Coding for Africa

The Melody of Code: A Cape Town Musician’s Inspirational Journey

by Adam Hunter

sap-sa-good-newsBorn and raised in Cape Town’s Gugulethu township, the musician “OhGooch” – also known as Owethu Okuhle Mtya – has combined his love of music and science to inspire South Africa’s youth.

“When I first learned about Scratch, the MIT easy-to-learn visual programming language used in SAP’s Africa Code Week, I immediately saw how similar it was to the music I create. In both cases, you are creating your own world with its own rules. There are no limits to what you can create, and you are bound only by your imagination.”

OhGooch performs an experimental sound he calls ‘Digital Hippy’. “I grew up listening to the sounds of the township, which eventually led me to “kapping”. This is where you make a drum groove with your hands by repetitively knocking your hands on a hard surface to simulate drum patterns. I discovered that I have a talent for hearing the sounds around me. This eventually led me to enroll in a sound engineering course.”

OhGooch is now a qualified sound engineer, singer, producer and musician. He is also deeply passionate about science and education. “For as long as I can remember, I was part of the Cape Town Science Centre family. My aunt Busi worked there since I was 10 years old and would take me with her on weekends and after school. By the time I was 13, I had become the youngest volunteer at the Cape Town Science Centre.”

His interest in coding started after watching ‘The Matrix’ for the first time. “I was seven years old and the green numbers on the screens in the movie fascinated me. Someone at the time told me that is coding, but I didn’t have access to computers, so my interest lay dormant until I was invited to be part of Africa Code Week in 2015.”

melody2-sa-good-newsAfrica Code Week is a continent-wide initiative aimed at sparking the interest of African children, teenagers and young adults in software coding. Spearheaded by SAP in 2015 as part of its social investments to drive sustainable growth in Africa, Africa Code Week (ACW) is the story of hundreds of schools, teachers, ministers, community centers, code clubs, NGOs, businesses and non-profits getting together to give birth to the largest digital literacy initiative ever organized on the African continent.

In October this year, thousands of coding activities were organized across 30 countries and online. The more ambitious goal is to empower 200,000 teachers and positively impacting the lives of 5 million children within the next 10 years.

After the Cape Town Science Centre, which is one of the strategic partners to Africa Code Week, invited him to be part of the initiative, he realized the potential of coding. “I was immediately inspired by all the possibilities of coding.”

OhGooch has trained more than 1500 students over two years as part of his work for Africa Code Week. “About 400 of those students had never worked on a computer before. In the township, many of the kids’ role models are gangsters. Introducing them to coding at a young age shows them a different perspective and helps them to visualize a better future.”

He was also offered the opportunity by Africa Code Week to contribute his music to this year’s initiative. “My lyrics are about challenging yourself to progress mentally, physically and spiritually. I believe that, once you apply this in your life, you will get closer to where you want to be: the point where you feel like you’re flying. Ultimately the universe will guide you to where you need to go, you just need to listen to the signs and keep moving forward.”

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