South African composer, Bongani Ndodana-Breen, who graduated from Rhodes University with PhD in Composition earlier this year, was commissioned by the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra (one of the top 10 US orchestras) to write a work in commemoration of Nelson Mandela’s centenary.
Harmonia Ubuntu has been included in the orchestra’s repertoire for their South African tour which is currently underway; it was premiered to critical acclaim in Minnesota earlier this year. Scored for symphony orchestra and soprano soloist, Harmonia Ubuntu showcases traditional African musical mores expressed through the Western symphony orchestra, creating an African-Western musical experience. In honour of democratic South Africa’s founding President, the words of Nelson Mandela form the text sung by the soprano soloist. Ndodana-Breen’s PhD supervisor, Prof Jeffrey Brukman, has labelled the work as “a milestone achievement in South African art music: the first commission for a South African composer from a major American symphony orchestra who are the first North American orchestra to tour South Africa. For Bongani to be honoured in this way shows the calibre of his creativity and the recognition he has achieved in the international sphere. To get the essence of Mandela’s message across in this way is something very special.”
Links to Harmonia Ubuntu are included below: