Fresh talent, an electrifying atmosphere and great music, were the expectations I had for my first experience
of Youth Unplugged – a six week long annual initiative aimed at empowering South Africa’s young aspiring
musicians.I attended the finale that took place on June 28,not only were my expectations met, but I was also
left inspired as I witnessed my peers manifest their dreams.

Youth Unplugged was introduced by the Johannesburg Theatre’s Youth Development Department in June 2014,
with the objective to celebrate young people. The selected aspiring musicians are professionally trained
by musician, Nothende Ndumo, and given the exclusive opportunity to deliver their craft to the masses
through live performances that take place every week throughout June. During the selection process, the
judges were looking for more than just talent: “We were also looking for people whom we felt really wanted
this, people that don’t just sing but also write. We wanted people that want to move further with their talent
and career, not people who just want to be famous,” explains Nothende. This, I believe, is what added a spark
to the performances,a new generation of rising stars performing material that has never been heard before was
a refreshing touch.
Dimah is 24 years old and forms part of the selected dream team,she came into Youth Unplugged with no
professional singing experience, and little confidence-it’s very hard to believe when you see her on stage. I
distinctly remember walking into the room when Dimah was rehearsing, and without even thinking twice, I was
convinced that she was an established artist that had been invited to the finale as a guest performer. “It’s
been good, more educational than fun. We did rehearsals and workshops, and we collaborated with other people,”
says Dimah.

Ironically, Nothende’s faith turned out to be a challenge in her role as a mentor;”I’m a perfectionist,
and it’s a challenge because to a certain degree I feel like I can hear the future. Sometimes I see a person’s
potential; how they are going to sound and how they should look once they have evolved, grown and become
comfortable. I have had to remind myself to be patient because I see it and want it to happen now.”
In her role as a mentor, Nothende often became a student herself, re-learning the very things that she was teaching
her mentees. “I haven’t performed in six months, and a lot of the decisions I made were because of the way things are
in the music industry,spending time with these guys has made me come back to myself, the artist. I’d have to ask
myself questions I was asking them, and naturally, I would think about where I am right now and what I want to do.”
The ending of this year’s Youth Unplugged is a bitter sweet pill to swallow for everyone, because over and above the
training, friendships were formed. Dimah admitted that they are feeling anxious about the future; “Most of us are
asking ourselves where to from here. We’ve been given this opportunity, now we sort of know ourselves, so where to
from here? We are pondering on starting groups; there’s been a lot of talk. We are trying to be each other’s support
systems,” Dimah says.
Fortunately, these young musicians have created a network amongst themselves,which was a crucial aspect of the
workshop because the local music industry can be a very lonely one.”Its very rare in the
industry for people to collaborate and work together, in hip hop yes it happens, but generally in other genres its
lonely. Part of what we wanted with this was for them to get to know each other and see how they can come together
and make music together,” says Nothende.

Speaking on the experience of working with Nothende, Dimah says: “I liked that she doesn’t act too superior, she
brought herself down to our level, and she’s not authoritative. She is someone you can relate to. Sometimes I feel
like she humbles herself too much. She is very selfless and she really wants us to win.”
I have found that most talent shows are more focused on entertaining the viewers rather than developing the
participants, purpose driven initiatives such as Youth Unplugged are much needed projects, and I do hope it continues
to grow. I look forward to seeing this new generation of artists rise. From what I witnessed, they have so much to
offer us music lovers.

Published: 2015-07-25 - 10:46:15

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