Wits flutist wins international scholarship

By Naledi Mashishi

Wits flutist and music tutor Khanyisile Mthetwa will perform at the 47th Annual National Flute Association Convention in Salt Lake City, USA, as part of winning an international scholarship.

Flutist and Wits music tutor Khanyisile Mthetwa will be participating at an international flute competition in the United States (US) later this year after she won the 2019 Myrna Brown International Scholarship.
Mthetwa was awarded the scholarship on January, 14, and will be performing live at the 47th Annual National Flute Association Convention taking place in Salt Lake City.

Mthetwa will perform a concert at the convention on August 2. Before then she will perform a concert in Chicago and another in San Francisco at the end of July. She will be performing works by South African composers only.

Head of Music at Wits, Prof Malcolm Nay, said that Mthetwa is the first person from the department to get the award through the university.

“Her getting the award is an extremely good reflection on the department. Of course when she plays in the US she is not only playing for herself but for Wits,” he said.

The 33 year old is originally from Soweto and began playing the flute and the recorder when she was 15 at a Saturday music programme held at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital Nursing College. At 16 she began studying at the National School of Arts (NSA) where she was trained in the flute.

“At NSA, one of my teachers told me to train in flute further because she thought I had potential and so I decided to do it,” she said.

Mthetwa currently performs as first flute with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra, has performed solo concertos with the Durban Philharmonic Orchestra, and performed alongside famed Italian opera singer, Andrea Bocelli, during the 2010 World Cup. She has been a Wits music tutor for three years.

The musician applied for the Myrna Brown scholarship after a friend in Brazil had told her she fit the criteria.

“I looked at the website and a part of me thought ‘don’t even bother’ because I saw flutists from places like China and India who were so amazing. But another part of me said try and see what it’s like and work towards being on their level,” she told Wits Vuvuzela.

“It was a pleasant surprise when I got the email that said ‘Congratulations, you’ve got it’.”

FEATURED IMAGE: Khanyisile Mthetwa is the recipient of the Myrna Brown International Scholarship.
Photo: Provided

“Cyber Guitarist” and crew to rock Great Hall

Three cities concert with “cyber-guitarist” and Wits music lecturer to rock the Great Hall on 28 April.

HACKED EQUIPMENT: The “cyber-guitarist” Jonathan Crossley stands with his heavily modified Ibanez guitar that he will play at the 3 cities concert in the Great Hall on 28 April. Photo: Reuven Blignault.

HACKED EQUIPMENT: The “cyber-guitarist” Jonathan Crossley stands with his heavily modified Ibanez guitar that he will play at the 3 cities concert in the Great Hall on 28 April. Photo: Reuven Blignault.

Three cities, three musicians, one Great Hall.

Wits music lecturer and “cyber guitarist” Jonathan Crossley will unite with New York based drummer, Lukas Ligeti and Capetonian drummer, Jonno Sweetman for a performance of epic proportions in the Great Hall on Tuesday, 28 April.

In the hopes of duplicating the success of last year’s show, the trio will come together again in the hopes of making an even more successful performance.

Crossley will be performing on his unique cyber guitar system, a hardware “hacked” Suzuki Omnichord, as well as playing an array of other unique instruments.

Jonno Sweetman, a musician and avid surfer, will be packing his surfboard away and bringing his drumsticks on his way from Cape Town.

With 32 years of study, Crossley is a classically trained guitarist, but on stage he appears to be something of a combination of man, robot, and guitar.

Crossley put on a world-first musical performance a few months ago, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for his doctorate in music.

It took Crossley three years to create what he calls his “hardware hacked electric jazz guitar”. Crossley describes himself as a guitarist, technologist, cyber-protagonist and composer.

When asked about his “unique” instrument, Crossley describes “the instrument system itself is completely software free… no PCs or laptops are engaged actively whatsoever in the performance and further no music is pre-prepared in a recorded audio format. All music is improvised wholly live”.

