In defiance of prejudice

 Zubeida Jaffer

South African soprano Pumeza Matshikiza has come home to present a special solo concert at the Roodepoort Theatre on 2 November 2021.  She will sing a selection of opera arias and traditional South African songs from her current repertoire.

 

I was fortunate to be invited to preview the show with family and friends at the theatre on Friday 15 October 2021. She and her accompanying pianist Paul Ferreira received several standing ovations from the enthusiastic audience.

A UCT Music School graduate, Matshikiza is an exclusive Decca Classics recording artist and has released two albums Voice of Hope and Arias.

In the 21/22 season, she made her house and role debut as Fox in Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen at the English National Opera. She has also appeared there as Moira in the world premiere of The Handmaid’s tale, written by Poul Ruders. She has performed in Ireland and would have performed elsewhere such as with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra if Covid had not led to cancellations.  

Operatic talent has flourished in South Africa since democracy in 1994.  Watching her powerful performance I could not help being reminded of a time long ago in 1892 when South African choral singers performed in Britain. I note in the book, Beauty of the Heart, The Life and Times of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke,  the commentary of British Music critics in various local papers.

In August 1892, the Musical Times wrote as follows:

A quartet, or rather a solo accompanied by three voices, bore so close a resemblance to Rossini’s Cajus Animam that it is difficult to accept it as a specimen of Native music at all. 

Their manager, a Mr Vert, was quick to brief other journalists and the following commentary appeared:

This quartet, ‘Africa’ is the composition of a Kaffir who had never heard of Rossini or his Stabat Mater and did not dream that such a selection of Cajus Animam was in existence. It is descriptive of how the Natives hum some portions of their songs. 

Another critic wrote: 

The music capabilities of the Kaffir Choir which during the last month has claimed attention in London must have been a surprise to many. Hitherto the African has been deemed so undeveloped as to be thought scarcely worthy of association with music, but as in many other instances, this supposition has apparently arisen from ignorance rather than knowledge.

Listening to Pumeza’s soprano voice explode in Roodepoort, I could not stop smiling. It was an evening of pure delight to see her claim her space in the country and in the world in defiance of all prejudice that her ancestors had to endure.

The performance starts at 19:30 sharp and tickets are only R180.00 and R340.00 for two. Patrons are encouraged to book seats online to avoid disappointments, as seating is limited. Visit www.roodepoorttheatre.com 

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