OFENTSE Pitse, 27, is the youngest conductor in Africa to lead an orchestra. PICTURES SUPPLIED
OFENTSE Pitse, 27, is the youngest conductor in Africa to lead an orchestra. PICTURES SUPPLIED

Classic way to put Africa on the map

By Mpiletso Motumi Time of article published Nov 19, 2019

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Young and powerful is what Ofentse Pitse is all about.

The 27-year-old has been making waves lately after her stellar performance at Judith Sephuma’s album launch earlier this month.

She is the youngest conductor to lead an orchestra, following in the footsteps of her grandfather Otto Pitse.

“My grandfather was a teacher, a music conductor and a musician. So, I got it from him. I was born and raised in the Salvation Army. The church is a very musical one. I started playing instruments when I was 12. I was always at church and, as a young girl, I was mentored by musicians.”

Growing up, Pitse aspired to be like the musicians in the army band.

“I spent a lot of time in that environment and that instilled a love and passion for music, from classical music to jazz.

“My mind opened up to this new world and I saw what music can do and the church was the best place to see that.”

She connected with two of her favourite conductors in Thami Zungu and Gerben Grooten, who helped her develop her company, Anchored Sound.

Pitse is the founder and conductor of Anchored Sound.

“I shared my vision with them and they were surprised that at my age I wanted to go for something as unconventional as classical music.”

In 2017, on her 25th birthday, she decided to start a choir.

“I gathered some people from church and musicians and people really enjoyed it. I had to then see how far I could take it by coming up with a concept.

“I have a planning mind because of my architecture profession and I thought of how we could use this as a business model for choral music, orchestras and classical music.”

She is the founder of Anchored Sound, which aims to instil the importance of music and culture in society.

“Orchestras are expensive and that is why we do not see many of them, I had exhausted my personal funds and needed an investor.”

Her investor came in the form of radio personality Bob Mabena, to whom she pitched the idea of her business.

“By virtue of this meeting and the events that followed, I ended up playing at the Judith Sephuma album launch.”

Pitse said she was happy to have people around her that really believed in her skills.

“It was time and chance. The first orchestra I conducted was in August at the Joburg Theatre under my brand Anchored Sound.”

She had a lot of challenges around that performance but it managed to open her up to a new audience and people who would then be able to help her further.

“I always say this is a gift. I never sat down and wanted to be this female conductor. I started it wanting to develop young people and wanting to create a space where they felt they belonged.”

A rehearsal with the Anchored Sound orchestra members.

Many of the musicians she works with are up-and-coming and come from disadvantaged communities.

“Most of them are talented but could not afford to further their

education.

“They also want to perform on world stages and want to prove to their peers that their dreams are valid.

“So, for me, it was about using my ambitious mind to reach out to people for help.”

Anchored Sound, though still a young project, is helping to shape those futures.

“It shocks me every day. It hit me when I realised that this is actually happening. I knew that if I

was not prepared for it, it was going to pass me by. I had to reach out to great

conductors.”

Pitse sees her brand going all the way to the Sydney Opera House.

She added that Anchored Sound was unique in that it not only focused on European compositions, but it also on African works.

“It is very much rooted in Africa. My dream is to take that narrative into those spaces we are told we don’t belong. It’s representation on that level and allowing for the black child to have a seat at that table.”

Her mission right now is to demystify the notion that opera is rigid and formal. “I imagine us doing a show in Berlin dressed in Maxhosa. That is representing the dynamic power of the African dream.”

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