Cape Town company’s tin-can electric guitars – a resounding success

Bella Dalima

A Cape Town-based company is crafting eye-catching electric guitars out of re-purposed oil cans, striking a chord with music fans around the world.

Dubbed “Township Guitars,” the hand-made six-strings are inspired by the traditional can instruments that have long been played by the resourceful residents in South Africa’s poorest areas.

“The whole idea comes from the traditional kind of thinking,” explains Dani Ngwenya, the company’s chief quality controller, tasked with personally fine tuning every instrument.

“When we were kids we couldn’t afford to buy a guitar so we used to make our own guitars, with a can used as an acoustic kind of body — but these (Township Guitars) are just purely electric,” adds Ngwenya, an accomplished guitarist himself.

Each Township Guitar comes with a single or double coil pick-up as well as volume and tone controls, a truss rod and a fully adjustable bridge.

They consist of a five-liter oil can body – often covered in the colors of the South African flag – a maple neck and a rosewood fingerboard. This gives the guitar a nice, clean, kind-of-twangy sound, creating a distinctive tone that reflects South Africa’s rich musical history.