Being a member in a band gives purpose, belonging, friendship and structure. This is one of the ideas guiding the work of the South African Field Band Foundation, which provides vulnerable young people in South Africa a chance to learn music and be a part of a band. For almost two decades, Field Band and the Norwegian Band Federation (NMF) have exchanged skills and experiences. The newest edition to the cooperation is Pulse, an FK Norway-sponsored programme focusing on the wide-ranging benefits of exchange, music and social inclusion.

“Believe in yourself,” said Pulse-participant Masibulele Langa when asked about what he has learned through the programme. “Even if it is just a small project; just involve yourself. You never know what will happen. I never dreamed of going to Norway.”

He has been in Norway since September 2016. Nine months ago, he was joined by Denis Tiou Mashabane. Both are from South Africa and have been active in Field Band for about a decade each. Through Pulse they brought this experience with them to Norway, where they have organised workshops and taught music the Field Band way: playing by ear without sheet music.

“It gives ownership of music,” said Denis. “You never forget it. When you learn from sheet music you start relying on the paper.”

Standing up and moving around while playing is a new experience for many Norwegians, who are used to more rigor and structure, said Denis and Masibulele.

But Pulse also brings other important knowledge from South Africa to Norway. The Field Band foundation aims to teach young people in South Africa life-skills through music, community and organisational activities. The experiences gained from working with young people in difficult situations and who have experienced trauma, poverty and other hardship are useful for Norwegian organisations, such as the Norwegian Band Federation (NMF).

“The organisation from South Africa has shown us the importance of working with social inclusion,” NMF writes on their webpage. “Now we are in a situation where a large amount of people form war-torn areas have arrived in Norway. They are sure to have things to teach us as well.

“Let us give them the possibility to be a good contribution to their local communities in a language that is universal and gives hope for a better life.”

On their part, Denis and Masibulele said the exchange has given them new knowledge and insights to bring home to South Africa. They pointed especially to the Norwegian tradition of inclusive organisational activities that bring together parents, children and other members of the communities – the Norwegian ‘dugnad’.

“I will say, ‘wake up’,” said Masibulele. “Participate in every little project in the community.”