Johannesburg has the reputation for being a rough city with a high crime rate. Cape Town seems to be everyone’s favorite destination in South Africa, while Jo’burg is looked down on as a city of business and little culture. I was not looking forward to going there until our last night in Cape Town when I spoke with a young woman from Jo’burg who explained that the city was undergoing a revitalization. People are moving back into the city, she said, and its cultural life is on the upswing.
We stayed in a hotel on the outskirts of the city in Sandton. This affluent area is where the US consulate is located and where many of its personnel live. The consulate used to be in the CBD (central business district) but was chased from it by the high crime rate and security issues. During our time in the region of Jo’burg, we never had a problem or felt the least bit unsafe, including when we were in the CBD to play at the Bassline.
Our workshops took us to very different programs in very different locations: Davyton, Phokeng-Rustenburg and Soweto. Each program was headed by a visionary who believes strongly in social betterment through music, while the students seem eager to learn, open and motivated. This is exciting in the present and promising for the future.
We had a great time in Jo’burg. My informant was right, this feels very much like a place on the rise.