Thursday, June 19, 2008

J. S. Mzilikazi Khumalo, South African Composer & Choral Director Born June 20, 1932

[Ushaka KaSenzangakhona: An epic in music and poetry on Shaka, son of Senzangakhona;
National Symphony Orchestra of SABC; Robert Maxym, Conductor; Mzilikazi Khumalo, Choral Director; Sony CDCSL 8047 (1997)]

James Stephen Mzilikazi Khumalo is a South African composer, arranger and choral director, and a Professor Emeritus of African Languages. He was born on June 20, 1932 on a Salvation Army farm called KwaNgwelu, in Natal. SAMRO, the Southern African Music Rights Organization, maintains a comprehensive biography which is the primary source for this biography: “Shortly after his birth, his parents were ordained in the ministry, and the family moved to Durban, and later to Hlabisa, where his schooling began. Here also began his life-long involvement with choral music - he became a member of the school's children's choir, and participated in singing at community events such as weddings. During this period, Khumalo developed a deep love for traditional music.”

A scholarship enabled him to enroll in a three-year program at a teacher's training college in Mamelodi, to become prepared for teaching high school. “Then, he continued his studies, obtaining the BA degree with majors in English and Zulu in 1956 from the University of South Africa, and later went on to completing his MA and PhD degrees.” His first composition was
Ma Ngificwa Ukufa, which had its premiere in 1959. Khumalo began as a tutor in the Department of African Languages of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg in 1969. He advanced steadily to the positions of Professor of African Languages and Head of the Department.

Khumalo has often served as an adjudicator of major choral compositions. He is both Conductor and Director of the Soweto Songsters, the Central Division Songsters of the Salvation Army. SAMRO recounts that a music festival was held in 1983 in recognition of Khumalo's work as a composer. “He won the African Bank Tenth Anniversary Songwriter Contest with a work titled Isibaya Esikhulu Se-Afrika, and wrote Intonga YoSindiso for the enthronement in 1986 of Archbishop Desmond Tutu (from whom Khumalo learned to play cricket).” Since 1989, Khumalo and his SAMRO colleague Richard Cock have jointly served as Music Director of the annual Sowetan Nation Building Massed Choir Festival.

Five African Songs is Khumalo's arrangement of four traditional songs and one modern tune for choir and symphony orchestra. It has been recorded by the National Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Choir of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, led by Richard Cock, Conductor and is available on Marco Polo 8.223832 (1995). Two of the five songs are in the Xhosa language, and the other three are in Zulu.

Prof. Khumalo is also the composer of the opera
Ushaka KaSenzangakhona: An epic in music and poetry on Shaka, son of Senzangakhona, a blend of Zulu and European elements. The recording is Sony Classical CDCSL 8047 (1997). The bio points out that he also played a role in producing an official version of the South African National Anthem, at the request of President Nelson Mandela.

1 comment:

Stephen A. Bess said...

I need to show this to my wife. She's South African. Thanks.