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Thursday, May 23, 2019


(Dr Thokozani Mhlambi)

Dr Thokozani Mhlambi set to revive music compositions from yesteryear in contemporary 21st century style

Dr Thokozani Mhlambi (PHD, Music) is on a mission to ‘resurrect’ the musical craft of African intellectuals from as early as the 19th century. The three month long archive and digital campaign will eventually culminate into a live exhibition concert that will honour, celebrate and revive the sounds of revered intellectuals such as John and Nokutela Dube.

The Early African Intellectuals as Composers music project is a historical undertaking that seeks to ‘wake up’ the African to his ancient music composition and intellectual excellence; as well as raise awareness of and educate about the birth and journey that has been travelled by compositions of the past while finding a place for them to be recognized and enjoyed in contemporary Africa.

Africans (and South Africans in particular) will learn about and indulge in the revived sounds of Ntsikana, Enoch Sontoga, Tiyo Soga and lesser-known woman composer Nokutela Dube, first wife of John Dube. These compositions are among those that will be performed by Dr Mhlambi, who plays the cello and voice, and an ensemble consisting of strings, UKZN Music School opera students and award-winning jazz pianist Lonwabo Mafani, a student at the UCT’s College of Music.

‘We are currently busy with auditions for the final cast and I am very pleased with the progress that we have made with the songs which we had to retrieve from the archives of various arts and culture institutions- some of which are named after the intellectual greats whom I humbly hope this project will fittingly honour and do justice to their composition excellence,’ said Dr Thokozani Mhlambi who was awarded the National Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Innovation in 2017- one of the few to be given to someone in the artistic disciplines.

‘I believe that more than ever we ought to celebrate and honour African excellence across all spheres. I am grateful and very excited to be counted amongst those pioneering this recognition and celebration of African excellence in the arts sector. This is a legacy project which I hope will inspire future generations and aspirant composers. It is poised to disrupt the arts industry.’ Dr Mhlambi continued.

The Early African Intellectuals as Composers series culminates in a major exhibition concert. The Durban edition of the exhibition concert will be held on July 26, 2019, at 17h30 at the Killie Campbell Africana Library and Museum in Morningside. The Cape Town edition takes place in September.

The project is supported by the National Arts Council, the Mazisi Kunene Museum (who are currently hosting Mhlambi as an Artist-in-Residency), Durban Music School, Afropolitan Explosiv, Urban Futures Centre at DUT and the Killie Campbell Africana Library, a part of UKZN.