Durban - Where there’s a present, there is a past, and Dr Thokozani Mhlambi is coming back home to his roots to share his passion for both.
The cellist, composer and singer explores the cultural legacy and philosophies of the Southern African region, which he will share at a concert at the KZNSA Gallery on May 27.
Born in Madadeni, KwaZulu-Natal, Mhlambi is known for incorporating art with music, having held an artistic residency at the prestigious Cite International des Arts in Paris, France, and having his music used as a soundtrack for an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
It’s more than just sound, though: “Throughout my music career, I realised that music is not an academic exercise, it is passion.”
And if he wasn’t a musician? “I would definitely be dancing."
The main reason for him returning home is to be able to contribute to KZN’s music and inspire others.
“It is always nice for me to come back home to my family, and being given the opportunity to perform in Durban triggers my passion for music. In this way, I will make a contribution to KZN’s music and hope to inspire others through my music,” he said.
Mhlambi will be joined by some of KZN’s brightest upcoming vocalists.
Talking about performing overseas, he said he had learned how to overcome one of his biggest challenges: language barriers.
He said he would explain to audiences what each song was about and found it made them open and relaxed and appealed to diverse people.
“In France and Brazil, people are always looking for something to make them feel good. It’s nice to see people respond to my music. Explaining what the song is about helps me to have a deep connection with the audience, and people can feel good through my music. I am able to bring out the good in them.”
He studied in South Africa and Sweden, earning his PhD in Music at the University of Cape Town. He has performed at the National Arts Festival, Baxter Theatre, Soweto Theatre, and the State Theatre in Pretoria.
In this intimate concert, Mhlambi presents a set of Zulu songs performed on cello and voice.
Mhlambi combines virtuouso performances with improvisation, singing and body percussion. He has a special interest in the links between African and Western musical traditions, fusing elements of the old and the new through the vocal melodies and electronic music, experimental soundscapes and western classical music, helping classical music reach a more diverse audience. He has also lectured about music in places like Brazil, Finland and New York.
The live performance on Friday, May 27, reflects on the great archive of early African intellectuals who composed music for ensembles, choirs and the wider public. Many of these composers were were schooled in places like Ohlange, Mariannhill, Adams College in KwaZulu-Natal, and others in the Eastern Cape.
Mhlambi has been conducting an extensive research trip over the past few months in the Eastern Cape and KZN, visiting museums and archives and trying to play other musical instruments.
“I have tried to play other musical instruments from Egypt, KZN and Eastern Cape. This allows me to explore and gives me a different approach,” he said.
Tickets for the concert at 7pm on Friday, May 27 are R100 each and are available at webtickets.co.za
The KZNSA Gallery is at 166 Bulwer Road, Glenwood.
For more details about Mhlambi, check out his Facebook page @thokozani.music or Instagram @thokozani_mhlambi
The Independent on Saturday