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Xolani Mthombeni

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Homage to a sage

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tambo huddleston

Trevor Huddlestone and Oliver Tambo visiting at St Martin’s School July 1991

Our nation’s state of engineering is disheartening and disturbing .The populace is fixated on the ills and bestial challenges within our communal surroundings rather than working as a collective against the aggrandizement of a climate that distorts the implements of change.

In order for us to understand the empirical object of renaissance, when heeding the call for coherence in societies, it should be directed to all citizens, according to their effectiveness towards building a fruitive stronghold. It was not long when the laurel of desegregation was laid at our feet, and leaders across all spheres paved a road while we and other echelons filled it with filth, indictment and indignation.

Ultimately strumming the heartstrings of the communities to a pandemonium, it caused a lionized young population to justify wrong doing as a means of fighting a torrid system. Nearly decades later, the grim effects are felt.

With the help of early pioneers’ observation and dichotomy of executing innovative and relevant ideas, the shackles hindering progression have been cast away .A festival that has not only taken a step in the right coordinate but also acknowledges the teaching of history as pedagogue and ideologies imparted by early liberal predecessors that know the beauty of living in an indigenous state. Behold! Along came the Melting Pot Arts Festival.

Since its inception it is one of a few happenings that embrace diversity in its entirety. Founded by the ebullient and driven Gcisa Mdlulwa and Sibongiseni Mbambo.  It is a festivity based on the principles of Oliver Reginald Tambo .It is about bringing all people from different crevices of creed and colour within the borders of the continent to celebrate an imminent arbiter and statesman.

The competition takes place over a two day interval where choirs are selected to compete in a nail biting and exciting national platform during OR’s birth date month in October. Born in eNkantolo in Mbizana Tambo was one of the longest ruling leaders of a liberating party, at the height of stringent and hard times. Being a multifaceted leader he deemed it fit to awaken a defiant throng, that saw the drafting of the Freedom Charter, that later metamorphosed into the South African Constitution.

One of his key virtues was knowing how to bring change without violating other people despite the era. In most situations he utilised  people, music and unity as synergies that effected the need for cohesion.

During his tenure, spanning over three decades he was involved in numerous genres. As a notable composer he was honoured by his contemporaries and fellow writers particularly in the choral segment, a genre that seem to be sidelined in the broadcasting spaces.

After his passing he left an adulated footprint, honouring him with his passion could not be more apt .

This year was a determinative year for growth around the festival. Ensembles that took part are certainly changed by the efforts in what seemed to be a high and painstaking competition for the singers. Choirs sang homage to the sage, from subtle intonations  that castigate current affairs to multi dimensioned symphonies that extrapolated on the father of abstract freedom. The liveliness exuded by the conductors gave new meaning to holding a baton whilst painting impeccable portraits. The musical geniuses of participants made narratives easier for audiences to consume what was being sung. As per sing-off, there were winners and the winners were the winners.

The winnings were divided meticulously by adjudicators who explained how the figures were tallied .With over four million rand in prizes ,the festival seem to be punching the right numbers. The two choirs that won the first day are from outside the South African borderline namely the Serumula Arts Academy from Lesotho took home the African piece award, while His Majesty’s Correctional Service Choir based in Swaziland took the best conductor and the winner in the classical rendition. Both choirs took part in the Top Ten Segment. The Tradical Section (Izitibili) was swooped by the Sounds of Joy Chorale. As chance would have it the whopping prize of one million rand was snapped up by S.A Singers from Kwa Zulu Natal.

There is certainly a need for a competition of this magnitude, in particular one that embraces the township settings. As is the case, chorister’s lives have changed because of the festival. We hope it will grow to be associated with sought after events and a platform that showcases choral aptitude in the continent.

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