Internationally lauded orchestra and opera companies create a silent album in defiance of threats to arts around the world

Across the world, right now – from Cape Town to Kabul and London to Beijing – the arts are being silenced. COVID, conflict, censorship, loss of funding, displacement – even natural disasters – are seeing to it that the volume is being turned down on one of humanity’s driving forces: creative expression. Pink Floyds’ Nick Mason, Actor Victoria Ekanoye, Actor Stephen Boxer, Violinist and Conductor Pinchas Zukerman, Opera Singers Pretty Yende and Sonnyboy Dladla and more have pledged their support  

But in South Africa, two world-class organisations currently dealing with these enormous pressures, The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) and Cape Town Opera (CTO), are standing up for the arts, both in their country and across the world, with the release of a new album: Cwaka. The Silence

The album features recordings of silent versions of some of their greatest works. It also includes an original 49-second title track, Cwaka. The Silence., which people are being urged to add to their Spotify playlists as a way of driving awareness and raising funds for the cause. “Cwaka”, pronounced ts-wah-kah, is the is Xhosa word for silence. The isiXhosa pronunciation is available here at 1:20.

The release comes after the two institutions have been forced by COVID to either stop live performances altogether or to perform to extremely limited audiences for 18 months now, leading to a significant earnings’ loss. The funds raised in this campaign will go directly to supporting the arts in South Africa. Alumni such as the world-famous soprano Pretty Yende were set on their career paths by Cape Town Opera. The funds raised will also help to support the work these organisations do both on stage and in the local community, including discovering bright young talent from diverse, vulnerable, impoverished, at-risk and underrepresented backgrounds. 

Nicholas Ackerman, Director of the Duet Endowment Trust that assists in funding the CTO and CPO, commented on the launch of this project, “When we embarked on it, it was a direct response to the devastating effect of the pandemic on our orchestra and opera company. As we now approach the launch date, we see just how much the arts are under threat around the world; whether it’s COVID here in Cape Town, or the Afghan Women’s Orchestra being oppressed by the Taliban, or visual artists like Ai Wei Wei who has recently spoken about being exiled and censored; or even the cultural funding being quietly eroded away in places such as the UK.” 

“We were inspired to do two things: firstly, to raise the funds we need to keep our beloved Cape Town, South African and African classical institutions alive, but also as a rallying cry for the artists around the world being silenced. We believe the arts are at the heart of what makes us human, what brings joy and meaning to life, and that they’re worth fighting for. Yes, we are asking people to listen to our silence – and then we want them to go out and support their own local creative voices as well.”

People can listen to the album from 30th November on Spotify, or other preferred streaming services, here, and via the campaign website, where they can also watch a performance of the title track, donate to the fund, buy one of 50 limited edition copies of the vinyl, or register for the auction of one of only 40 limited edition fine art prints, numbered and signed by artist, William Kentridge, whose work features in the permanent collection at the Tate among other galleries around the world. 

The full tracklist is as follows:

Side A

  1. Cwaka. The Silence.| Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and Cape Town Opera
  2. Che gelida manina, La bohème(Silent Version) | Giacomo Puccini
  3. Summertime, Porgy and Bess (Silent Version) | George Gershwin
  4. Carmen Fantasie (Silent Version) | Pablo de Sarasate
  5. Rallalala,Hänsel und Gretel (Silent Version) | Engelbert Humperdinck

Side B

  1. L’amour est un oiseau rebelle(Habanera), Carmen (Silent Version) | Georges Bizet
  2. The Carnival of the Animals (Silent Version) | Camille Saint-Saëns
  3. Symphony No. 9 (Silent Version) | Alfred Schnittke, reconstructed by Aleksander Raskatov
  4. Eine Hex’ Steinalt, Hänsel und Gretel(Silent Version) | Engelbert Humperdinck

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