Ntonga Music School

Gugulethu, South Africa

In the spring of 2009, the Playing For Change Foundation opened its first music school in Gugulethu, South Africa, a township ten miles (16 km) outside of Cape Town. Like many of the townships formed during the government-imposed Apartheid that lasted from 1948 to 1994, Gugulethu is a community in need of assistance and inspiration. South Africans are still striving to repair the damage and injustice created during Apartheid, and the Ntonga Music School is setting a strong example of how the country can come together to create a brighter future for its people. Today the people of Gugulethu are full of life and spirit, but have many obstacles to overcome. With drugs, crime, poverty, and disease prevalent in the township, the Ntonga Music School offers hope and possibility for the community and its youth.

In addition to building the school, the Playing For Change Foundation provides teacher salaries, musical instruments,  and other necessities this center of compassion and creativity requires. The school is lead by a dedicated staff of music instructors and trained personnel who understand the unique challenges their students face. The school also serves as a community center where guest musicians from Cape Town and beyond come to perform for the students and community.

The Ntonga School is striving to empower the people of Gugulethu by creating positive opportunities for their community, as well as foster a greater connection to the rest of the world through the sharing of their music. The school is working to connect South Africans beyond the boundaries of Gugulethu; it is a source of pride and inspiration not only for the township, but also for the country.

Click here to view photos of Ntonga Music School on Flickr

  • Welcome to Gugulethu's Ntonga Music School!

  • The Music students and teachers at Ntonga perform a song dedicated to the South African heroes...

  • A Better World by student Yonelisa Wambi, featuring Mohammed Alidu on the talking drum.

  • A song recorded in Pokie's backyard on the first day met him.




Djembe repair

Allows local craftsmen to replace the head of a djembe (hand drum)

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Teacher salary

Provides one month’s teacher salary

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Jun 11, 2014

Progress and Joy at the Ntonga Music School

by Thea Karki

Earlier this year, the program team at the Playing For Change Foundation worked on a strategy with the leadership team at the Ntonga Music School that could grow the school in a manageable way, increase community outreach and participation, and improve the overall structure of the music school.

Since February we have seen encouraging progress; we now have a strong administrator in place, and three new committee member candidates from Gugulethu. There are 40 to 50 consistent students showing up for classes on a regular basis, and up to 100 students that are participating in the program altogether.


Most residents of Guguletu work as laborers either in the Township itself or in nearby Cape Town. The youth of Guguletu wake around 7 AM, eating cereal and bread to fill their stomach. Most of them have between 3 and 5 siblings and attend local school-- some walk, others take a mini-bus. School ends by 3PM, at which point many students go straight to Ntonga to pursue their passion: music.

  • Music Education at the school

    The Music school is open from Monday to Saturday. Classes are given in bass, guitar, flute, drums, piano, vocals and musical theory. A very special attention is given to the study of the jazz standards during the ensemble classes, where our...

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  • Piano

    The piano is a big part of our curriculum at the Ntonga Music school. We have two upright pianos and 2 keyboards at the school and those classes are being leaded three times per week by teacher Nelson Yeye Mongezi. 



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  • Saxophone

    Tenor and alto saxophone classes are being held twice a week at the school by teacher John Ntshibilikwana 







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  • Pokie Klaas

    Pokie took up the double bass in his twenties after suffering a knee injury in soccer. Since then Pokie has played in several bands throughout Cape Town, and today he is proud to share his musical skills on the double bass and electric bass with eager students of his community.

  • Nelson Mongezi

    Nelson Mongezi is a pianist, arranger and composer raised in the township of Langa. He is a versatile musician and got into music at a young age with his father, who was a musician too. Nelson 'Smous' is today a key element of our staff at Ntonga, bringing his musical knowledge and personal energy to our students.

  • Elijah Gxenya

    Elijah Genija has played guitar for decades. He spent his early years as a self-taught musician, not beginning formal guitar training until his mid thirties. He went on to study music at the University of Cape Town and currently performs with a number of ensembles in the city.

  • John Ntshibilikwana 

    John is from Gugs and has been a respected musician in the area over the past 40 years, who has played in bands such as the Marymax Orchestra or the Jazzotheque. He teaches saxophone and musical theory with relevant patience, creativity, and wisdom. His experience and educational skills are a true blessing for the music school.

  • Gus Warden

    Gus was born and raised in Cape Town. He has spent the last decade playing and teaching music, experiencing the work in the townships of his hometown. Gus plays piano, bass, drums and also sings: he has been playing, composing and arranging for an extended number of bands and projects in South Africa and abroad.