Live from the State Theatre

2012-02-17 13:03

In 1996 Rebecca Malope became the first black musician to be invited to perform at the State Theatre. Just two years into our new-found democracy, the Queen of Gospel was blazing a trail and making history.

Her performance of songs such as Umoya Wam, Uthando Lwam and I’ll Bide My Time were forever immortalised on celluloid and became precious gems of live entertainment.

This weekend the multiplatinum recording artist, TV host of SABC2’s Gospel Gold and an honorary doctor makes a historic return to the same stage – only this time without her greatest collaborator, Vuyo Mokoena, who passed away in 2008 from leukaemia. Instead, Malope will be accompanied by the Tshwane Gospel Choir.

Looking back, she says: “That is one of my most memorable performances because of what it meant to the whole of South Africa. I believe it opened doors for the rest of the black musicians.”

And looking ahead to the weekend, she says: “Now I’ve grown and matured musically.”

This will be her fifth DVD. Molope says she will perform songs that have never been heard before.

“I always bring a lot of energy and emotion to my performances, and I will bring the same to the performances for this DVD.”

Malope believes that the essential ingredient of a good DVD concert comes down to performance.

“DVDs are memorable because they bring songs to life and help the audience understand the songs even better. This is done through the mix of vocals and the way you perform the song,” she says.

Her favourite concert on DVD is one of Michael Jackson’s, whom she describes as a great and passionate performer “who even after his death inspires me to always perform at my best”.

Malope says more people buy DVDs because they give one the experience of being at their idol’s concert. “You get to see them and the way they perform your favourite songs. You also get a clearer understanding of the message they want to portray through the song.”

Malope says she chose to work with the little known Tshwane Gospel Choir because she wanted something different.

“I’ve always worked with well-established artists, but with this DVD I wanted to do things differently and collaborate with young, upcoming artists. I want to empower them and hopefully help them take their career to the next level by giving them exposure. I heard the talent the young people from the choir have and know that they will bring something special to the DVD.”
Malope, whose tally of released albums stands at 32 and who has almost 30 years in the game, says she still finds the thrill in music.

“It will never go away because it comes from God and from serving his people. I love music and I love God. I feel blessed to be able to merge the two and have that as my career.”

Malope says she still manages to pick up new, younger fans.

“I have been very surprised over the years to find that I always have young people who love my music. The older audience continuously introduces my music to the younger audience and that’s how it has been for the past three decades.”

She considers the messages that her music carries and the lessons that can be learnt from her life story as her legacy.

“The love of God gave me courage to work my way out of poverty and work hard to make my dreams of becoming a successful musician come true. I hope my story will always inspire people to never give up and never undermine God’s power in their lives regardless of their upbringing, background or circumstances.”

Talking about the biggest music news of the week, the passing of America’s queen of pop, Whitney Houston, Malope says she was also a fan of her music.

“She had an amazing voice and has always inspired me vocally.”

Malope becomes philosophical when asked which musician she would bring back from the dead.

“I wouldn’t bring anyone back from the dead. I have lost a lot of people who were very close to me and have learnt to trust in God’s judgement and know that his plans for everyone are always greater than any plan we can have for ourselves.”

But with the passing of all this great talent from her era, Malope says she still believes that great music will continue to be produced by new musicians.

“I still see a few great artists who are making music not just for the sake of ‘being famous’ but for the love of good music.”

Quizzed to pick which of the three – between her skyscraper stilettos, Chicco-style haircut and boisterous laughter – she would like to be remembered by, she replies: “Each part represents a different side of me away from my music so I think I’ll be remembered for all three. Stilettos represent my fashion sense, my haircut has been my favourite from when I entered the industry, and my laughter represents my personality.”

» Malope records her live DVD and CD at the State Theatre in Pretoria on Saturday at 8pm. Tickets are on sale at Computicket for R100

» I’m on twitter @LeslehM. Follow City Press: @City_Press

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