Cara Stacey. Picture: Supplied
Cara Stacey. Picture: Supplied

Cara Stacey aims to preserve indigenous Southern African music

By Kedibone Modise Time of article published Sep 19, 2021

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Local musician and musicologist Cara Stacey says she’s thrilled to receive the top honours at this year’s Standard Bank Young Artists (SBYA) Awards.

Stacey joins the prestigious list of winners, across the country’s arts sector.

Commenting on her big win, Stacey said: “This award means so much. I have focused for quite some time on just making music – all different types, and with so many different people –without thinking very strategically about my work or musical career.

“It was such a surprise for me, as I just didn't think I would be considered. I am so thrilled to be considered and I am so excited to make more music with this platform,” said Stacey.

Stacey is committed to contextualising and preserving indigenous Southern African music, connecting it to different musical histories and sound forms.

Trained in piano and the umrhubhe, uhadi, and makhweyane (traditional musical bows), Stacey also studied the mbira and budongo.

Cara Stacey. Picture: Supplied

In addition to being a composer and performer, the Johannesburg-born artist holds a doctorate in African music.

Stacey discovered her passion for music very early in her life, experimenting with different instruments.

“I started my musical journey playing the clarinet and then piano when I was a child, but once I was studying music at university, I became interested in a few different southern African indigenous instruments, and African music in general.

“I learned many instruments, with the excellent musician and teacher Dizu Plaatjies, and he really supported me in this new direction,” the award-winning musician explained.

She continued: “I always loved music ... My parents have always had a really eclectic record collection, so that helped me a lot when I was younger.

“I was exposed to lots of different types of music, from around the world and across the African continent. My parents supported me by taking me for clarinet lessons, and I got the chance to play in ensembles and develop my skills in that way. Once I moved to eSwatini, I started studying piano and it all grew from there,” said Stacey.

Cara Stacey. Picture: Supplied

Stacey draws her inspiration from a pool of diverse and celebrated musicians worldwide.

“I love so many different artists. I love music from earlier in the twentieth century – Al Bowlly, Julie London, and some early jazz artists. In terms of bow players, obviously, we have some of the most important and artistically brilliant bow players here in SA: Madosini Mpahleni, Mantombi Matotiyana, and NoGcinile Yekani.

“My teachers in eSwatini are still so influential to me: the late Mkhulu Bhemani Magagula, Gogo Khokhiwe Mphila, Gogo Cathrina Magagula, Gogo Tfobi Shongwe, and so many more.

“There are many classical artists who I adore. Dinu Lipatti's piano recordings still inspire me every day,” Stacey added.

She said: “In terms of contemporary artists, I love people who defy moulds, who are totally committed to it, but less concerned with their music changing the world – or that's my interpretation anyway. I find their music the most moving and life-changing.

“For me, artists like this are: Neo Muyanga, Steve Beresford, Jon Bap, Matana Roberts, and my close friends like Galina Juritz, Matthijs van Dijk, and Lungiswa Plaatjies. My friend and long-time collaborator, cellist Nicola du Toit has also been an important influence on my work,” she said.

In congratulating the 2021 winners, National Arts Festival chief executive Monica Newton said: “I would like to recognise the exceptional achievements of the 2021 Standard Bank Young Artists, and we look forward to seeing them perform and exhibit at the National Arts Festival, in 2022, to see how they use this accolade to further their artistic dreams and ambitions.”

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