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Odyssey of an African Opera Singer

Publish date: 16 April 2018
Issue Number: 769
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: general

Odyssey of an African Opera Singer

Musa Ngqungwana

Penguin. R310

South Africa is rich in musical talent, but as Musa Ngqungwana’s moving memoir makes clear, whether it is discovered or not is something of a hit-and-miss affair. In his case, it has taken an immense determination to learn and succeed, along with a couple of lucky breaks, to see him travel from poverty in Zwide township outside Port Elizabeth to a home in Philadelphia and roles on some of the world’s top opera stages. The contrast between his background – poor and political, with two uncles locked up on Robben Island – and his chosen art form – Western and potentially elitist – could hardly be more marked. It also taps into the cultural appropriation debate that gets aired regularly in the world of the arts, and can be guaranteed to raise tempers. For me, the power of any art form to cross boundaries both real and imagined is its greatest strength, and something to be celebrated.

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