Exploring Climate Issues in Pretoria

For the month of June, Conservation Music (CM) headed to Pretoria, South Africa to complete Leg 4 of Expedition #K2K. Through the month, we worked with Greenpeace Africa and Projekt 23 – Greening Our Communities to spread environmental awareness throughout the cities, create eco-music, and educate the younger generations to build a brighter future. In recent years, the water infrastructure in Pretoria has aged to the point of irreversible leakages and contamination. With growing stresses from population increases and mining activities, this issue has become more urgent than ever and poses a massive threat to the future of the northern communities of South Africa. Assisted by a wide-range of talented artists, we created the eco-song, “Protect Our Water,” to inspire action regarding socio-political disputes about the distribution and protection of dwindling clean water resources. Take a visual dive into our fieldwork by watching Episode 8 of CM’s Webseries: On The Beating Path.

For this leg of Expedition #K2K, we moved into the headquarters of X Factor Crafts and Nosh Food Rescue, owned by our friend Hanneke. This brilliant conservationist and homesteader invites backpackers from all over the world to her house, where her lush gardens provide for homemade teas, oils, kombuchas, and tinctures. We couldn’t be happier with our accomodations for the Pretoria leg of the journey! Check out more of CM’s stories and videos on National Geographic’s OpenExplorer platform.

CM’s Crew Brings Life to a New Collaboration

To gain clarity for this month’s eco-song collaboration, we headed to a nearby park to meet with longtime friend, conservationist, talented singer, and Founder of Projekt 23, Tribute “Birdie” Mboweni, and her music director, Thulani ST Sithela. Together, we envisioned the song’s composition and then split ways, so that we could trek to Winterveld to meet our longtime friend Thabiso Thabethe and invite him to join the song. With need for one more vocalist to join the trio, Thabiso linked us to Xolani “Haikuu” Petrus Mhlanga, a multi-instrumentalist, rapper, filmmaker, and producer, who also graciously allowed the collective to use his garage as a session space in Waterkloof.

On June 6th, World Environment Day, we met with Greenpeace Africa and Projekt 23 – Greening Our Communities at the Tlakukani Primary School in Mamelodi, for an educational workshop on the importance of water conservation. The day began with eco-education games, followed by a lesson in defending water by Greenpeace Africa. Conservation Music rounded out the day by allowing the students to write and record their own part for this month’s eco-song collaboration. Birdie guided the students through their part, leading to the creation of a beautiful chorus.

Our next session was at Haikuu’s place, where we could feel the momentum of the project building as we gathered musicians to write and compose the instrumentals for the track. Thabiso and CM Founder, Alex Paullin, exchanged ideas and riffs, as keys player Taelo Mpatsi laid down accompanying melodies to further flesh out the tune. Haikuu was also incredibly excited to add a rap verse and lead guitar melodies to the eco-song. For two weeks, we spent time at Haikuu’s studio, rehearsing and recording the majority of the track. Thabiso and Haikuu helped us integrate essential guitar strains, while bassist Gally Ngoveni laid out the low end. We met Gally earlier this year at MTN Bushfire, and are grateful to reconnect, as well as add his talented touch to the song. Next, we headed to Oakfields College Lynnwood Campus Studio, where we recorded Thulane ripping through drum takes, and even providing some backing harmonies.

Alex Paullin Takes CM to Germany for Refugium

As we continued to work on the eco-song, Alex geared up for a symposium at Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt in Germany. There he would offer a series of lectures and workshops, while producing a new #CrowdStudio track with a group of refugees and music students for the yearly Refugium Music and Arts Festival. Prior to Alex’s departure, we welcomed in Jake Taylor, CM volunteer and multi-instrumentalist, for the next two months of the expedition. Jake’s presence set an amazingly new dynamic and level of production to the group. With an expanded crew, we headed to a local cafe to watch Gershan Lombard: KhoisanBoy.Man, an artist featured in our “Day Zero” song, perform before he set off for a tour around Europe.

CM Location Shooting for “Protect Our Water”

After Alex returned from a successful trip to Germany, we wrapped up tracking and began shooting for the production’s music video. We started with Thabiso’s part at a dried out river in the Slovo Village of Winterveld. This location exceeded our expectations and we are eager to show you more from this golden hour.

For the second location shoot, the collective ventured into the city of Johannesburg to film Haikuu’s rap verse. The set lies in front of a Greenpeace Africa #DefendWater mural, which was painted to raise awareness about water as a human right. The backdrop set a heavy tone for this production and highlights the severity of South Africa’s water issues.

For the third and final shooting location, we headed to Pretoria National Botanical Garden with Birdie, who put on a moving performance for the video. The serenity of the botanical gardens, coupled with Birdie’s colorful outfit, made for some unforgettable footage that will bring this production to the next level.

Wrapping Up the Production

Our final recording session for “Protect Our Water” was with our good friend Albert Craftsman, who blessed us with congas, djembe, udu, and rainstick from his percussion arsenal. His additions brought motion and cohesion to the song and rounded it out so that we can enter the final mixing and mastering stages.

Before trekking onto our next project, Haikuu graced us with a rap verse for the expedition’s #CrowdStudio track, which will continue to grow over the remainder of the expedition. We also want to give thanks to Mount Skylight, a crew that is creating a short film and donating 5% of the proceeds to Conservation Music. Check out the teaser! With production from leg 4 behind us, we wrapped up post-production on both songs and videos from Pretoria and Eichstatt, and then set out to Botswana for leg 5 of the expedition to create a song pertaining to transboundary water issues. We hope you stay tuned for future updates on Expedition #K2K.

Expedition #K2K is our third iteration of long-term field work, and it is by far the most exciting. To learn more about CM, and to stay connected throughout the mission, please subscribe to our Newsletter below, check out our blog on National Geographic, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. For live updates from the field, be sure to check out our page on National Geographic’s newest digital journaling platform, OpenExplorer. If you would like to contribute to Expedition #K2K, please visit our Patreon page, where you can schedule monthly donations of any amount.

This post was written by Charles Ross for Conservation Music.

About Conservation Music

Our Musical Nonprofit For Conservation

of Conservation Music

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Conservation Music is on a mission to produce and promote musical media that educates listeners and viewers in conservation and sustainability, with an emphasis on rural developing communities, and to serve as a platform for similar efforts. Currently, the organization primarily collaborates with musicians throughout Southern Africa, catalyzing songs in local genres and local languages regarding local conservation issues in countries like Lesotho, Botswana, Angola, and more.

About the Editor

Alex Paullin

of Conservation Music

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After years of soul-searching and months in the African wilderness with the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project, musician and geographer Alex Paullin combined his foremost passions and founded Conservation Music, a non-profit aiming to foster a global culture of sustainability using music as the messenger. Throughout his life he aims to expand the Conservation Music movement globally, in hopes that his lifetime will see and hear songs of conservation being sung throughout the world.