By Buhle Andisiwe Made and Malikhanye Mankayi
On 29 April, music projects and academies around the Eastern Cape came together to hold a joint orchestral concert – the Iimbewu Youth Orchestra at the Guy Butler Theatre, Makhanda. The event was produced by Access Music Project and staged by the National Arts Festival.
The ensemble presented a rousing performance, showcasing the Eastern Cape heritage through a contemporary and multicultural lens. Brand-new orchestral arrangements of well-known South African repertoire combine indigenous and digital music production with orchestral tradition.
The Iimbewu Youth Orchestra is a newly formed orchestra inspired by iimbewu, the isiXhosa word for ‘seeds’. The name represents learner players who are starting their orchestral journey and the regeneration of indigenous music in a new context and format. Iimbewu Youth Orchestra also illustrates the intention of sowing the seeds for more exciting musical work.
The orchestra includes learners, staff and friends from various music projects, academies and institutions around the Eastern Cape: Access Music Project (Makhanda), Incopho Development Project (Cathcart), Keiskamma Music Academy (Hamburg and Peddie), Christian Gregor School of Music (Gqeberha), and friends both local and from as far as Komani.
The concert, conducted by Gareth Walwyn, also featured guest artists Siya Makuzeni who sang and also played the trombone; Zanethemba Mdyogolo, who played uhadi (musical bow)– a traditional instrument of the amaXhosa.
Gareth Walwyn is a music director, conductor and award-winning composer and arranger. As founder of Access Music Project, he is also a dedicated educator and passionate about training and mentoring young people to pursue musical futures. His creative work continuously explores the exciting possibilities that emerge in the interplay between musical arts and technology.
Featured artist Siya Makuzeni, is a professional South African trombone player, vocalist, lyricist and songwriter; She has since toured and performed around the globe, most notably in Italy, where she contributed as co-composer and lyric interpreter to the soundtrack of Forse Dio e Malato (Maybe God is ill).
Uhadi player Zanethemba Mdyogolo is a young and upcoming performing artist who specialises in the uHadi. A highlight of his musical career has been performing the uhadi as a guest artist in the Rhodes-NMU Symphony Concert, Guy Butler Theatre, Makhanda, 2022, in an intergenerational and multicultural.
Trombone player Siya Makuzeni describes herself as elated after performing with the young learners. Makuzeni states that the musical evening was significant, especially in the Eastern Cape. She elaborates on the importance of returning to the Eastern Cape after having lived in different places because of her career.
Mdyogolo expresses that the show was mind-blowing; he adds, “I’m feeling excited; I feel fueled!” Mdygolo told Grocotts Mail that bringing together the two worlds of indigenous and digital music was an elating feeling, instead of a moment – “Here I am covering this thing!” Mdyogolo is excited about his future, adding that the sky is just the beginning – “Creatively, opportunities are endless,” he added.
Producer Bridget Harrison shared her views, based on the performance of the AMP learners: “They did spectacularly; I think they were amazing. Not only are they doing so much for their community, but because they do that so well, it enables them to reach out to others. And I think that’s the beauty of it,” she said.
The highlight of the evening was Zanethemba Mdyogolo’s electrical uhadi performance, “Gareth’s brainchild,” Harrison added.