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Byron, South Africa

Inspiring aspiring artists in South Africa

Byron Noble has spent the past decade pursuing his passion for music and the arts. With his new social enterprise, he wants to make it easier for other youth to do the same.

Byron is the South African musician behind The Little Matchbox, an initiative that plans to help youth overcome some of the common challenges faced by people working in creative industries.

“I want to share my experience with kids so they do not go through the loopholes of struggling to make it with whatever art form they have,” Byron says. Those struggles can seem endless to new artists: expensive recording, little recognition, disapproving parents, getting to and from shows — the list goes on. Another obstacle is getting people to value artists for what they are worth, a lesson Byron had to learn the hard way. “I was part of that chain of exploitation for a long time, where people promised me exposure rather than pay,” he says.

Struggles aside, Byron says it is also important to highlight the positive influence that music and the arts can have on the lives of young people.

After leaving high school early, Byron joined his younger brother in volunteering at the YMCA in Cape Town. A talented dancer and choreographer, Byron was soon teaching dance lessons and choreographing school concerts. “I loved seeing that kids could be passionate about something that would benefit them in the long run, because at the end of the day it really is not about the dance — it is about the dedication you learn from it,” Byron says with a smile. “You need to have endurance and resilience when you are in the arts. That is the attitude I try to build in youth.”

In a way, Byron is building a program for his younger self. “I really wish I had known what I know now. The resources we had were very little, but we did so much,” he says of his early experiences. “Children do not always have the tools they need, but at least now I can share my knowledge.”

Behind-the-scenes of the music industry

Knowing he wanted to work with kids and the arts, plans for The Little Matchbox started to take shape. Byron refined the idea by joining the Grow Leadership Academy run by RLabs, one of DOT’s partner organizations in Cape Town. That is where he learned to pitch his idea, develop a value proposition, and other skills that he eventually used to compete for a chance to attend the  2018 DOT Unconference in Kenya. When the dust settled from the pitch competition, Byron was chosen as one of three winners.

When his workshops start, Byron plans to go into schools to teach kids the basic foundation within arts, creative writing, and the music business so they understand what happens on stage, but also what goes on behind-the-scenes. That includes learning how to work on a record label, how to register your music, and how to book shows. “I know that some kids do not have the natural skill within the art, but they can do the administrative or other work. I am trying to show that music and the arts are valuable even if you are not the one on stage.”

And while art and music are always forms of creative expression, their message is especially important in a country like South Africa. One example, Byron says, is toyi-toyi, a South African dance used to oppose apartheid, and one that is still used as political protest today. “The arts are a very important part of our heritage and culture,” he says. “South Africans dance at weddings, we dance when we are upset — we have so much originality and rich culture. It is how people connect.”

Speaking of connections, Byron wants to work with other creatives in Cape Town for artistic skills outside his realm of expertise. One of his early business partners works in dramatic arts, so the two are teaming up to create a script and storytelling workshop. Eventually, Byron would like to go back to his own roots and start dance classes, too. It is all part of his end goal: educating the artists of today, but also the ones of tomorrow.

At DOT we’re excited to bring you compelling stories that highlight the impact of daring young social entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurship and social innovation is a journey, so we invite you to follow along with Byron’s journey by following him on Twitter at @beestays and Facebook at ahttps://www.facebook.com/beestays.

This #DOTYouth Spotlight was developed as a part of DOT’s 2018 Unconference in Nairobi, Kenya, supported by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada.

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