Gabi & The Soweto Theatre: Timely Giving Back to Kasi Kids

One of the biggest misconceptions about artists is that they cannot think for themselves. Even worse is when they are black women. Yet through the Soweto Theatre’s belief in Gabisile Motuba’s persistent hard work and dedication, young black hopeful artists have an opportunity at getting formal training in music right in the township.

It is well over a year of Motuba working with the youth orchestra under the Soweto Theatre’s workshop program now. This here package however allowed only a short engagement with the learners during these workshops.

“I had been quite disappointed by this and asked for more time with the learners to explore more ideas and to be able to witness the impact of our explorations. Thus, I proposed to the Youth Development Officer, a residency program which would allow for a more extended engagement with the learners, and which could also provide the ability to create a unique curriculum for the music students. They granted my request and [I] began formulating the residency program and I became the first artist in residency in January 2022,” Motuba tells Spot-On.

At Work: Gabi Motuba teaching. Photo suplied

Motuba’s students are set to present a performance this Saturday , showcasing all the new music skills that they have learned throughout the programme at the Soweto Theatre.
Motuba is a South African award-winning jazz vocalist and composer. She studied at Tshwane University of Technology where she majored in jazz studies. In 2015, Motuba was commissioned to co-composed music for vocals, cello, piano and drums, during a Swiss Artist Residency program.

Those compositions became part of her debut duo album, Sanctum featuring Swiss pianist Malcolm Braff. In 2017, Motuba composed a 10 string quartet compositions. These compositions formed part of her debut solo album, Tefiti-Goddess of Creation. The Tahiti album was nominated for a 2019 South African Music Award for Best Alternative Album.

In 2019 Motuba was recognised by the South African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) who commissioned her to compose and arrange a composition (Those Lost in Time) which has been published on their website. Last year Gabi was commissioned by Concerts SA and Kaya FM to produce five string quartet compositions, under the project The Sabbath, which were then published as part of the Kaya FM Artist Residency Program.

In The Moment: Gabi Motuba during her session with kids of Soweto. Photo supplied

The purpose of the residency project provides employment opportunities for qualified young professional musicians and to find ways of including our programme students in productions, workshops, and performances with touring musicians. This first instalment of the residency has managed to introduce the MTP students to the art of composition as well as exploring new innovative techniques to creating music.

“As a child of the township myself, I know the ways in which we are constantly being introduced to the arts is always through performing artists i.e., rappers, singers etc. There are limited resources channelling or giving access to information that helps us to explore other ways we can think through being an artist, a successful artist,” says Motuba.

“I proposed to the Youth Development Officer- a residency program which would allow for a more extended engagement with the learners, and which could also provide the ability to create a unique curriculum for the music students,” adds Motuba.

Going through any township, you get to appreciate the beauty of the struggle for opportunities. One comes to understand that artists tend to come from complicated backgrounds. So, when artists are involved in the betterment of aspirant musicians and or creatives, it satisfies the soul and their urge for societal development, especially if it’s in the township.

Speaking of her involvement in young artist’ s development Motuba says: “The past six months have been educational for both me and the young students. It has been a learning process of finding new ways of teaching and processing information. I am honoured to have shared my experience as an artist that it may be a guide in the musical journeys of other young musicians,” she says.

At It: Gabi Motuba sharing her knowledge with the youth in Soweto. Photo supplied

Some of her challenges, Motuba says include the administration behind formulating a curriculum of this nature was challenge however the assistance she received from co-facilitators such as Sfiso Msiza and Bongane Phandeka made it possible for the program to run smoothly. “I have had the privilege to witness great teachers in my youth and I believe this prepared me as I was able to model after these great thinkers. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of teaching young musicians better understand themselves through music,” Motuba says.

Through hard work Motuba has carve out her own ideas and approach with regards to music and building a sustainable career for herself without having to feel as though she needs to live on the stage in her career.

She’s living her dream

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