A dream to be a professional conductor
01 January 1970
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Welcome back to the Old Mutual Live Music podcast, my name is Aphiwe Honono and as promised, I give you the latest news on choristers and choral competitions happening in and around the SADC region. Today I’m speaking to Ishmael Kekane who is a chorister. Getting straight into it, what are you currently doing? I understand you’re a chorister, you are not with a particular choir at the moment, but tell us about your journey as a chorister.
IK: Okay, my journey started in 2009 while I was singing for a conductor in Mpumalanga. In 2010 he changed the choir and he was competing in North West. That time I was not singing for him anymore, I was singing for someone else in 2011. They closed and in 2011 I joined a chorus, also in Mafikeng. I joined it until 2014, last year. I am not singing anymore, I’m a choir trainer for the high schools or middle schools. I’m training to be a conductor, so I’m still doing the training of the choir so I can really be a professional conductor.
AN: That’s very interesting Ishmael because you find a lot of the times young people like ourselves are not interested in choral music, per say. Now here you are conducting a high school choir, as young as you are, what is the inspiration behind that? Why have you fallen in love with choral music so much that you want to take it to even young people than yourself?
It’s important to develop passion from a young age
IK: I started having this expression of music while my father was working somewhere in Centurion and I was visiting the people he was working for, they were white people. So they were listening to opera music. I kind of liked that music, I didn’t know the language of that, but I kind of liked. I wanted to sing this music, so I was, I started when I was in Grade 10 singing that music. When I was in school and that’s where I started to love the music, when I told myself, I need to know more about this music. I’ve been a conductor, been an adjudicator, or even writing songs, this year I even wrote a song of HIV Aids for the high schools.
AN: Looking at the choral industry as a whole Ishmael, what would you say is lacking? I understand that a lot of funding is needed in the choral industry, it’s not as popular as the other genres. What would you say needs to happen for choral musicians to be known?
Funding is sorely lacking in the choral industry
IK: I think education, it’s there, but the choirs, they’re choosing to sponsor, not all of them are being sponsored. Right now, there will be Old Mutual but many choirs I know; they don’t have money for transport and accommodation, so that they can afford the choir to go to competitions. Even last year we had a choir that didn’t have funds to go to the competitions, it’s a problem. These things are very serious and I don’t know if that is, I see it happening too much in the North West. I don’t know what the problem is. We have many people with talent of music in the North West.
AN: Somehow the funding does not seem to be reaching the North West, that’s what you’re saying?
AN: When you take a look at the other provinces, what do you see from the other provinces that is different from the North West, like with the sort of help they are getting?
IK: Some of them, maybe they have a sponsor, maybe up until the choir competition they will always have that kind of a sponsor. Even in the North West, if they have a sponsor, you will have it for that period, from there you have to find another one. If you lost in competitions, they no longer want to sponsor you. So if a choir, you have a sponsor, that sponsor has to be with the choir. Maybe the choir is still growing, we are not professionals in the North West, other provinces like Gauteng. They are professionals, most of them, they are singing opera music, so they certificates in opera. So in North West, we are just choristers, we are trying hard to grow in this music. If the sponsor sponsors you once a year and from there you have to see next year, what you have to do is improve. Some of us we just go back, we are leaving this music, it’s not getting us anywhere.
AN: If we were to say to someone right now who is interested in sponsoring choral musicians in the North West, Ishmael. I’m giving you some time now to market yourself and market the people of your city and your province, why should they invest in North West choristers?
It’s harder for smaller provinces to compete
IK: I think they should invest because we have a lot of talent there, but the problem is, most of these people who are singing, they don’t want to be singing to a conductor. Maybe the conductor is someone else, they don’t want to be conducted by that person. They want this person and that person, he cannot come to that choir because that choir already has a conductor. So we are choosing and some of these have pressure because my friends are just singing to that choir, I want to go there. But there’s another choir there that those people, they are always there and maybe there are a hundred choristers there. They only needed 60 on stage and 40, they won’t even make it to the stage, so they just give up.
Our adjudicators who are adjudicating in all the competitions, they need to see maybe if those adjudicators will get a big choir, maybe we’ll have that integration to have a choir that will know. This is not a choir because of right now we have a choir coming from another province, but it’s here and it’s always winning because they’re dedicated to what they are doing and they even have sponsors. So the choristers, they don’t have stress, I think in Mafikeng, it’s a problem. Right now I need to sing for Old Mutual but I don’t know which choir I can go to because two choirs are already down. Two of them, cannot go to that city choir because I’m not attending the university and at the college there is no choir.
AN: Well folks, it’s really painful to hear stories like this where we have young musicians that are passionate about singing and are passionate about entering choir festivals. Their only problem is they do not have enough funding. They don’t have anyone that believes in them. So if you are listening to this interview right now and you would like to help out in any way possible, please reach out to us and we will try and make this happen. Ishmael, thank you so much for your time and all the best for your mentoring and your conducting work, we wish you all the best.
IK: Thank you Aphiwe.