Njabulo Madlala **
Njabulo Madlala ** Baritone

ON a mission to scout real talent in South Africa, Durban-born international baritone, Njabulo Madlala (pictured, right), is visiting our shores to find the very best in the country. The sad part is that although South Africa is full of highly talented and skilled musicians, most of them don’t have the opportunity to reach their true potential.

As part of improving the quality of the lives of young singers in South Africa, the Amazwi Omzansi Africa Project has decided to host a National Singing Competition as well as master classes led by professionals in the field. Joining Madlala on the panel is South African-born British operatic lyric mezzo-soprano, opera director and educator, Sally Burgess, and pianist, William Vann.

I spent a day with the remaining contestants at they rehearsed for their forthcoming gala performance that is set to take place on Sunday at UKZN, Howard College Theatre. True talent unfolded before my eyes as I watched them sing. It is evident that these aspiring artists not only have the talent, but are determined, driven and passionate about going after their dreams.

What’s great about this competition is that the floor was open to professionals and amateurs, regardless of training.

When I chatted to Madlala about the competition, he said: “The main objective is to try and build bridges through music by mainly connecting artists who have been working in the field for many years and those who want to go into music, and having that centre where people can meet and interact.

“There will be talks happening where people can find out what they need to know to succeed in the music industry; the ins and outs. They get the advice they need to prepare to get into that career. It’s a platform for everyone to come together and share and develop and grow from the experience.”

For Madlala, it’s all about giving back. He was offered a scholarship to spread his wings and make it big.

“Being born in Durban, I’ve seen how much these opportunities are needed. So I wanted to come back to the community and give back and to try and introduce our audiences to classical music and music in general,” he said.

Besides being trained and mentored by international classical artists, the four winners of the competition will not only walk away with the prize money, but will get to engage in master classes and be offered career guidance and the chance to attend schools in the UK and South Africa.

So far, five candidates have been chosen from Joburg, five from Durban, five from Bloemfontein, five from Port Elizabeth, five from Swaziland and the list goes on. The aim is to discover and train as many skilled people as possible, providing them with a platform to showcase their talents.

“While we are here, we will help them look at the business side of being an artist and getting your professional vocals down, as well as getting your name out there,” explained Madlala.

During rehearsals, I chatted to a few of the candidates. They were eager and excited to be part of this contest, saying it was a privilege to work alongside such professional artists as Madlala and Burgess.

According to one of the contestants, Professor Bhengu, it’s a huge honour to be one of the finalists: “I’m an amateur, so this gives me a chance to be on stage with brilliant people. You get to work with professionals and gain knowledge about the music world by being a part of the workshops. People pay so much for the training we are gaining in this competition. It’s a chance of a lifetime.”