How the Taj hotel tried to keep the Kaapse Klopse away

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If you know anything about Cape Town, you know that the minstrel parade or “Kaapse Klopse”, as we prefer to call them, has become an inherent part of the city’s character, commemorating a parade that took place in the mid-nineteenth century when slaves were given the day off – January 2. To celebrate the “tweede nuwe jaar”, or second new year, slaves would dress up and take to the streets, banjo in hand and songs on their lips. This holiday season, the Malay Choir parade was meant to proceed through central Cape Town on the evenings of  the 30th and 31st of December, as it usually does.

In the words of the City of Cape Town, “The annual Malay Choirs Parade is an intrinsic part of the cultural fabric of our city and is synonymous with Cape Town.”

This year however, one five star hotel was not at all convinced of the value of the parade, and flagged it as a potential nuisance for its guests.

EFF MP Nazier Paulsen posted an email exchange on Facebook yesterday, showing an exchange between the manager of the Taj Hotel in Cape Town, Michael Pownall and counsellor Gareth Bloor,  the Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Economic Development for the City of Cape Town, asking him to make sure that his hotel is spared the music from the minstrels marching by on New Years eve.

Here is the FULL post shared by Paulsen:

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Naturally, the woke factions of Facebook erupted. And to be fair, the exchange is pretty nasty. Here, a top hotel was requesting that a local festival commemorating a tradition of slaves be curtailed so its high-end guests are not disturbed. And the response from the city? “They helped us get into the New York Times,” which makes us wonder, how much did the city shield from the NYT in order for it to chosen as the world’s premier destination in 2014? There is snobby, and then there’s this.

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Now we aren’t sure what transpired after that, but we guessing that the buzz on social media reached the hotel, or perhaps a bunch of irritating journalists (like yours truly) reached out to the hotel, to find out if the letter was authentic (in other words, just WTF were they thinking) – that perhaps prompted an about-turn from them.

In a written response sent to The Daily Vox the hotel released a statement, apologising for the request to the city.

The response in full: Official statement by the Taj Hotel Cape Town

31 December 2015, Cape Town: Michael Pownall, General Manager of the Taj Hotel, Cape Town said today that he wholeheartedly apologises for the request he made that the Cape Minstrels consider sleeping hotel guests by not playing music loudly in front of the hotel during its overnight Parade (held last night 30th December).

I recognise in retrospect that my request to Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Economic Development, Gareth Bloor, was insensitive and would like to retract it,” said Pownall.

The management of the Taj Cape Town has since opening, warmly embraced  the rich heritage of Cape Town and respects the integral part that the Cape Minstrels and its parades play in Cape Town culture.

We always encourage our guests to watch the Parades and share the cultural significance of this Cape Town institution, in-fact we share with our guests copies of a book, Coon Carnival, about the history of the Minstrels and the parades.”

It has become a hotel tradition to host a minstrel choir every New Year’s Eve to perform to our guests in the hotel lobby and our guests thoroughly enjoy this experience.”

We do inform guests when they reserve rooms over the period of the parade that the festivities are very lively and carry on until the early morning hours.

We would like to collaborate with the City of Cape Town and the organisers of the Cape Minstrel Parade to ensure that the event is equally enjoyed by Capetonions and visitors to the city.”

It’s a strange apology, considering that hours earlier, the same man Pownall said he needed “a 100% commitment” that the minstrels “DO NOT PLAY THEIR MUSIC”. Pownall claims the hotel invite a minstrel choir into the lobby and the guests love it. What Pownall wants to say is that they invite a white-washed-hotel-vetted-sanitized-Minstrel-choir to play agreeable music on strictly their terms at the hotel.

In so doing, the hotel takes a free event for the public, commemorating a parade by slaves in the 19th century and converts it into tacky entertainment for the wealthy. Granted, there are some sticky issues with the continuance of the imagery and terminology of the Klopse as “minstrels”, or “coons”.  At heart however, the Malay Choir parade, and the tweede nuwe jaar celebrations remain instances where the marginalised people of Cape Town, people of colour, who are forced into the hinterlands, are able to own the city centre.

Slavery may have been abolished, but wealthy, white people still believe they can dictate the terms on which people of colour march through the city’s streets.

