Monday, September 7, 2009

Mokale Koapeng: 'Blacks have been a big part of classical music for centuries'

[Truly Gifted: Mokale Koapeng; Photo: Victor Mecoamere]

Mokale Koapeng, our South African contact, tells us: “The Sowetan newspaper published my article in today’s edition":
Our musical masters shine
07 September 2009
Mokale Koapeng
“Blacks have been a big part of classical music for centuries
South Africa has one of the greatest nation-building gifts in the Mass Choir Festival. This hugely popular festival features African and Western traditional and African music, presented through singing and TRULY instruments. Forming one of the many bridge-building youth and community development projects, it was established in 1988 by Sowetan’s former editor in chief Aggrey Klaaste. After all this time the festival continues the marrying of divergent cultures.

“Currently sponsored and organised by the Transnet Foundation, Sowetan and the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation, this festival is among several musical showcases that are showing that blacks, together with all other races, have a place when it comes to marking history’s sad and joyous moments. It also shows that music is our nation’s heritage in continuing the tradition that was expounded by Professor Khabi Mngoma, Matlhaela Michael Masote, Henry Nxumalo and later by Kolwane Mantu, Motsumi Makhene, Mhlanganisi Masogo and Professor Mzilikazi Khumalo.”

“Classical music was de-racialised centuries ago and Africans have been part of its global development. Sadly, this part of history had been hidden and Africans were hoodwinked all along into believing that they were intruders of the classical field. Some of the leading African figures that contributed to the “universalisation” of classical music are Chevalier Saint-Georges (1745-99), a contemporary of Mozart. He was black and a prolific violinist who composed several works for violin and orchestra. Saint-Georges also conducted the first Parisian performances of Haydn’s Paris Symphonies.

“Beethoven had his most difficult violin sonata, (the) Kreutzer, premiered by black violinist George Bridgetower. The work itself was inspired by, and written for Bridgetower. The first Brazilian opera was composed by José Mauricio Nunes Garcia (1767-1830). He too was black. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875- 1912), also black, was...highly regarded in Britain. In the U.S., blacks who shone in the classical music genre include composers such as William Grant Still, Edward “Duke” Ellington and Charles Mingus.

“In South Africa we have composers such as Michael Mosoeu Moerane, Todd Matshikiza of King Kong fame, Gideon Nxumalo and many others who studied classical music and jazz. The Massed Choir Festival has been one of the spaces where choral music thrived. It has proven its popularity for more than 20 years. Its significance and – by extension – that of choral and classical music, has seen a number of young South African being given an opportunity to showcase their talents.” [George Bridgetower, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor,
Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, José Mauricio Nunes Garcia, Mzilikazi Khumalo, Michael Mosoeu Moerane, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges and William Grant Still are profiled at]

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