Pretoria News

Composer writes Xhosa folklore songs for Harvard Glee Club

- MTHUTHUZEL­I NTSEKU mthuthuzel­i.ntseku@inl.co.za

A 47-YEAR-OLD Khayelitsh­a-based composer has made history by being the first black South African to be commission­ed by Harvard University to write folklore songs in IsiXhosa for its male Glee Club.

Bongani Magatyana from Site C said he was approached by the institutio­n last year after he was introduced to the director of choral activities at the university, Andrew Clark, and later performed his compositio­n Khaya Lami.

Magatyana said he owed his experience to the Siyaya Ensemble at JL Zwane Centre in Gugulethu, where he wrote songs about HIV/ Aids in multiple genres in 2006.

He said in 2013, Village Harmony, a choral organisati­on, invited him to conduct a workshop on one of his songs and later invited him to teach for its yearly programmes.

Magatyana, the original composer of the famous folklore song Nongqawuse, said this opportunit­y would allow him a chance to correct the mistakes that had been made with black South African choral music while exposing him to other institutio­ns. With Harvard University being one of the most respected universiti­es, he said this motivated him greatly.

“In all the countries I have travelled in I will always find a South African song book written and edited by composers who do not understand the language and the rhythm. I am one of the composers who still write choral songs sung in local competitio­ns.

“Now my goal is to provide people around the world with the opportunit­y to learn music directly from culture-bearers, and to learn these songs on the culture-bearers’ terms, rather than from publicatio­ns created by ’arrangers’ who have no real knowledge of the music (or cultures) off which they’re profiting,” he said.

Magatyana is currently teaching children through the newly formed Khayelitsh­a Children’s Choir.

“I want to expose our children to different styles of music because they are only taught one style of music. I want to expose them to jazz, performing with live bands and orchestras from a young age,” he said.

The Harvard Glee Club is expected to perform Magatyana’s new compositio­n Inkomo next month, which he said was inspired by stories of stock theft in Ngcobo, Eastern Cape.

Mollie Stone from Village Harmony said that when she first met Magatyana in 2006 she was deeply impressed by the range of his work.

“He has been a treasured part of our organisati­on ever since.”

 ?? l AYANDA
NDAMANE African News Agency(ANA) ?? BONGANI Magatyana has made history of becoming the first South African to be commission­ed to write music for Harvard University in its 170-year history.
l AYANDA NDAMANE African News Agency(ANA) BONGANI Magatyana has made history of becoming the first South African to be commission­ed to write music for Harvard University in its 170-year history.

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