So even with the apology from The Taj Hotel, we still wanted to know from Gareth Bloor. So we asked him it was normal for a hotel to dictate terms to municipality, and based on his very accommodating reply to their initial request to turn down the minstrels’ voice, we wanted to know if he worked for the hotel or the city.

This was his reply, in full:

It is definitely not a case of the municipality being dictated to. The City has to try and balance the needs of a number of stakeholders in a diverse city.

The City issued the Event Organiser with an event permit.

The request from the hotel (to the City), was passed onto the Event Organiser. Any decision they take is at their sole discretion, bearing in mind they were issued with a noise exemption certificate.

Any decision to reduce noise is entirely in their hands as the Cape Malay Choir Board. Final power was given to this event organisers by the City and they have the right to make decisions at their event, for which we provide the required support.

We can only pass requests we receive onto the EO and they will determine what is possible and preferable as the organisers.

Realistically, trying to silence about 15 000 participants, is not possible, more especially since this event is an intrinsic part of the Cape Malay culture – the music/musical instruments are an integral part of this celebration. This is a unique event that forms an integral part of the cultural fabric of Cape Town, that the City supports annually.

For future such events, we will impress upon hotels to advise guests timeously, of the nature of these iconic celebrations taking place during their stay.

The cultural diversity of our magnificent city, is what sets us apart globally.

We are an inclusive city and our rich cultural heritage is extremely important and we call upon all visitors to get caught up in the spirit of these celebrations.

It’s a good thing that Gareth took the time to reply. We appreciate it. We have to ask: if Gareth was so convinced that city’s cultural diversity is what sets them apart from the rest of the world, why would he EVER entertain the hotel’s request to silence the parade? But we all make mistakes. In the future Gareth, here is how you should respond:

Dear esteemed hotel manager,

Your wonderful hotel is in our city and we thank you for providing the finest luxury hospitality to your discerning guests. The minstrel parade is one of our long-standing traditions. We call upon your guests to get caught up in the spirit of these celebrations. If not, they can always choose to go to Stellenbosch.

Warm regards,
City of Cape Town

Featured image: Wikimedia Commons (Helen Online) 

25 COMMENTS

  1. I will henceforth boycott the Taj and do all I can to shame them. Their apology is not accepted.
    Now, how does one boycott the City and Bloor for their shameful handing of this, from start to lying apology?

  2. It’s disgusting, but Nazier is a bit extravagant with the truth. The hotel is not only owned by white capital. On its website: “The development is a 50/50 joint venture between city centre property investor Eurocape, and Tata’s Indian Hotels company, which owns Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces. Taj is one of Asia’s largest hotel companies . . .”

  3. How did a simple request for “no noise” become a ‘race’ thing in general and anti-white in particular? The manager of the Taj Hotel did not ask that the Kaapse Klopse Parade be “curtailed” – he asked only that no music be played while the parade passed outside the hotel late at night so that his sleeping guests are not disturbed. Presumably he did not wish to be faced with a barrage of complaints the next day, or any negative reviews. His function is to keep his guests happy and the business thriving. The Taj, being an international luxury hotel, which is not “white-owned nor “Colonial”, would most likely have guests of many different nationalities and cultural / racial backgrounds staying there.

    Tourism is a lifeblood industry in Cape Town, contributing R17 Billion to the economy of the province, which is significant in terms of revenue and job creation. Whether you like them or not, visitors who come here are spending money, and that inevitably benefits those who make a living in the industry. The very poor and marginalised are among those who depend on their jobs in the tourism industry to survive.

  4. Seriously people don’t know anything about running a business if this boils down to racism. If this was my business and my guests complained in the past I would try to reduce the complaints as much as possible. One way would be to get guests excited, the other way is to ask the municipality for assistance.
    I lived in Bo-kaap most of my life and I can say I don’t enjoy the Coons either. Now you can call me racist but I’m coloured- not cape malay. Coloured. These are 2 separate things. Cos a Cape Malay will turn around on you right quick and act superior cos you have African features. So Cape Malays calling other ppl racist for me is a funny as all heck. Using the K-word is still in fashion for Cape Malays.
    Hope one day this coonery ends, cos a lot of ppl harass you for money and make you feel unsafe in your own neighbourhood.

