Watch Inspiring Short Video About South African Opera Singer Pumeza Matshikiza
Photo Credit: S & A

Watch Inspiring Short Video About South African Opera Singer Pumeza Matshikiza


So continuing with my weekend series of inspiring

video shorts about black musicians who are breaking boundaries and “thinking outside the box”, here’s

number two of three.

Today we focus on opera singer Pumeza Matshikiza who has just signed a recording contact with the major

classical music label Decca Classics, who, in turn, has produced a short video in which Ms. Matshikiza goes back to the

townships of Cape Town, South Africa

where she was born and raised to talk about her very humble beginnings.

In a recent interview, she talked about the journey of her

life, participating in anti-apartheid demonstrations when she was a very young child, even being attacked by the police with tear gas. She even witnessed people

being “necklaced” (tires filled with gasoline placed around a person’s neck and

being set on fire) right in front of her.

She started singing in church choirs along with her mother,

but when she heard her first opera on the radio as a teenager, that’s when her

life changed. As she said:  “I

didn’t know anything about opera, but when I found that channel, I started to

listen to it because it was so beautiful. After that I listened to that station

almost every evening.”

But her teachers and peers convinced her that there was

no future in classical music and she actually was planning to become a surveyor

at first, but stuck to her dreams and studied voice at the University of Cape Town.

She got a job performing in a puppet show and the

producer of the show was so impressed with her voice that he convinced her to apply

to the Royal College of Music in London which she did and was immediately


The rest is history. 

She is currently under contract

to the Stuttgart Opera and performs

in other opera houses and recitals all over the world, attracting the attention

of Decca Classics who quickly signed her


However, one major decision which Ms. Matshikiza made was

in refusing to change her name after moving to the UK, on the suggestion of some

people. As she says: “If they can learn to pronounce (Russian opera

singers) Elena Obraztsova, Dmitri Hvorostovski and Galina Vishnevskaya (..or

even Anna Netrebko for that matter to add another Russian opera singer’s name)

they will learn to say Matshikiza.”

But she’s not alone. There are other South African opera

singers who are making major names for themselves such as Pretty Yende (who shared the same vocal coach in South Africa with

Ms. Matshikiza) who is already the toast of the Met Opera in New York, the

Vienna State Opera and elsewhere, and

who currently has, according to major music critic Norman Lebrecht “every major classical label running after her with open mouths and chequebooks.”

And there’s also soprano Tsakane

Valentine Maswanganyi, who is currently with the Deutsche Oper Berlin, who grew up in Soweto South Africa and has talked openly

about the hardships growing up there as a young child.

All these musicians, like the sixth grade heavy metal band Unlocking the Truth I wrote about

yesterday, are following their own paths; and though they have been written about in the mainstream media, they are still literally ignored by the editors of black media.

The reason being is, in the case of the opera singers, that

they’re African which means they’re “foreign,” and like Truth, they all refuse to be “put in a box” and even worse “they’re not doing what black

people are supposed to be doing.”

But we have no problem with that here.

Here’s the short about Ms. Matshikiza:

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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