DICSIPLINE, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND ALL THAT JAZZ
By: Thabile Duma
Nowadays Umlazi is famously known for its Kwaito music, and not enough recognition is given to the other genres that Umlazi musicians are excelling in.
The Siyakhula Music School, which teaches children classical music and jazz, is one of those projects that most people are not aware of. The school was established by the well-respected musician in the jazz genre, Dr Brian Thusi, in January 1986. To jazz lovers in South Africa, Thusi needs no introduction; he is a professor of music, a lecturer and is said to come with a quality pedigree and reputation. He has been a very influential artist in the South African jazz industry for many years.
Thusi started the Siyakhula Music School in his home at R-Section, and then moved to the Salvation Army Church at F-Section as the number of his students grew, and it is currently the only music school at Umlazi. The children are taught to play brass instruments including the keyboard, base guitar, drums and they also do theory of music. There are ensembles that students participate and Thusi said that, culture is a vital entity, so that is why children also have traditional music and dance classes.
“You see potential, and then you want it to grow. That’s the way I feel about the amount of talent we have in townships,” said Thusi in an interview done by John Fordham, a writer for the Guardian.
The students come from various parts of Umlazi and outside Umlazi in order to gain knowledge about jazz and classical music.
“The children that come to study here are from different types of backgrounds and we encourage them to engage in music studies inoder to stay away from ending up doing drugs or criminal activities,” said Thusi.
According to Sheer Sound, Thusi in his career has performed and featured many well-known artists including Sipho Gumede, Tony Schilder, Caiphas Simenya, Slide Hampton, Neil Gonsalves, Winston Mankunku Ngozi, Victor Ntoni, Lulu Gotsana, Mike Rossi, Darius Brubeck, amongst many others and also has produced several albums for artist of this calibre.
Along with other projects he is involved in, Thusi is part of the Board of Trustees of the JAFASA (Jazz and Fusion Music Awards), which were launched on 19 May 2013, at Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg.
According to showbizone.co.za, JAFASA will recognize most forgotten heroes and heroines of this genre, including jazz appreciators/collector, jazz appreciators clubs, jazz hang-outs and jazz schools, and surely the artists who have kept the fire burning will definitely be honoured for significant work.
There are international groups that the school works with, such as the Shosholoza Choir from Germany, Haringey Orchestra from North London. The school receives funding from the South African Musician Rights Organisation and the instruments come from sponsorships from Germany, America, Australia and mainly from the Hungary Youth Orchestra. The school is an excellent initiative because it is evident that the children are exposed various music genres.
“Although we encourage the children to play multiple instruments, we also advise them to focus on one instrument inorder to be a master in playing that instrument,” said Thusi.
The Grahamstown National Youth Jazz Festival otherwise known as the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival, acts as a platform where music students get to showcase their talent and interact with each other and jazz legends. Every year the school selects 6 students to apart of the festival. Talente Mhlongo, Sbusiso Mkhize, Thabo Skhakhane, Thembinkosi Khumalo, Dalisu Shange and Gugulethu Wanda were the students that were selected to represent the school. This annual festival brings together over 300 students and 40 teachers from he different parts of South Africa, with nearly 60 professional jazz musicians and educators.
Talente Mhlongo, 22, one of the students participating in the festival has been with Siyakhula for almost three years.
“I’ve been in music since 2005, it all started with the Field Band Foundation which was based at ComTech, from there on I played for Bryan Clark in the Field Band. I went to study at Siyakhula Music School in 2010 and I’m also currently enrolled at the Durban Music School after having received their bursary,” said Mhlongo.
The school is credited and students that study at the Siyakhula are able to get into universities to continue with their music studies.