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Sunday, April 5, 2020


(Durban Black Drifters, with Chris Ntuli in the red shirt)

Durban Black Drifters has sadly announced the cancellation of the 18th High Schools Isicathamiya Choirs Competition scheduled to take place on April 24, 2020, in the Playhouse Opera due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

All choirs are urged to abide to all necessary safety measures. Students must not despair as a suitable alternative date will be announced immediately when the situation comes to normality.

A brainchild of Chris Ntuli and TV/radio and theatre guru, Caroline Smart, the Isicathamiya Music Workshop project was first conceptualised in 1990. It was later presented to a classroom in 1992, with a dry run conducted to a number of schools in Kwamashu where Ntuli used to reside back then in J section, a stone’s throw from the famous Princess Magogo Stadium.

“The end result was unbelievable as schools started and quickly embraced the first of its kind, unique and unheard of music school workshop programme,” says Ntuli. “Communities, students and teachers are warned to never be confused by opportunists who are now purporting to be teaching this genre to schools. The fact is, for the past 28 years, Durban Black Drifters are the founders, officially registered and remain sole proprietors of Isicathamiya Schools Workshops project, including the 18th High Schools Isicathamiya Choirs started in 1999, which is a direct result of this programme and soon to be launched High Schools Isicathamiya Music TV show. Furthermore, the project strives to shape and guide these young men to be better citizens who’ll be respectful, competent, reliable, efficient, self-reliant, embracing and upholding their culture when they leave school.

Started in 1992 as a workshop project by Durban Black Drifters, the event has established and transferred skills to over 2,000 school groups. Other artists the project has produced are Ngcolosi Home Boys from Botha’s Hill, Abafana Basentembeni from Melmoth; Mpumalanga White Birds from Hammarsdale and Uglama kaMaskandi from Pietermaritzburg, to name but a few. It has won a BASA award and numerous other cultural awards as the best youth-based Isicathamiya music development project. DBD has been in music for three decades. They’ve toured France, Belgium, Norway, Canada, USA, China and Japan. Drifters have also appeared in a Broadway musical written by American playwright, Ermill Thrower, called Hurricane Katrina, dedicated to the flood victims of New Orleans in 2004.

Ntuli, as a leader, has worked and recorded two albums with Ladysmith Black Mambazo entitled Ukuzala Ukuzelula and Thuthukani Ngoxolo. He later translated both albums for Paul Simon with help from a friend, Msizi Shabalala. He further appeared with Mambazo on King Cetshwayo’ musical play, written and directed by Prince Njengabantu Zulu who had just came back from exile in America in 1994. Others he has recorded with include Aerto Moreira (Brazil), Madala Kunene, and late musicians Sipho Gumede, Busi Mhlongo and Jabu Khanyile.

Ntuli has come a long way with his music when he first came to Durban in the early 70s. He spent his first two years on the streets in Point eking out a living from shipping contractors earning R2 a day. When the chips were down, he would go for days without a meal. Having worked for various publications, Ntuli is acknowledged as a rare and unique kind of musician who possesses many years of experience in marketing and media. Before engaging in music full-time, he was employed as a sales promotions manager for the long-established national daily newspaper, Sowetan. He also holds a modelling diploma obtained in 1983 from Sexy Katz Modelling School in Bree Street Arcade in Johannesburg.

Ntuli boasts huge experience in music mixing and mastering gained from working extensively under the leadership and guidance of Joseph Shabalala and award-winning engineer, Neil Snyman. He also recorded and produced the first Isicathamiya compilation CD released under Universal Music label, featuring 17 Durban-based veteran Isicathamiya groups in 2010.