South African opera singer Njabulo Madlala founded Voices of South Africa Trust in 2011 and has led this charitable trust as its artistic and executive director ever since.
From the very first set of workshops which were held in a small room of the local theatre (The Playhouse Theatre) with South African pianist James Bailleau, Njabulo’s vision for Voices of South Africa has focused on the singing voice and in particular classical singing, emerging young artists, education and creating bridges through the arts. The Trust uses the arts as vehicle for change in people’s lives.
Njabulo Madlala and James Baillieu, both South African musicians who had won scholarships to study in the UK, came back to South Africa in order to give back to the community, but also to discover young talent they could help and mentor to follow in their footsteps.
The Voices of South Africa Trust’s residential masterclasses for young singers have been led by some of the world’s greatest artists – including international opera star Sally Burgess, Sibongile Khumalo, conductors Jeremy Silver and Prof Kamal Khan, Durban-born and US based Bronwen Forbay, Violina Anguelov, Vetta Wise, Lisa Engelbrecht and others.
The Voices of South Africa Trust’s young artists have brought classical music, and in particular music from the operatic repertoire, to their communities year on year. These communities still don’t get many chances to experience or learn about this art form. Through the new outreach initiative a programme of workshops and a singing competition for school children has been introduced in 2015.
The work we do involves an intensive two week course. It is a coaching programme in voice, acting, languages, performance and the business of the arts. Working with the director of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown Ismail Mahomed, we have successfully launched a yearly arts symposium giving professionals in the field, from entertainment lawyers to festival directors and administrators, a platform to meet young artists and share their knowledge and experiences and helping the young artists make headway.
The Trust’s work came full circle in 2015 with the performance of Verdi's opera La Traviata, which was held at UKZN’s Howard College and was led entirely by the young artists and teachers. This performance was reviewed by the UK's Opera Now magazine who praised the work. We look forward to producing more small opera performances to give the young artists their first experiences of being in an opera.
We are proud of what we have achieved so far. The programme grows bigger each year and has become a popular and important event for young singers in South Africa and our supporters. Our programmes in the past few years have been funded by a combination of kind donations from friends, patrons, small organisations and fundraising concerts. We do not yet have major funding and are constantly seeking help in order to keep growing the project and secure at least the next three years' programmes.
If you can help or know someone who can, please do not hesitate to contact us on our email: firstname.lastname@example.org