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The Soweto Marimba Youth League (SMYLe) project is a musical outreach

programme that seeks to offer under-privileged children living in the Dobsonville
area of Soweto an opportunity to overcome adversity, work towards a common
goal, and to reach the pinnacle of the success they choose for themselves.

The initial intention of the project was to create a music programme in an area
where schools are either ill-equipped or technically unable to provide learners
with an opportunity to study music as part of their academic growth. Even today,
the SMYLe project is one of very few music programmes for school learners in
Dobsonville, with the SMYLe team representing 5 of the 7 area high schools, of
which only P.J. Simelane has a music programme.

Without a formal music teacher in the area, the job of teaching the learners how
to play their music fell onto the shoulders of the multi-talented Johnny Hlaba: the
gardener of a primary school. Johnny works with the band on a daily basis,
teaching the learners how to play each of the instruments using his
immeasurable ability to translate the songs he hears into his own ‘African’
versions. More importantly, Johnny has taught ‘how to teach’ to many of the
older members of our band, such that he can now call on many of the senior
members of the project to help teach new learners.

The hope has always been that the SMYLe project would be a means for
encouraging the youth of Dobsonville to avoid the daily hazards of drugs, crime
and teenage pregnancy, while acting as an assertive reminder that ‘Education is
the Only Solution’.