15th Isicathimaya choir competition

Chris Ntuli (in red jacket) with pupils from Sobantu High School in Pietermaritzburg, winners of last year’s High Schools Isicathimaya Choir Competition.


DURBAN Black Drifters Entertainment and The Playhouse Company are to present awards to yours truly and fellow journalist Charles Khuzwayo for contributions to the promotion, since inauguration, of the city’s annual High Schools Isicathamiya Choir Competition, now in its 15th year.

The awards are to be presented at this year’s popular song and dance event, to be held at Durban’s Playhouse Opera at 10am on Thursday, November 30. There is no admission fee.

Fifty schools are expected to be represented at the event which offers cash prizes and trophies, the first prize being R15 000, the second prize being R6000 and third prize R4000.

Ukhozi FM personality Joe Hudla will compere this show for the 10th time, and special guests will inlude isicathamiya veteran groups Natal Try Singers, Zulu Messengers and Women’s Group, while Eric “Coolfire” Hadebe will rekindle ancestors with the burning of impepho (incense) at the opening of the show.

The Isicathamiya High Schools Choir Competition seeks to preserve, promote and develop this genre at grassroots level so that the music can stay for generations, as it is on the verge of extinction, says Chris Ntuli, leader of the group Durban Black Drifters and the organiser of the event.

Started in 1992 as a workshop project by Durban Black Drifters, the event has transferred skills to more than 2 000 school groups. It has won a Business Association of South Africa (Basa) award and numerous other cultural awards, as the best youth-based Isicathamiya music development project.

Durban Black Drifters has been in music for three decades. The group has toured France, Belgium, Norway, Canada, America, China and Japan.

The group has also appeared in a US musical written by American playwright, Ermill Thrower, titled Hurricane Katrina, dedicated to the flood victims of New Orleans in 2004.

Ntuli has worked with and recorded two albums with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Ukuzala Ukuzelula and Thuthukani Ngoxolo. He later translated both albums for Paul Simon with help from a friend, Msizi Shabalala.

Ntuli has also worked with Aerto Moreira (Brazil), Madala Kunene, Sipho Gumede, Busi Mhlongo and Jabu Khanyile.

He has come a long way with his music since he first came to Durban in the early 1970s, spending two years on the streets in the Point area, making a living from shipping contractors, earning R2 a day.

Before engaging in music fulltime, he was employed as a sales promotions manager for a national daily newspaper, Sowetan. He also holds a modeling diploma, obtained in 1983 from Sexy Katz Modelling School in Johannesburg.

Ntuli has experience in music mixing and mastering, gained from working extensively under the leadership of Joseph Shabalala and award-winning engineer, Neil Snyman.

He also recorded and produced the first Isicathamiya compilation CD, released in 2010 on the Universal Music label, which featured 17 Durban-based veteran Isicathamiya groups.

The 15th High Schools Isicathamiya Choir Competition is sponsored by the Department of Arts and Culture and Mzansi Golden Economy, and managed by DBD Entertainment.

NOTE: Schools entering the competition are urged to register now by sending an SMS with the word ‘’Yes’’, their school name, place and contact person to 073 301 6740 – available 24/7.

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