The oldest Cape Malay choir guarding heritage with liedjies of love
Abduraghmaan Morris is an absolute gentleman. He’s always impeccably dressed, and there’s an unmissable tenderness in his voice. When Morris sings, there isn’t a dry eye in the house. That’s not his intention, but the tunes of his choir are so filled with emotion, the reaction can’t be helped. Morris is the president of the oldest Malay choir in Cape Town. Their liedjies, or folk songs, are a blend of Dutch and Eastern melodies, infused with soul and sentiment of centuries gone by. Though they resonate notes of a colourful world, they are also rooted in a deeply painful history.
Having grown up in the Cape Town city centre, they were was forcibly relocated to Mitchells Plain. The District 6 removals during apartheid are ingrained in Morris’ memory. Despite separation, traditions like the choir kept Malay culture alive wherever they went. “You can physically remove a man from his home, but you can never undo heritage, history and identity,” he says. Morris joined in 1982, his father’s role as a singer serving as an indication of his future. With his dedication, the singing group that started out as the Young Men’s Sporting Club in 1938 has matured into the cultural firework it is today.
Through decades of South Africa’s history the choir stands strong. “We have sung through the 1950s apartheid era and the Group Areas Act,” Morris says. With members from the ages of 14 to 75 years old, the choir is a living treasury for Cape Malay people. The troubadours take pride in transcending generations to form a single body of song, regaling the nostalgic tales of our past. Under Morris’ careful direction, they continue adding lively tones to the ever-changing song of the rainbow nation.