guitar using a teaspoon as a plectrum. (Image: Solms-Delta)

Solms-Delta lives a transformation ethos
Gallery: South Africa’s rich and colourful heritage
Using the arts to build an inclusive South Africa
South African music
The history of South Africa

Ndaba Dlamini

The Solms Delta wine estate in Franschhoek, in the Western Cape, goes by a tag line that says the farm is much more than just a wine estate. True to its word, Solms-Delta does not only produce classical wines, but classical music as well.

The wine estate is located in the picturesque Franschhoek Valley, a valley dominated by imposing mountains and spectacular vineyard vistas. Many centuries gone by, the natural beauty of the valley may have struck many a San or Khoi musician, compelling them to come up with a song or two marvelling at the scene.

Music van de Caab

Today, the musical rustle of the grapevine leaves may lend credence that long-gone San and Khoi musicians may be strumming some musical notes of yore and giving support of the Music van de Caab, a Cape music project established by Solms-Delta owner Mark Solms to revive the culture and spirit of the original dwellers of Franschhoek Valley.

 School children are taught to play various musical instruments by music teachers at the Cape Rural Music Centre. (Image: Solms-Delta)

When Solms bought the farm in 2001 he realised that he has to do quite a lot to address the social and economic inequalities of the farm workers around the Cape Winelands. After a lot of research, he decided to establish a trust which he called the Wijn de Caab Trust that would provide financial assistance for education at all levels, private healthcare and assist those in distress.

The Cape Rural Music Centre

In 2007, with the help of local musician Alex van Heerden, the Trust initiated a Cape music project with the aim of creating a sense of inclusivity among the Winelands community. The Cape Rural Music Centre, after much research, was built at Solms Delta Wine Estate and has managed to capture and revive the indigenous music of the different cultures of the Winelands.

 Children from the Cape Rural Music Centre perform at the Solms-Delta Harvest Festival. (Image: Solms-Delta)

Rich musical heritage

Many cultures have contributed to the heritage of Franschhoek Valley. The original inhabitants – the San and the Khoi – were long ago joined by other groups from all corners of the world. The resultant blending of cultures has produced a rich musical heritage which the children attending the Cape Rural Music Centre are attempting to revive.

 The Franschhoek Valley is renowned for its rich musical culture which has a heavy San and Khoi influence. (Image: Solms-Delta)

Learning to play music

Most days after school, children from Solms-Delta Wine Estate and surrounding wine farms converge at the centre to attend classes run by music teachers. All children are provided with instruments to play and take care of as their own. They learn to play the guitar, the trumpet, the trombone and the ghoema drum. To top it all, they also learn music theory, how music is written through notation and codes.

 A child learns music notation and code at the Cape Rural Music Centre. (Image: Solms-Delta)

Oesfees Festival

After much lots of learning writing music, blowing on trombones and banging of drums, children at the music centre prepare each year for the Solms-Delta Harvest Festival, or Oesfees Festival, where they are given the platform to rub shoulders with seasoned musicians on stage. The festival is a celebration of the music of the Cape and draws people from the Western Cape and beyond.

 The Oesfees Festival is a celebration of Cape music and features music groups from the Franschhoek Valley and surrounds. (Image: Solms-Delta)

Museum van de Caab

Museum van de Caab tells the story of Delta Farm, well before Solms bought the wine estate. It tells the history of Delta Farm, starting from the very beginnings of human settlement on the farm, through pre-colonial pastoral usage of the land, the establishment of private ownership through colonial viticulture, the scars left by slavery and apartheid until the present day. It also tells the stories of individual farm workers, giving the original dwellers, the San and Khoi – a living face.

 Visitors to the Museum van de Caab can discover the origins of Cape music through interative displays. (Image: Solms-Delta)

Recently, a musical exhibition opened at the Museum van de Caab featuring touch-screens showing interactive displays. Each interactive displays has its own audio, and a display case containing instruments such as the bow lute and an oil-tin blik kitaar is on show. The musical exhibition traces the origins of Cape music, particularly the music of the Khoi and San. Khoi and San musical instruments like leg rattles made from Springbok ears or moth cocoons are also showcased.

The museum is open seven days a week and admission is free. For more information contact Solms-Delta on 021 874 3937 or email