The National Youth Orchestra is coming to Stellenbosch in December to perform a fantastic programme of South African works by Mokale Koapeng, Robert Fokkens and Peter Klatzow, as well as the Russian masterpiece, Scheherazade, by Rimsky-Korsakov.
Commissioned by the South African Music Rights Organisation‘s Endowment for the National Arts, Mokale Koapeng‘s Isijabane was premiered in July by the National Youth Orchestra and is to be brought back to the stage at the NYO’s Stellenbosch concert at the Endler Hall on 9 December 2009 at 20:00. Many thanks to the Konservatorium at Stellenbosch University for making this concert possible. Tickets will be available through Computicket.
Here is a note by the composer on the exhilarating new work:
Isijabane is a medley of four contemporary folk songs, Thula S’thandwa Sam’, Sizongena Laph’ Emzini, Mamosimane and Xisaka Xatuva. The choice of these songs was an effort to bring folk material from three different African cultural
identities. The common strand is the harmonic influence of western tonality. The last three songs are given their strong African identity by their rhythm.
The opening, Thula S’thandwa Sam’ is an isiZulu lullaby. I had the song for the first time in the early 1970s. It was a choral arrangement by the late Professor Khabi Mngoma, performed by the Ionian Music Society. My father was a member of the choir. The song has been etched in my musical ‘hard-drive’ ever since. In this arrangement, I tried to present two scenarios of a lullaby, a mother trying to get a child to sleep and the child resisting and getting playful. The main melody of the lullaby is stated by the strings and followed by the winds. The playful part is marked Scherzando. Latin for playful. This is the part that also has the second section of the lullaby. The latter is played in a faster tempo and this disguises its identity.
The second song is another isiZulu folksong, Sizongena Laph’ Emzini. It is a wedding song. The song is introduced by a perennial trombone accompaniment in 5/4 metre. Another accompaniment line is provided by the strings section in
pizzicato emulating the mbira. All these happen on top of an active percussion accompaniment. A transfigured precursor of the main melody starts in the middle of this section and lasts for 41 bars. Sizongena ‘proper’ starts later and is
followed by a Setswana folksong Mamosimane.
In this song I attempted to add elements of chromaticism in a simple folksong. There are changes in timbre and chromatic colour. A popular township dance style, mbaqanga, in used in the middle of the song. Short virtuosic string and
wind interludes are used to enliven the song.
The work is concluded with a popular Xitsonga song, Xisaka Xatuva. The song is marked by strong syncopated rhythms. The melody is interspersed within various instrumental sections. This section of the medley is characterized by strong
tutti parts. This reminds me of energetic Xitsonga male dances. The song is held together by a strong bass skipping melody.