Blind trio sees their gospel dream come true

2015-06-09 14:16

Cape Town - After struggling for 14 years to get a recording deal, three blind gospel jazz performers from Cape Town will finally launch their first CD next month, reports GroundUp.

The group, Treasured Voices, is made up of Michael Stokhwe, 57, from Gugulethu, Evelyn Siwa, 52, and Vukile Bomela, 53, both from Mfuleni. They met at the Institute for the Blind in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, in the 1970s.

Stokhwe said he was born blind. His grandmother, aunt and 25-year-old son are also blind. “For me I think it runs in the family,” he said.

Siwa lost her sight when she was seven years old after contracting measles. She says her parents took her to traditional healers instead of taking her to a clinic.

Bomela says he does not know how he lost his eyesight. “I don’t remember [ever] seeing. I don’t know if I was born like this.”

Siwa, now a mother of two, says they all used to sing together back at school. “That was in the 1970s. In 1980, I dropped out of school."

Siwa met up with Bomela again in 1997 at Mfuleni, where they both live. The two tried to start an association for blind people, but because of a lack of finance they decided to go back to singing.

"We asked Stokwe to join us because we needed someone to sing baritone."

For years, they tried to record a CD. A lack of financial backing, and the fact that they were jobless, prevented this dream from being realised.

Treasured voices: Michael Stokwe, Vukile Bomela and Evelyn Siwa. (Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik, GroundUp)

“We never stopped dreaming. We knew that one day we would get a recording deal,” said Siwa. “In 2001 we recorded a demo CD and sent it to eight radio stations. Six of them gave us very positive feedback. We even got a sponsor willing to pay 50% of the costs, but still we could not afford the remaining R8 000.”

Eventually a good Samaritan in the form of Bomela's sister, Mhonko Godze, came through for them.

“I could not believe what I was hearing. Finally our dream was becoming true,” said Bomela. He plays piano for the group, while Siwa and Stokhwe sing.

“There was a piano at school no one was using. I decided to teach myself how to play.” He was 10 years old at the time.

Stokwe, who used to sing in the school choir, said he always encourages other blind people, including his son, to ignore people who made negative comments. “You know, sometimes you get people asking you silly questions, expecting you to answer them. At first, I used to be bothered, but not any more.”

Their guide, Zimkhitha Godze, said the three might be blind but they can see into the heart of people with their music.

The 12-song CD is called Ulidwala-lamadwala [God is a rock of rocks]. The launch will be held at the Fountain Hotel in Cape Town on July 7.

Read more on:    cape town  |  music

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