“The performance will be completely unlike traditional music, which is either pre-prepared or improvised over a predesigned set of constraints”, Crossley said illustrating further on the upcoming performance.

Lukas Ligeti will be jetting in from New York where John Zorn’s Stone Club where they have recently presented a week-long retrospective of his work. Ligeti lives in Joburg and New York and is currently completing his PhD at Wits.

Ligeti often leads or co-leads several bands such as Burkina Electric (the first electronic band from Burkina Faso), Sonic Youth and the Grateful Dead. Ligeti has collaborated with musicians across Africa, and in 2010 he received the Alpert Award in Music.

Jonno Sweetman is much in demand as a drummer and has played with the Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner, Kyle Shepherd, and has travelled beyond his borders to perform in Europe and Asia.

The trio will be performing improvisations between each other, playing original works and rock classics from bands such as Nirvana.

Witsies hit the right notes , experimentally

THE vibrant and youthful Wits Marimba Band, also known as the spunky “Cheez Puffz”, scooped a top award at the sixth National Marimba Festival recently.

“We were all shocked. When they announced our names, we were all frozen in place,” said band member, Nicole Damonse.

“I expected it. I was pretty confident that what we came and showed would make us win,” countered Felicity Mdhluli, however.

The five-member band entered in two categories at the festival in Boksburg two weeks ago –  within the small band ensemble, playing two songs in five minutes, as well as one song in three minutes.

It was the traditional Zimbabwean song, Nyokamsango (Snake in the grass), which lecturer and band member, Olaotse “Locx” Mmileng, arranged which landed them the top prize.

“I don’t set a limit to the levels of music. I listen to every sound out there and incorporate it,” he said.

The Cheez Puffz’s music is peppered with rock, hip hop, house and traditional influences, and they push the envelope to explore the limits the marimba can reach.

 “I want to bring a new sound to African music and take it to new levels,” said Poppie Ndesi.

Mdhluli said, “It [the marimba] can be mainstream; it doesn’t have to sit on the outskirts of the music industry.”

The taste of victory is still fresh for the 2nd year students, who have great ambitions for the future.

“Now that we’ve conquered nationally, we want to conquer internationally,” said Ndesi.

“[Our plan is] to take over the world one marimba at a time,” said Mdhluli.




Donkey kicking generic boundaries

Music is not something that can be placed in a box. It was never meant to be labelled or categorized, but rather to be enjoyed and experienced. Music, especially in the main stream, tries to be too generic and often loses something on an emotional level as a result. That is why Donkey, a band of Wits musicians and lecturers, is so refreshing.

Consisting of Janus van der Merwe on saxophone, Roger Hobbs on bass, Johnathan Crossley on guitar and Justin Badenhorst behind the drums, this band views the boundaries that separate genres as a challenge.

“We’re not a jazz band, nor are we a hip-hop band, or a rock band, or a drum and bass band,” explains Van der Merwe. “We incorporate all elements in our music, but first and foremost we’re an improve band, an experimental band.”

According to Badenhorst, improvisation doesn’t necessarily mean that there are no rules or structure. What it does mean however is that there is more freedom when expressing their music.

“There are more solos, more spontaneity,” Badenhorst says. “We just go with it, the same way someone opening up about their emotions without too much thought would. We use our instruments to portray what we are feeling at that particular time, and when one member solos, the others respond and support him. It works the same way as a spontaneous conversation that has emotion.”

However, this spontaneity and merging of genres can alienate the audience and can often lead to a band developing a taste that has to be acquired. This suits the band just fine.

“People who listen to our music, and any other band that is trying to push the boundaries is reaching a level that requires thought,” says Badenhorst. “We try and challenge the audience and shake their foundations. Our aim is to create a connection that can get lost sometimes.”

This is art for art’s sake.

Donkey are performing tonight (20 May) at Tanz Café in Fourwyas alongside Isochronos and Wrestlerish.