Artists to light up the Mother City

Charl Babyboy Pilwan from Retreat is among the artists

Local artists, old, new and upcoming, will take to the stage at the annual switching on of the festive lights on Sunday December 3 in the city centre.

The event kicks off the festive season in Cape Town and is arguably the biggest public event on the City of Cape Town’s calendar.

Among the artists who will be performing are Idols SA winner Paxton Fielies; The Rockets, celebrating their 50th anniversary; Jimmy Nevis, Koos Kombuis, Soul Kulture, Craig Lucas, winner of The Voice South Africa; Freshlyground and the winners of the Festive Lights Music Challenge, who are expected to be announced tomorrow, Thursday November 30.

We spoke to Vicky Sampson, who is no stranger to performing on the city’s public stages, and Charl “Babyboy” Pilwan, who is stoked to be performing at the event for the first time.

Even though Charl is a world-
renowned artist, businessman and producer, it has been a lifelong dream of his to perform at the festive lights switch-on event.

“This is a good welcome home for me. My friends and family will be there, and this is the first time my one-year-old daughter gets to see me perform.”

Born in Retreat, he is not a stranger to Cape Town’s entertainment scene, and has been performing since the tender age of nine years old.

“My first show I did was at the Nico Malan, now the Artscape. I was into theatre at the time. I also did many shows at the City Hall, with local artists like The Boyz and Madeegha Anders, the late Taliep Petersen’s first wife, to name a few.”

He recalls the excitement in his home when his parents would take him and his siblings and would drive to the city centre for the switching on of the lights.

“I remember my mom used to bath me, then put on my gown. My father had a brown Chevy at the time, and my siblings and I sat at the back, and my mom packed treats and sandwiches and we would come see the lights.”

Thereafter, Charl got the opportunity to finish his schooling in London, and returned to South Africa to study music.

After graduating, he flew in and out of South Africa, travelling to places such as Indonesia, America and Hong Kong, establishing his company, Babyboy Entertainment, and working with Nelly, Chris Brown, Adam Lambert and Jermaine du Preez, among others.

Because of the nature of his work, Charl spent a lot of time abroad, and was never in Cape Town at the right time to perform at the festive lights switch-on event.

After a failed attempt to get onto the stage three years ago, this time, he was lucky. “I flew back to Cape Town in time for the event, and reached out to mayor Patricia de Lille and asked her for a chance to perform at the event, and she organised it.

“The lights switch-on is one of the biggest for me – it’s home. I’m all about my people in Cape Town. Wherever I go, I speak about my hometown.”

Charl said while he never gets nervous when he performs, he is sweating a bit about the weekend’s performance.

“This time, I’m performing for my people. And while I am at home, I am hoping to do some local collaborations.

“The industry is tough in South Africa, and to get the acceptance from Capetonians means a lot to me.”

Vicky Sampson, the voice behind My African Dream, which she sang at the opening and closing ceremonies of the African Cup of Nations that was held in South Africa in 1996, said while she was excited about performing with the “fresh blood” at this year’s switching on of the lights, it would not be the first time she performs at the event.

“This is my second time I was invited to sing at the event. I remember about 12 years ago, they flew me down from Johannesburg and my flight was delayed and I was late, and they had police escort me to the city. It was quite an experience, but it was amazing.

”This is a festival of hope, and new beginnings for Cape Town and South Africa. I am very excited about this.”

Born in Hanover Park, Vicky travelled around Africa with her music and signed her first record deal in the early 90s.

After 15 years in Johannesburg, Vicky moved back home, and is now living in Crawford, busy with corporate and community outreach projects, including HIV/Aids campaigns, school feeding schemes, as well as working with the Music Association of South Africa, an organisation which aims to raise the industry standards and place professional musicians on the foreground of cultural landscape.

“This year, I am going to focus on new collaborations, and I would like to own my own EP. I have written many songs over the years, so I want to focus on my original work, and hopefully do a concert to reflect my African dream, and the hopes for my country.”

While she only has vague recollections of visiting the festive lights switch-on event as a child, one thing she is certain of is that it has grown significantly over the years.

“The festival has gotten bigger over the years. I’m excited to see our people all together, and I’m hoping for a peaceful event.

“There are already a lot of tourists in the city, so I hope that they will come out and enjoy our festivities and our city with us.”

Both Vicky and Charl will be doing some original songs, and Vicky will be performing a piece with The Rockets as well.

Asked what they were most excited about, both Vicky and Charl’s response was “Paxton”.

“I’m hoping I can be part of Paxton’s journey, and I hope she receives the best guidance because this industry is tough,” said Vicky.

To this Charl added: “I’m excited to meet Paxton. We have another young Capetonian who put us on the map. And Joe Barber, who are the MCs. I used to work in the theatre as a barman and I served them drinks.”

The lights switch-on event takes place on Sunday December 3.

Entertainment starts at 4pm at the Grand Parade.

The official switching on of the lights in Adderly Street takes place at 8.30pm.