By Malikhanye Mankayi and Sibabalwe Tame
It was a joyful night for the people of Makhanda and those who are passionate about music as the National Arts Festival presented the 10th annual Masicule 2023, an evening celebrating the voices of Makhanda.
The special guest artist at the event in the Guy Butler theatre on 13 March was Dumza Maswana, an uMhlobo Wenene radio presenter and an Afro-soul and Jazz artist, who is also known for the singular depth of his soothing voice.
Beautiful performances came from the Kwantu Choir, Makhanda Golden voices, Cathedral Choir, and the choirs of Eastern Cape Midlands College, Rhodes University, and Nelson Mandela University. Secondary school choirs who performed included the choirs of Mary Waters, Graeme College, Kutliso Daniels, Nathaniel Nyaluza, Nombulelo, PJ Olivier, St Andrew’s College and Diocesan School for Girls, and Victoria Girls’ High School.
The choirs put on a thrilling combined performance for the opening song, ‘Yele Yele Masicule’, performed by the Masicule massed choir, leaving everyone in anticipation about what was to come.
Victoria Girls’ High school teacher and choir conductor, Sibusiso Mkhize said, “Masicule is such a fantastic initiative because it accommodates kids from different environments. I wish it could happen twice a year. It would be great to cater for Primary schools too because obviously this project has grown, and they deserve to be part of Masicule”.
Mkhize is also the founder of the Makhanda Sitibili Festival, and he plays a leading role in bringing the arts to disadvantaged areas.
“The Monument is too far to travel for some people in the townships. People were unable to come tonight because of financial constraints and not having transport. A friend and I decided to take Sitibili to the people because it belongs to the people,” Mkhize said.
He pointed out that the Sitibili Festival is not a replica of Masicule because its main focus is traditional Xhosa music.
Lonwabo Sandi, a teacher at Kutliso Daniels (KD) Secondary School and conductor of the KD choir, said Masicule kept young children away from harmful activities. “I feel so good because there is nothing for children to do in Makhanda – they go to school and come home. Masicule really builds the community and the future leaders of tomorrow,” said Sandi.
Sandi wrote one of the songs, Hlani Ngokuzola, which was performed at the event by the KD choir. The school has plans to host their own concert and invite other choirs to participate. Following that, they are looking forward to participating in the Sitibili Festival.
The was a lot of excitement on the faces of the scholars taking part, and even after the event closed, the choirs continued singing the song Amagwijo while waiting for their transport home. Kwantu Choir member, Mbali Mpothulo, said the night had gone very well.
“I think our performance was great. We had a good conductor to work with. Being part of the massive, combined choir was a bit of a challenge working with different age groups, as sometimes there was a lack of respect. Otherwise, it was a great evening”, said Mpothulo.
“I won’t say it was an easy journey because it was not easy to practice for such a long time. But we did it as Ntsika, and I’m proud of our performance. It was my first time to sing in a massed choir and I would like to keep doing it more”, Lubabalo Mahabeni from Ntsika Secondary School Choir said.
The Masicule Massive choir closed with the powerful song that has put South Africa on the map: Jerusalema, with the audience joining enthusiastically.