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South African Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble’s Soulful and Scintillating Solos at Princeton Symphony Orchestra


2/26/2021 - 2/28/2021


Princeton Symphony Orchestra

PO Box 250
Princeton,NJ 08540
Phone: 6094970020

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On Friday, FEBRUARY 26 - Sunday, FEBRUARY 28, the Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO)'s presented series Buskaid - A Musical Miracle continues with the South African Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble's Soulful and Scintillating Solos concert. Buskaid-trained musicians are featured throughout and include violinist Mzwandile Twala in a performance of Ernest Bloch's Nigun and violin duo Kabelo Monnathebe and Simiso Radebe's rendition of Pablo de Sarasate's Navarra, Op. 33. Buskaid vocalist Mathapelo Matabane leads off the second half of the program with a composite of Irving Berlin's "What'll I Do" and Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's "My Funny Valentine," followed by Ensemble-arranged South African kwela music. Buskaid Founder and Music Director Rosemary Nalden conducts the program which includes a virtuosic performance of Camille Saint-Saëns' Wedding Cake - Caprice-Valse by guest pianist Melvyn Tan.

The Buskaid soloists and all the musicians making up the Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble received rigorous, multi-year training at the Buskaid Music School in Soweto before joining Buskaid's touring ensemble.

Mzwandile Twala was born in 2000, and brought to Buskaid at the age of three by his foster grandmother, with whom he lived in another suburb of Soweto. He was one of the youngest children to start learning the violin at Buskaid. He was taught by Keabetswe Goodman before becoming a student of Rosemary Nalden, who remains his teacher today. In 2018, he gained his DipABRSM with Distinction and is now the leader of the Buskaid Ensemble, as well as an assistant teacher at Buskaid. In 2019, Mzwandile was given a scholarship to attend a Musicworks chamber music course in the UK.

Violinists Kabelo Monnathebe and Simiso Radebe joined Buskaid in 1999 as nine- and ten-year-old beginners and were taught in a group setting, then individually by Rosemary Nalden. From the outset, it was clear that the two of them were highly talented, and they both joined the Buskaid Ensemble within four years of having started to play the violin. They gained Diplomas with Distinction from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (DipABRSM) before being accepted as undergraduates by the Royal Academy of Music in London, where Kabelo graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree (Honours) and Simiso obtained a DipHE. Both violinists now enjoy active freelance careers in South Africa.

Mathapelo Matabane was eleven years old when she started playing the violin. She had a strong desire to play the viola, to which she switched in 1998 when she joined Buskaid. Singing with Buskaid happened spontaneously. The idea was inspired by the singing of members during bus trips to pass time as they travelled from one place to another on tour (in South Africa, it is commonplace for bus and train commuters using public transport to sing during their journeys). Mathapelo's success in combining vocals with string arrangements evolved from not only singing African secular music and traditional hymns, but also from singing cover versions of songs by legends such as Nina Simone and Etta James. She is enrolled full-time at the University of the Witwaterstrand for a Bachelor of Music degree in jazz vocals, and will be completing her Honours degree this year.

Guest pianist Melvyn Tan is happy to be associated with Buskaid, visiting the school in Soweto several times and performing with the group in Johannesburg. He established his international reputation with pioneering performances on the fortepiano. He continues to cast fresh light on a large repertoire from Bach and Scarlatti to Liszt, Debussy, Stravinsky, and John Cage, inspired by his encounters with teachers Nadia Boulanger, Vlado Perlemuter, and others. His concerto partners have included the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, Salzburg's Camerata and Mozarteum orchestras, Melbourne Symphony, and more.

Access to each concert in the Buskaid - A Musical Miracle series is $5 per unique device link, and includes on-demand viewing of the concert over the course of a 3-day weekend. Look for a new Buskaid on-demand concert each month. To purchase, call 609-497-0020 or visit

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