The foundation offers young people in rural and impoverished areas of South Africa a chance to develop music, life and leadership abilities in a supportive environment with good role models. Field Band has now been a partner organization of FK Norway and the Norwegian Band Federation (NMF) for 17 years, during which a series of exchanges and visits have led to shared learning and friendships formed. A few weeks ago, almost 30 band members from South Africa visited and performed in towns along the west coast of Norway.

“There is a mutual respect and a sense that each part has something to bring to the partnership,” said Nicolette de Plessis, or Nicky.

She has been the CEO of the Field Band Foundation since 2014. But she has been involved with the foundation since its inception in 1996, when it was one of many new organizations seeking to bridge the divides of the old Apartheid-regime.

“It was the dawning of hope,” Nicky said, “there was a great sense of openness.”

Breaking the negative patterns

The initial post-Apartheid euphoria, however, was eventually replaced with concern and frustration over social issues. Yet Field Band has survived and continues to reach out to young people. They now have 26 bands operating in various locations all over the country.

“We need something that provides hope and optimism in the face of such despair,” said Nicky. She pointed to the heavy toll carried by society after decades of extensive corruption, poverty, violence and unemployment.

Breaking the cycles that create these situations is one of the goals of Field Band. They aim to change patterns of negative behaviour and provide young people with support, a sense of communion and the emotional resilience to handle the challenges they have and will face. Support from FK Norway is important if this work is to continue.

At the same time, Norwegians have much to learn from South Africa, said Nicky.

Loosening up, opening up

“There is a ready capacity to immerge yourself with music, despite not having any formal education or training,” she said about the South African band members. “They can’t play standing still. They are fully committed.”

Loosening up and showing your passion is something many Norwegians could benefit from, she said.

At the same time, bonds like those forged between Field Band and the Norwegian Band Federation are growing ever more important in an interconnected world. Local and national solutions are not enough to deal with the changes and challenges the world is facing.

“Nobody can afford to close themselves in,” said Nicky. “Our compass, if you like, is that human development has to take into account the development of the collective.

“There is an African philosophy: You are a person in virtue of other people.”