As a celebrated local Jazz musician, pastor, and founder of Kaleidoscope Church and Café in Claremont, Glenn Robertson has always had a strong affinity towards authentic South African music and particularly African Jazz. Tamsyn Cornelius finds out more about his calling to music and ministry.
When did you first realize that music would become your life?
I have clear memories as a young boy, spending many hours listening to the radio – remember there was no TV back then! I could have been about seven or eight when I first saw ‘The Sound of Music’. My parents purchased the LP and I literally learned all the songs from start to finish. The music bug had bitten!
How did God use music to bring you into a closer walk with Jesus?
Christ came from heaven to earth to show the way. He came into the Galaxy night club to show me the way! Walking across the dance floor to get a round of drinks on a hot summer afternoon in 1988, I was reminded of my wife’s words earlier: “I don’t care where you are going, but wherever you are, could you safely say you’re serving Jesus if He walked through the door?”
I was rooted to the spot and was suddenly super-aware of what was happening around me. For the first time, I was able to see things as they really were. I imagined the resurrected Jesus coming to meet me and I knew that I wasn’t right with God. Only the Holy Spirit can reveal that.
Music was the one thing that had the power to derail my life and destroy my marriage. God took that gift, that which the enemy intended to use for evil and used it to work for the good of many.
I have never looked back since that day. He truly came to give me life in abundance in the true sense of the word.
Today you pastor a local church and are actively involved in music ministry. How does music and ministry work together in the life of the church today?
Music obviously plays a huge part in what we do. Ministry is simply service to others. We serve others with the gift of music, whether they are believers or not. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning,” (James 1:17).
Ultimately, it’s love that reaches people. Music has to come from a place of honesty and truth. If we are truly walking in light and truth, then that is what will be imparted. We believe that discipleship can start the minute you meet any person. It is that discipleship (impartation of a godly lifestyle) that we trust will impact people’s lives for the better.
What are some of the challenges you have faced in the local music industry?
We found that as long as we exclusively do ‘gospel music’, the general Christian community will be supportive. However, when we started Kaleidoscope 12 years ago, we encountered much criticism from Christian circles. As one person stated, “As long as you insist on playing secular music, I cannot support you.” Very sad. Jesus’ own disciples missed Him on the Emmaus road after His resurrection.
From the world, we have found that some fear the “God-factor”. Generally, there is a lack of support for local musicians from the general public, especially when it comes to live performances. Big concerts and festivals may garner some support, but that is not sustainable. It’s the weekly support that is needed to put food on the table of musicians and their families. Too many venues are having to shut down due to lack of audience support.
That’s why it is so important for the church to understand the role she plays in the transformation of a culture.
After 12 years, how does Kaleidoscope continue to meet a need in the local community?
We’re simply a community who desire to be found loving God and loving people. We are not a programme-driven church. We meet every Sunday to learn, to live and love, with the Bible as the cornerstone for all we do.
In our quest to learn more about the God we serve, we seek to develop relationship with those who desire to walk alongside us, whether they meet with us on a Friday evening or on a Sunday morning. Kaleidoscope as a community, will often be found in the marketplace. That’s where Jesus was found.
Clean, excellent entertainment is offered at our venue on a weekly basis.
We see so many struggling musicians trying to make a name for themselves. Why do you think this is the case?
Again, support is what counts. Local audiences also need to come to a place of understanding that the part they play is greater than just being entertained. They also need to be as financially generous toward local artists as they are with international acts.
Musicians, artists and poets are often a prophetic voice, but often prophets are not honoured in their own hometowns. On the flip side, musicians have often had the stigma of drugs and chaos marking their lives. We are part of the solution. We desire a transformation of the culture we find ourselves in.
What do you hope to see in the development of African jazz as a genre in South Africa?
More composing and the telling of our ethnic African stories to leave a rich cultural heritage. There are so many words worth saying and songs worth singing that have been buried rather than celebrated.
We are instruments of turning mourning into dancing! Transformation is the key. When we are transformed by the renewal of our minds, we will find ourselves being His hands and His feet, serving in ways we never dreamed of.
*This article first appeared in the December 2017 issue of The Christian Lifestyle Magazine.