Local opera singer welcomed back

2016-11-30 06:01
Musa Ngqungwana, a son of Zwide who is performing as an opera singer in America, received a hero’s welcome last Wednesday when he came back to Port Elizabeth to visit family. He also took a moment to sing and dance with the PE Viola Men’s Chorus, whom he used to sing with as a teenager. Photo: WERNER HILLS

Musa Ngqungwana, a son of Zwide who is performing as an opera singer in America, received a hero’s welcome last Wednesday when he came back to Port Elizabeth to visit family. He also took a moment to sing and dance with the PE Viola Men’s Chorus, whom he used to sing with as a teenager. Photo: WERNER HILLS

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HIS life has been a whirlwind since he traded the streets of Zwide for the American stage in 2013, but being back in the Bay has given Musa Ngqungwana (32) a chance to breathe.

Ngqungwana, who has performed to great acclaim as an opera singer in America, received a hero’s welcome when he arrived in Port Elizabeth last Wednesday.

The PE Viola Men’s Chorus from Zwide, which counted a teenage Ngqungwana among its members, welcomed him with spirit and song at the airport, and even convinced him to sing with them. “Performing with them again after years feels like unearthing my roots,” said an exuberant Ngqungwana. “I joined the choir when I was 16 years old, and they shaped the foundation of my musical training.”

It is also thanks to the choral conductor, Snaza Ntshebe, that Ngqungwana’s dream of being an opera star was born. “He showed me a video of a black man performing Mozart. I had no idea black men could perform classical music, but when I saw it, I was absolutely captivated.”

In 2004 he auditioned for an ensemble for a production by Mimi Coertse. “She encouraged me to move to Cape Town and hone my talent, and that changed my life.”

After his studies, Ngqungwana moved to America and joined the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia for four years. “I have not had a breather since then, moving from production to production. On the Sunday we had our last show of Moby Dick, which was performed in Dallas and Los Angeles, and on the Monday I was on a plane for my visit.”

He will spend time with his family in Zwide before returning to America with a new visa. “I’ve missed home-cooked meals and tripe, and small things like hearing a drunk man yelling and cursing across Njoli Square on a Sunday morning.

“I perform all over the world, but I am alone, and wherever I go, PE is where I started. It feels good to perform and then come home to drink from the fountain and regain the energy I need.”

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