    • Wow Simone. I am Cape Coloured and right now utterly shamed by your absurd remarks and generalisations. I would like to apologise to the Cape Malay community because believe me, not all coloured people feel this way. I have heard of white privilege but coloured privilege is new to me.

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  5. I’m really gatvol of these EFF idiots plonking a racist tag onto to anything they do not understand or can’t be bothered looking into seriously. This case is a simple exchange of views on a situation affecting the Taj and the Minstrels. It’s got f–k all to do with race so Paulson can take his divisiveness and shove it.

  6. Why did Nazier make this a race issue? I am ‘historically white’ and I fully support the rights of the carnival over the rights of tourists. I think Nazier is a racist.

  7. The bashing of Garreth Bloor (because he is DA?) and the CoCT is hypocritical, and I also perceive undercurrents of racism in the criticism directed at him. The CoCT has bent over backwards to accommodate and promote the Kaapse Klopse, assisting them with funding as well as logistical support. Mr Bloor was obviously caught between a rock and a hard place, trying to please the organisers of the Kaapse Klopse by allowing them to march through the CBD in the early hours of the morning without noise restrictions, but at the same time having to consider the importance of tourism in respect of the economic benefits it brings to the City. It seems to me he was trying to reach a compromise that would be fair to all. Complaints of excessive noise in the early hours of the morning did not come only from the GM of the Taj Hotel, but also from some people who actually live in the CBD. Respect for the rights of others should work both ways, not only for one group. I do support the Kaapse Klopse Parade, but I feel that the racial knee-jerk response is uncalled for, particularly considering the issue was only about noise and nobody asked for the parade to be stopped.

    • MLS you are o so disingenuous. The CoCT has been trying for years to sabotage the event because it brings in more locals (people of colour) into the city.
      Here’s an old news article with shows how they created bureaucracy for the event. http://www.mg.co.za/article/2010-12-21-cape-town-carnival-crisis-at-11th-hour
      Sadly, unlike other major cities, the management of this city is recreating apartheid like conditions which will suffer a worse fate since this bubble that they created will ultimately burst with the heat of the sun. How else could a hotel management have the gall to be so brazen and out of tough with the history of CT and the significance of Kaapse Klopse.

  8. Not sure why you attacking Nazeer. He posted the email on Facebook, and made some of his own observations. I certainly dont care what he thinks. What I do care about is the obnoxiois email and the ridiculous reponse of Gareth. He works for the city, first and foremost. Not for Taj hotel group. This is a very revealing story. Thank you!

  9. Last year the Kaapse Klopse Parade did not take place on 1 – 2 January, according to cultural tradition, because the organisers could not get their act together in time. According to cultural tradition, the slaves used to march and celebrate the New Year on their day of rest. The Parade eventually took place nearly three weeks later, on 17 January, because an earlier date clashed with the ANC’s 103rd Anniversary Celebrations in Cape Town. Why was there no offence taken at the “disrespect of traditional Cape Malay culture” then? Where was the outrage and calls for “retribution” (as called for by one poster on the Taj Hotel’s facebook page) then?

    Revealing.

    • Just tell how is it possible for the slaves of CT to have 2de Nuwe Jaar off.Who cleaned up the mess of the slave master of the previous day and also is their really something to celebrate after the slaves were sodomized and women raped and abused on New years day.
      Do you have any idea what slavery at the Cape of Good Hope was.
      Probably not.If you were White your great great grandfather was one of the slavemasters.
      Also this coon/klopse/minstrels culture was brought to the Cape by White racists from Confederate states of America in 1848

  10. Shocked that the Taj hotel shows no respect for local Cape Town culture. There are many other hotels on the minstrel carnival route such as Hilton Cape Town etc. Very disappointing, I will certainly be boycotting this hotel going forward. #TajMustFall

  11. Letting groups express their culture is important- but we must make sure that it does not infringe on the rights of others. I don’t think that Taj asking the carnival to be respectful of sleeping guests should be blown into a racial issue- it is out of respect for others not to blare loud music at past midnight during the week.

    Side note: The reporters at the Vox would do well to learn how to spell- it is Garreth, not Gareth.

  12. Re: “The annual Malay Choirs Parade is an intrinsic part of the cultural fabric of our city…”
    I shall take that statement from whence it comes!

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