Monday, July 9, 2012

SundayWorld: 'Up Close & Personal with James Stephen Mzilikazi Khumalo'

Prof. James Stephen Mzilikazi Khumalo



MZILIKAZI is a revered Zulu name that carries with it a great history and the mystery of the founding of Zimbabwe.

On June 20 1932, James Stephen Mzilikazi Khumalo was born - he would later drop his first and second names to use Mzilikazi almost exclusively.
"It was only when I was older and I composed my first work of music that I started using Mzilikazi exclusively as my signature on my work.
Khumalo has in the 80 years of his rich life gone on to inspire a second glory to the name. As a choral music composer, Professor James Stephen Mzilikazi Khumalo has achieved all the honours there are including the Samro award he received in Joburg last week.

Born to deeply religious parents, Andreas and Johanna, Khumalo imbibed a spirituality he has transferred to all his musical compositions from his first work Ma Ngificwa Ukufa in 1958 to his current composition Hallelujah Mdumiseni Nonke - written in the rondo style.

Deeply influenced by such greats as Joseph Haydn and Friedrich Handel, his choral style resembles theirs but doesn't reflect the flavour of the baroque era.
"When I was born, my parents were trainee priests with The Salvation Army and my father played The Salvation Army instruments," Khumalo says.

"He taught all of us, his kids, to play an instrument.  I could play euphonium (a wind instrument similar to a flugelhorn) from the age of eight." Khumalo has composed more than 50 epic choral works and an Afro-opera uShaka kaSenzangakhona which has received international acclaim.

"I knew I had talent when my first work was prescribed for a teacher choral competition in 1961," says Khumalo. "The choirmaster appointed me as his assistant. I would help him teach songs to the choir but I considered myself just another pupil. He wanted me to do more, he even allowed me to conduct the choir for competitions.

He says he has found work he composed way back in 1962, that he didn't even know existed and is now working to get it published. "There is a song I composed on the occasion of the birth of my first daughter," he says. "I found this piece just a few weeks ago. If it didn't have my signature, I wouldn't know I wrote it."

Khumalo, a high school teacher by training, and his wife, Ditlhare, have four children who he says are not that musical. "My third son has a degree in music but is a church minister and my first daughter sings but is a medical doctor," he says.  Khumalo, like the mystic man he's named after, has reached the dizzy heights of recognition.
Khumalo has ensured that he now stands at least side-by-side in greatness with the Mzilikazi who was king of the Matebele, the founder of Matebeleland, and the man after whom he was named.

[J.S. Mzilikazi Khumalo was born June 20, 1932 and is featured at]

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