Aggi: “Because I love it. I love what I do.”
Jose De Aguiar, better known as Aggi, is the principal music coach at the Casterbridge Music Development Academy (CMDA). Perhaps music backbone would be closer to the truth, because it’s Aggi who spends long hours, sometimes seven days a week, coaching, teaching, encouraging, directing and yes, yelling, at the groups of teenagers brandishing musical instruments. And no one sulks like a teenage diva told she’s singing out of time!
So, here are a few facts about Aggi you possibly don’t already know. Born in Mozambique, he arrived in White River in 1962, his only English – ‘Tank you.’ He attended Uplands Prep school, and his photo is still up on the wall there. He learned to play the guitar at high school in Barberton. Clashing heads with his conservative Portuguese mother, dreams of Art College were replaced by the reality of accountancy and articles. Yes, really. And he was very good at it, too.
During the 80’s he played in many bands (he refuses to reveal the number) including Hotline with PJ Powers before it became Hotline, and eVoid. By default, he ended up back in White River around the turn of the century and began playing live gigs with his band, Uncut.
A chance meeting in Pick n Pay six years ago brought him to the fledgling CMDA and since then hundreds (he honestly doesn’t know how many) of young musicians have benefitted from his grooming and tuition. From them, he says, he’s learned patience, a virtue he seriously lacked before immersing himself in the kids he loves.
Aggi’s the first to say he’s not a great coach. “Kids today are very clever but misguided. I’m the horse whisperer holding the reins, encouraging them to jump the obstacles they don’t want to leap.” He’s a firm believer that culture in South Africa has been eroded by sport, but through the CMDA, kids as different as chalk and cheese find common ground – music. They teach themselves and learn from each other and confidence and cool are discovered as they travel their own journeys of self-exploration. Aggi’s gift is to understand the personalities and shaping songs and bands to suit the individuals, the organisers of Idols and suchlike can learn from him.
He may be known as ‘Grumps’ by some cheeky academy ‘graduates’, but Aggi gets the best out of his musical charges and the opportunities that have come their way are staggering. Experienced professional South African bands haven’t got the stellar CV’s that Aggi’s youth bands have – opening for and sharing the stage with the likes of Mango Groove, Allie Campbell (UB40), The Parlotones, Watershed, Elvis Blue…and the kids are going on to study and play music in Cape Town, Joburg and Los Angeles.
Aggi puffs up and becomes even more animated when he discusses the ‘graduates’ – kids that have matriculated and moved on. They come back. They keep in touch. They ‘own’ the academy, sharing their opinions and advice with the latest batch of kids and Aggi. There’s something about Jose de Aguiar that they trust and rely on, which is possibly the secret of his success. This is a White River Star creating and guiding young stars, and we are lucky to have him and the CMDA in town.