Jo’burg’s Linder Auditorium came alive with the sound of music on Saturday night, when the two 2016 SAMRO Overseas Scholarships winners were chosen.
Following a tense final round of live performances, saxophonist Linda Sekhakhane (Jazz music) and marimba player Dylan Tabisher (Western Art music) were announced as the winners of the two R200 000 scholarships.
Sekhakhane (24) studied at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and is based in Johannesburg, while Capetonian Tabisher (28) studied at Stellenbosch University.
These study awards will enable the two young instrumentalists to pursue career-enhancing music studies or master classes at an international institution of their choice. They also each won R5 000 for the best performance of a prescribed South African composition. Winning R70 000 each were runners-up Benjamin Jephta (bass guitar) in the Jazz category and Sally Minter (flute) in the Western Art Music section.
Jephta and Sekhakhane battled for top honours in in the Jazz category. The audience was blown away by their explosive virtuosity while performing their own choice of music, as well as the commissioned work Ilali (Rural Settlement) by 2014 SAMRO scholarship winner Prince Bulo, a gifted young composer. Adding extra heft to the two musicians’ performances was a dynamic jazz trio consisting of Melvin Peters (piano), Victor Masondo (bass) and Rob Watson (drums).
In the Western Art Music category, Minter and Tabisher competed for the scholarship in another closely fought and high-calibre contest. In addition to playing their own choice of repertoire, they expertly tackled commissioned works by South African composers: Minter played Emakhaya No 2 Nqandani by Bongani Ndodana-Breen, and Tabisher performed Injesuthi by Clare Loveday. They were accompanied by pianist Elna van der Merwe.
A number of subsidiary and merit prizes were also awarded to the semi-finalists on the night. Merit awards of R10 000 each went to saxophonist Justin Bellairs and flautist Tatiana Taele. The two SAMRO/Bonhams Awards (one in each category) were won by guitarist Keenan Ahrends and flautist Neil Robertson, while the SAMRO/De Waal Award went to trombonist Siya Charles.
The evening was made memorable by not only the four instrumentalists’ impressive performances, but also by the knockout renditions of Nina Simone and Winston Mankuku compositions by last year’s Jazz scholarship winner, The Voice finalist Zoë Modiga. This powerhouse vocalist is among the dozens of South African musicians who form part of the SAMRO Foundation’s growing “family” of outstanding music achievers, whose artistic excellence has been applauded and their talent catapulted to even greater heights.
Generations of composers, singers, keyboard players and instrumentalists have been given a professional boost thanks to SAMRO’s sizeable investments in music education since 1962 – including at least four Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners.
Next year’s SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition will be held for keyboard players (including pianists and organists) in both the Western Art and Jazz music categories.
Visit www.samrofoundation.org.za for more information on the SAMRO Foundation’s programmes and projects, or follow @SAMROFoundation on Twitter and Facebook.