Original South African music that forms the ‘soundtrack to our lives’ was the star attraction at the 2018 SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition, where Andrew Hoole (Jazz) and Conrad Asman (Western Art Music) were crowned the country’s most promising young composers.
After a gala concert filled with memorable performances at Johannesburg’s Linder Auditorium on 18 August, University of Cape Town graduate Andrew Hoole (originally from Port Elizabeth) and current UCT student Conrad Asman (from Johannesburg) each walked away with a R200 000 scholarship from the SAMRO Foundation.
These cash awards will enable the two young South African composers to further their postgraduate music studies, or undertake master classes or other forms of professional development, abroad.
A new award for composers, in recognition of South Africa’s diverse and vibrant indigenous cultures, was also unveiled by SAMRO on the night: the Indigenous African Music Awards, for candidates who create the best work in each genre that incorporates indigenous styles and instruments.
The composers’ round of the SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition alternates on a four-yearly cycle with the awards for singers, instrumentalists and keyboard players. It is a vitally important award, said SAMRO Foundation Managing Director André le Roux, because composers ‘create from nothing… take us to new worlds… weave dreams and manifest them in music.’
He noted that composers are responsible for creating songs that capture the social and political zeitgeist of the times; songs ‘that touch some deep part of us and form the soundtrack to our lives… that take us to happy, emotional, beautiful and sometimes scary places.
‘We are celebrating young people who are embarking on an important journey to compose songs that resonate with something deep inside our souls… and are paying tribute to the essence of what makes us and our country tick.’
Five gifted young South African composers saw their works brought to life by accomplished local musicians such as Marcus Wyatt and the ZAR Jazz Orchestra, and members of the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Kutlwano Masote.
These included Hoole’s winning compositions ‘Bombero Suite’ (a big band piece inspired by the soundtrack he wrote for the fire-fighting video game Flash Point: Fire Rescue) and ‘Kind of Cool’ (a tribute to the ‘cool jazz’ period and the crossover jazz/classical quality epitomised by Miles Davis and Gil Evans). The 29-year-old intends to travel to the United States to study under ‘masters of composition’ with his prize.
The idea for Asman’s victorious composition ‘shisa nyama’ came about after the 22-year-old contemplated how a South African braai brings people from all backgrounds together to share in a fun, festive feast. ‘It’s a smorgasbord of flavours of South African music styles and tastes,’ from kwela to pop, he noted.
Asman also received the R10 000 Surendran Reddy clazz award for Western Art Music, for his ability to expertly meld elements of different musical styles in the spirit of the influential late South African composer and pianist.
Reddy, who passed away in 2010 aged 47, coined the term ‘clazz’ to describe his signature crossover musical style and his concept of composition and improvisation – a seamless fusion of classical, jazz, traditional African and other styles of world music.
University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) alumnus Riley Giandhari was named the runner-up as well as the clazz award winner in the Jazz category, winning a total of R80 000, for his composition ‘Answer the Call’. The composer says the piece was partly inspired after he once heard a cell phone ringing incessantly in a restaurant, prompting him to put his sense of annoyance into 7/4 time.
Stellenbosch University graduate Lise Morrison was the runner-up in the Western Art Music category, receiving a R70 000 prize. Her work ‘Dololo’ (for flute, guitar, percussion and string trio) was composed with the mbira in mind, using the rhythm of the word dololo (meaning ‘nothing’) as a starting point. In addition, her ‘Trio in Five Movements’ was inspired by the contrasts between the different landscapes and soundscapes she has experienced during her travels.
Morrison, who is currently based in The Hague, in the Netherlands, also walked off with the R30 000 SAMRO special award for Indigenous African Music in her category.
In addition to showcasing the works of these four finalists, the gala concert gave another exceptional young jazz composer and competition semi-finalist, Ndabo Zulu, a platform on which to shine.
The audience was blown away by the jazz orchestra’s performance of his work ‘Umgidi’, dedicated to the Nguni nation. UKZN graduate Zulu, who is currently completing his master’s degree at the Norwegian Music Academy in Oslo, received the R30 000 Indigenous African Music Award in the jazz category.
Joe Makhanza, a Giyani musician, ethnomusicologist and player and manufacturer of African instruments such as the kora and the mbira, gave the audience an authentic taste of indigenous music on the night. He performed his compositions ‘Mangwani mpulele’, a Sotho folk song about lobola, and ‘Mbilu yi ri tukutuku’, dedicated to all victims of crime.
The scholarships evening included a special focus on Nelson Mandela to mark the 100th year of the late statesman’s birth, as part of the SAMRO Foundation’s new partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation to ‘improve policies that affect our people, and promote our living cultural heritage.’
Concord Nkabinde and his band performed two tracks as part of their ongoing Nelson Mandela: The Song Lives On project: ‘An Ideal to Die For’ and ‘Time to Build’, drawn from Madiba’s own speeches and words.
The audience was also treated to 2012 SAMRO scholarship winner Darren English performing his ‘Pledge for Peace’, which earned this stellar young trumpeter the 2018 Global Peace Song Award and forms part of a suite of three songs that English composed to pay homage to Mandela.
For more information, visit www.samrofoundation.org.za.