Change the world

07/12/2021

Born in Limpopo, international music performer and composer Musa Nkuna, 48, who lives in Germany, has chosen Nelson Mandela University to study for this DMus in Composition degree.

He hoped to attend his Graduation in Gqeberha on Friday 15 December but now cannot do so due to imposed international travel restrictions.  

Musa says he chose Nelson Mandela University because he wanted to study at a ´free´ university, an open and progressive university, in an environment that he felt he would be appreciated and free to express himself artistically and musically.

“Where else other than at the university which carries the name of an icon, Nelson Mandela! And, not only carries it, but upholds it!! he says.

In addition, Musa has based one of his compositions for his DMus on the quotations of Desmond Tutu on the themes of hope and forgiveness. 

“I felt the urge to set these texts to music and I thought it would be quite intriguing to set these as part of a standard, existing genre together with texts that are traditionally set to music”, he says.

In his experience as student and professional musician he has not come across a Requiem written by an African composer or a composer living on the African continent, Musa says.

“This also became a motivating factor in composing my Requiem of Hope and Forgiveness Op. 28, which is in 10 substantial movements and is scored for two soprano soloists, tenor and baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra. This work turned out to be the largest work presented in this portfolio and forms the core of my research in this area of composition and music performance”, he says.

After having performed several oratorios, operas and concerts in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and South Africa, he was always intrigued by how composers applied compositional techniques to produce such great music.

“It is my experience and exposure as performer at international level that inspired me to do this research, says Mr Nkuna.

The title of his doctorate is Bicultural Voice in Three Works by Musa Nkuna. His thesis analyses the compositions, how these works were conceived and constructed, and how both African and Western elements have been employed to achieve a syncretism.

He also describes the way that his cultural interactions, music training and experience as a professional opera singer influence his compositions. The creative content of the portfolio thesis is a set of scores of the three works themselves, as well as accompanying recordings of these works. His promotor for his Doctorate is Prof Michael Blake and co-promoter Prof Alethea de Villiers.  

Musa has performed in over 100 full opera productions, with an average of at least eight performances per production and continues to appear regularly on opera and concert stages throughout Europe.

He has sung lyric tenor roles in operas by Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti, Strauss, Rossini. He is also active as a composer and some of his works have been played in concerts in Germany, Poland, Portugal, Switzerland, the USA and South Africa.

Musa lives in Kassel, about 200km north of Frankfurt, a lovely city with a vibrant cultural life boasting a State Theatre with a fulltime orchestra, chorus, ensemble of soloists and actors.

He was born in Giyani, Limpopo, in a musical family. His father is a composer and he worked for the SABC for many years as a music producer. Musa sang in school choirs and at the age of 15 he joined the local church choir where he met the Swiss pianist and musician, Paulette Robert.

She noticed his enthusiasm for music and started teaching him the history of Western Classical music, introducing him to the music of Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Stravinsky, etc. She also taught him to read and write music to be able to compose his own music, gave him singing lessons and he sang some oratorio arias at Sunday church services.

“The warm, enthusiastic and positive reception by the congregants encouraged me to pursue a musical career”, he says.

“As a teenager I dreamt of having an extensive list of qualifications written behind my name and told my parents and siblings that one day I would also like to have those qualifications. It is for this reason that I feel strongly that because of this doctorate I have achieved yet another long-term dream of mine, Musa says.

Contact information
Prof Alethea de Villiers
Head of Department: Associate Professor in Music Education
Tel: 041 5042643
Alethea.DeVilliers@mandela.ac.za