News Archive
Nov 10, 2014 - We Are Music - Transcending Borders and Builing hope with the African Youth Ensemble
Four members of the Soweto-based African Youth Ensemble (AYE) will join AYE Director Kolwane Mantu onboard Peace Boat's upcoming 86th Voyage, where they will perform concerts, talk about how music has transformed their lives, and work with participants onboard to create collaborative performances.

The African Youth Ensemble has its roots in the violent Soweto Uprising that took place in the 1970s during the apartheid era in South Africa, which led to many young people idly roaming the streets after their schools were closed. Only a teenager himself at the time, Kolwane Mantu of Soweto began teaching younger students for free how to play the violin in his mother's kitchen as a way to cling to learning and stability in the midst of upheaval around him. When the number of students grew, his small music group shifted their practice to the restroom in the remains of a destroyed community hall, and he later founded the African Youth Ensemble. Today, nearly 200 young people learn music through the African Youth Ensemble, and many of Kolwane Mantu's former students have gone on to achieve professional careers in music.

Kolwane's aim, however, is not just to teach music, but to provide a safe space for young people in Soweto that shelters them from problems of drug addiction, HIV/AIDS, and teenage pregnancy and allows them to grow into healthy adults who positively contribute to society. And to this day, Kolwane still does not charge young people for his lessons.

Peace Boat has been affiliated with the orchestra/music education programme since 1999, when a first group of Peace Boat participants visited them. Since then, Peace Boat participants have regularly visited Soweto during visits to South Africa, learning about the orchestra and the background of Soweto, and delivering string instruments collected by volunteers through the United People's Alliance (UPA) programme in Japan. Today, most of the instruments used by AYE musicians have been donated by Peace Boat. "Without Peace Boat, there would be no AYE," says Kolwane Mantu.

Not stopping at delivering needed items, more recently Peace Boat has also aimed to give young AYE members the opportunity to travel with the ship to play for an international audience and to talk about their experiences. Through this programme, Peace Boat aims to give youth such as as Lesego Pheleu, Lerato Ntsoseng, Neo Madiehe and Khothatos Mantu the opportunity to share their voices and skills, gain international experience, and continue to be positive forces for change in society.

Learn more about Peace Boat's collaboration with AYE in previous voyage reports here and here, or download the project's photo report (PDF) here.
To support AYE's activities through the donation of musical instruments or funds, please contact

Neo Madiehe (Violist)

"I joined the AYE because I wanted to play a musical instrument and AYE was the only orchestra I knew that accommodated any child regardless of their background. AYE has helped me to stay grounded and has taught me humanity. My goal is bo be successful in everything I do (being a professional violist and being a young independent woman)."

Lesego Pheleu (Cellist)

"Originally my aim when joining AYE was to play the violin but I was advised to play the cello which did not sit well with me. After giving it a chance. I then realized the love I have for the cello. AYE has help me gained self-confidence to aim for my dreams."

Khothatso Mantu (Violinist)

"I started playing the violin at the age of 6, and have played with AYE for many years, leading the senior group and the AYE Ladies Orchestra. Music has been part of my family since I remember but wanted to try something new so I'm currently completing my BCom General degree. Afterwards I would like to do a Business in Music diploma."

Lerato Ntsoseng (Violinist)

"Before joining AYE I had nothing to do and I joined it mostly to kept me busy. But music turned out to be something I want to pursue for the rest of my life. IMy dream is to further my music studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London. If it wasn't for AYE I would have turned to drugs and alcohol, music kept me away from mixing with the wrong crowds and I gained a new extraordinary family as well."
Documents for download
"We are Music!" African Youth Ensemble Report