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District Six Band (South Africa)  
The D6 Band

MUSIC has been a key aspect of the heritage which the District Six Museum has attempted to restore and preserve. The archiving of sound material and music was a natural counterpart to the collecting of oral histories of ex-residents, and it is from these processes that the Museum has drawn its vitality and enduring significance.

What started as a process of archiving Cape Town music has now developed into a space where the artists themselves work with the preservation and restoration of this heritage. Thus the District Six Band, which actively works to preserve, disseminate and extend the various traditions of music indigenous to Cape Town.

The District Six Band comprises six seasoned Cape Town musicians; each musician brings to the band a legacy of working with one of these indigenous traditions. Yet each musician is not only on a creative and intellectual journey, but a personal one.

guitar, guitar (acoustic / semi-acoustic), Saxophone, penny whistle, keyboards
Genre: klopse / goema, traditional / indigenous, jazz
This emphasises how the research and archiving process has become a healing process. The dispossession of forced removals was an act of cruelty and inhumanity. The District Six Band, through working with humanity and living memory, is a reminder of this dispossession as well as a counter to its effects.

In a similar vein, by attempting to restore cultural heritage, the band serves as a reminder of cultural dispossession, as well as a counter to the persistence of a cultural poverty created by forced removals and other apartheid strategies.

Members of the District Six Band:

Willie Jales (alto saxophone)
Jales was born in 1939, and from a young age was influenced by the sounds of the Coon Carnival and the Christmas Choirs. He was fascinated by the instruments, most especially the saxophone. He was taught jazz and dance music by one of Cape Town’s original jazz band leaders, Jimmy Adams. Willie then started his own band in District Six. He still plays with this band today, preserving the legacy of langarm, squares and other dance music.

Valmont Layne (guitar)
Layne was born in District Six in 1966. Layne started as a sound archivist at the District Six Museum, and is now in charge of Research and Institutional Development. His portfolio includes acting as project leader of the District Six Band. However he is a jazz musician first and foremost. As a guitarist he played resistance music with the band Raak Wys during the eighties.

Gerald ‘Mac' Mckenzie (guitar)
Mac McKenzie was a key member of seminal Cape Town group The Genuines. Currently Mac is one of the directors of the Composers Workshop, based at the District Six Museum. The idea for the Composers Workshop was sown when Mac started as a resident musician playing mornings at the museum. He soon realised that there were other composers and musicians who needed a place to share their legacy. These musicians constitute the membership of the District Six Band, as well as the beginnings of the Composers Workshop, which has the ultimate aim of becoming a music school.Mac brings a knowledge of the klopse and goema traditions to the band. He has most recently started a band named the Goema Captains of Cape Town.

Hilton Schilder (keys and percussion)
Hilton Schilder comes from a family of well known jazz musicians. He himself started playing percussion at the age of just 3. He started his professional musical career in 1978, at which time he met Mac McKenzie. Schilder has played with a wide variety of bands, including the Genuines and Robbie Jansen’s Sons of Table Mountain, and has also held workshops in various countries on the indigenous sounds of Cape Town. His first solo album is to be released this year.

The D6 Band
Robert Sithole (pennywhistle)
Sithole was born in District Six. He played with bands like Skuif, Ghetto, and the Kwela Kids, before moving overseas where he played with South African jazz legends like Dudu Pukwana and Chris McGregor. He also spent time working with Art Blakey. His playing is rooted in the traditions of kwela and mbaqanga.

Alex van Heerden (trumpet/accordion)
Van Heerden was born in Port Elizabeth, and learnt to play the trumpet in the school marching band. However he taught himself to play jazz by imitating Winston Mankunku and Robbie Jansen. He has played with The Genuines, Hilton Schilder and Robbie Jansen. He realised from these experiences that in order to be true to himself, he had to search for the music of his culture. He soon thereafter learnt to play the accordion, an Afrikaans folk instrument.Van Heerden currently leads Gramadoelas, a band who create a new fusion from the traditions of vastrap and goema.

[this biography written and provided by District Six Band / District Six Museum]

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