Minstrel troupe, West London All Stars, ready to rock the Carnival

This week the InnieKaap spotlight falls on one of the KKKA Super League Minstrel troupes, West London All Stars (WLAS).

This formidable 1 500-member-strong “Klops” hails from Athlone (known as West London back in the day), hence the locational reference. This troupe is led by the passionate and fiery Waleed Hendricks, aka “The Boss”.

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All Stars (as the troupe is commonly referred to) was established in 2016 and immediately made an impact on the Minstrel carnival, finishing in a creditable third place.

Waleed wanted more and says: “I very quickly realised that if I wanted to seriously compete and win the Carnival, I had to get the best coaches and brass band on board.” He did just that.

In their second year (2017), with the likes of respected and proven choral coaches Taariq Blignaut and Sam Crouch in his camp, as well as the talented brass maestros Munthier “Challas” Makriel and Lorenzo Blignaut leading the brass band, All Stars won their section of the Super league, garnering nine first prizes. They finished in second place in the Champs of Champs competition.

The following year (2018) All Stars again won their section of the KKKA competition, thus becoming joint Carnival Kings. They followed this up with a second place in the 2019/2020 season.

All Stars are unbeaten in the highly sought-after best band item. In just four years they have become a serious force to be reckoned with and are indeed worthy of their Super troupe status.

This is no mean feat. It takes years and lots of money to build and sustain a champion troupe.

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Like everywhere else, the Covid-19 pandemic caused havoc in the Klopse fraternity. It silenced the brass sounds of the Cape Flats and brought about an eerie quiet to the normally vibrant klopskamers (Club rooms). No choir rehearsals or band practices were allowed and all competitions were cancelled.

Klopse is not just about bright uniforms and painted faces. It brings friends, families and communities together and troupe members and supporters cannot wait for main practices on Sundays.

What many do not realise, is that these days minstrel troupes offer a sense of belonging, which is an alternative to that of the gangs on the Cape Flats. One would be naive to think that there are no unsavoury elements in the Klopse, but the overwhelming majority of members and supporters of the Klopse are good, decent people who love this culture which binds them.

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Practice days usually end with a sandwich, savouries, cake and a lekka cup of tea for all present. Every now and then a big pot of food is carried in to provide a meal. Some days, the Klopskamer is the only place that a child is guaranteed a warm plate of food.

Troupe owners, their executive and their working committees often have to dig deep to keep this going. Taking the expenses throughout the season into account (including transport, food and coaching) top troupes require an operating budget of a good few hundred thousand rand.

The two-year Covid break means that All Stars will officially be celebrating their fifth anniversary this coming season. Waleed has promised to be back with a bang and come out in style to see WLAS take Carnival 2023 to the next level.

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“We are already busy making uniforms (colour scheme is secret) and my order for hats and umbrellas has been placed. Nothing will be left to chance, we will be ready and playing to win.”

Waleed graciously acknowledges that getting this troupe on the road is a team effort and gives thanks to his committed and experienced executive team consisting of chairperson Nadwee Abrahams, secretary Aakef Januari, Fikrie Abrahams, Rashied Titus, Shamiel Abrahams, Kashief Appoles, Ismail Khan, Faeez Samuels, Michael Du Plooy, Nizaam Nackerdien and the troupe elder, Saaid “Ammie” Dollie, 71.

The carnival is five months away, but there is already a buzz of anticipation and excitement in the air. People are hungry for the joy the Klopse season brings.

A number of Klopse icons succumbed to Covid-19, but the pandemic could not kill the love for the Klopse culture in the Western Cape.

Troupes are like families. They give people a sense of belonging. Like families, there are squabbles, fights and lots of drama, but so too lifelong bonds and friendships are formed.

West London All Stars are one of those families.

www.inniekaap.co.za; [email protected]

Nazeem Davids

* Nazeem Davids.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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