International Music Icons Deliver Masterclass at UKZN
Melodious international musicians, Chris Walker and Regina Belle, dropped by for a masterclass with UKZN students and staff as part of their international music tour to South Africa.
Famously known for their awe-inspiring contribution to the music industry, the duo engaged with the audience to share some of their best highlights, detailing their musical journeys.
Dean and Head of the School of Arts, Professor Nobuhle Hlongwa, facilitated the programme that included great performances by UKZN Music students featuring the director for the Centre of Jazz and Popular Music, Mr Neil Gonsalves.
Gonsalves began by giving an overview of the music field. He referenced some notable figures in the jazz genre and South African musicians who have made significant contributions to the international music scene. This included current employees with successful music careers as well as individuals who have won accolades in their respective fields.
Whilst acknowledging the positive shift in the music scene, he placed emphasis on the importance of paying tribute to the forefathers, commending UKZN alumni whom he considers having continued to strive to represent the South African music culture and tradition, moving along with the times and changes in the music industry.
Gonsalves urged both current and upcoming musicians to actively participate in sharing their music globally, to evolve as artists, and to embrace challenges within the music space. He said: ‘Everything is changing, we must stay up with it. We are eager to take on the difficulties of the modern music industry and culture.’
Speaking about her humble beginnings, Belle mentioned that she grew up in a household of talented musicians and joined the Sunshine Choir at church at a young age. Their musical career was further aided by her brother, who worked with artists such as Aretha Franklin, the Winans, and Whitney Houston.
‘I genuinely knew at eight years old that I wanted to sing. For all of our family’s events – weddings, funerals, church services, I would perform and most of them didn’t pay. Nevertheless, it has contributed to my growth,’ she said.
Ms Keziah Varadarajulu and Mr Magashule Tholela (piano) gave a great performance which the duo agreed took them back to the 1930s. Belle complimented Varadarajulu’s remarkable body language, which she said ‘gave off a fever because it was so theatrical.’
During Ms Thembalethu Bhengu and Gonsalves’ (piano) performance, Belle suggested the need for development in the performer’s body language, while Walker noted: ‘There is something special about her shyness and the way she handled the mic, she kept us listening,’ he said.
Gonsalves asserts that the University has a solid academic background in music education and that it is in its best interests to continue working with international artists and sharing a variety of abilities.
Hlongwa added, ‘Promoting internationalisation as part of the University’s vision and policies is a top goal for UKZN, and the Music department,’ commending it for its ongoing commitment to student support.
Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela