Sounds of a City: Why Cape Town needs noises and sounds,

Recently the Olympic host nation displayed how serious it is about protecting the city’s ‘health and safety’ philosophy.  How better to do this than by pulling the plug on rock legends Sir Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen mid -song!  Unable to even thank the crowd of 76 000, the artists were forced to leave the stage.  To be fair, it was almost 11 on a Saturday night!

This incident was brought much closer to home this week when I learned of the noise complaint laid against Kalk Bay’s Brass Bell.  Now don’t get me wrong, I like my shut- eye as much as the next person, but are we not getting a bit carried away with these noise complaints?

I have no doubt that The Brass Bell does more good for the community than harm. It draws in tourist income and helps to define the character of the town.  She’s a real gem.  Is throttling your local with noise complaints really the best thing for your property price? Further investigation also reveals the cause of the noise is not the live acts but rather drunken patrons leaving loudly. So punishing the Bell is hardly curing the problem.

A quick Google search displays just how nanny we’ve become;  residents fearing noise from potential  F1 race tracks, neighbours attempting to stop loud worship (on the grounds that the building used is zoned industrial) and the worst, a Pinelands woman who claims to have had complaints laid against her for the loud laughter of her daughters playing in the pool!

This seems completely ridiculous, but then so does limiting dog barking to 3 minutes per half hour, (a by-law in case you’ve forgotten).

We each need to be responsible and reasonable about all this. If your neighbour refuses to end their late night band practice or early Sunday morning lawn mowing routine, then sure, lay a complaint. There are genuine instances of unreasonable noise pollution, but if you move within the vicinity of a pub = expect music, a mosque = expect a call to prayer, a stadium – cheering crowds, or, in the case of Cavendish, artificial squawking birds.

In many cases, in a city like Cape Town, a stadium or mosque is likely over 100 years old. Think Newlands Stadium, in a residential area, or the Vos Street mosque hemmed in between the newer Hudson building in de Waterkant and some high end retail outlets and offices. Both noisemakers over 100 years old.

We should all be responsible, respectful and tolerant of our neighbours.  Venue owners should ensure that their clubs, restaurants or pubs deal reasonably with acoustics and sound proofing. The Assembly situated in the East City, after numerous complaints, have taken this approach pretty seriously and now even has bouncers to ensure patrons leave quietly. Gosh! Apply this approach to Long Street and we have the perfect film set for a post apocalypse thriller.

I do not believe the city and the bulk of its citizens want a silent city. Sound emanates from life and a city alive at night is a healthy city. We need to think about what we want our city to sound like. If we lay laws to block any activity that doesn’t appease us or complain too easily, then quickly we’ll become the type of city that cuts music legends off mid-song. Let us not become a nanny state! New York is known as the city that never sleeps, please let us not be known as the city that is early to sleep!

Image courtesy of PowderPhotography at


AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by PowderPhotography