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The Order of Ikhamanga in silver

Gobingca George Mxadana (1948 – ) Awarded for:

His excellent achievements in the field of music and contributing to the development of choral music in South Africa

Profile of Gobingca George Mxadana

Ground-breaking music director, conductor, composer, arranger and trainer, Thangana Krila Gobingca George KaMxadana, was born in Soweto, Johannesburg, in 1948.

The founder of the Imilonji KaNtu Choral Society with which he is synonymous, Mxadana has earned enormous respect from the choral fraternity for his achievements with the group. It swept the boards at various competitions and won all regional and four national eisteddfods, once by a record-breaking margin, before Mxadana retired from it to pursue other musical challenges. Most significantly, the choir led the indigenisation of choir competition performance, in both song and dress.

Mxadana was also the first black chairperson of the International Eisteddfod of South Africa. He is the chair of the Old Mutual/Telkom National Choir Festival, the deputy chair of the Arts and Culture Trust and a member of several music and cultural boards in South Africa.

Mxadana grew up in a township community where music was a way of life. An altar boy during his youth, he was exposed to his love, church music, from an early age. His musical interests encompassed mbaqanga, kwela and marabi and he excelled in school choirs. He studied with the London-based Royal School of Music and obtained a Grade Eight. During his studies, he learnt to play the flute, presenting the Concerto, composed by Carl Stamitz, with a then all white SABC Orchestra conducted by Edgar Cree.

He achieved a significant milestone in 1982 with the formation of the Imilonji KaNtu Choral Society.

The choir, rooted in the South African struggle for democracy, provided comfort during the dark days of apartheid and joy in the transition to democracy. The choir actively supported democratic-movement organisations like unions, churches and civic groups, earning it the accolade “People’s Choir”. The choir, which boasts two South African Music Awards, has travelled to Austria, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Norway, Malaysia, the Reunion Islands, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland, Canada and the United States of America.

Nationally, the choir has been part of a great history that includes the launch of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the ordination of Archbishop Desmond Tutu as the first black archbishop of Cape Town, the inauguration ceremonies of both President Nelson Mandela and President Thabo Mbeki, the 1995 Rugby World Cup finals in 1995 and the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996. Mxadana, known for his passion for national anthems, has interpreted the anthems of different countries to heart-warming receptions from the nationals of those countries. Other notable performances of the Imilonji KaNtu Choral Society have been for visiting dignitaries, including the Queen of England and the Queen of The Netherlands, and the funeral services of liberation-struggle luminaries, including Sam Mabe, Zeph Mothupeng, Helen Joseph, Chris Hani, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu and Ellen Khuzwayo.

In 1987, Mxadana won the Conductor of the Year Award at the Ford National Choir Eisteddfod. Accompanied by his late alto soloist wife, Mary Mxadana attended the internationally acclaimed Llangollen International Music Festival in North Wales as the prize. Unsurprisingly, he led the Imilonji KaNtu Choral Society to a rapturous reception at the festival 10 years later.

In 1998, Mxadana led his choir in a special mass at the Basilica in St Denis, France, during the Soccer World Cup. Watched by thousands inside the Basilica and many hundreds of thousands live on television, Mxadana ably guided Imilonji KaNtu in the Catholic liturgy in beautiful French.

Mxadana’s love for church music is also the result of his role in the liturgical music of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

In 2003, Mxadana established the Mzantsi Traditional Orchestra, South Africa’s first traditional orchestra aimed at conserving traditional instruments, song and dance. Its first performance was at the opening of the Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg in July 2003 on the occasion of Mandela’s birthday.

In 2008, Mxadana continued to break new ground, participating with Mzantsi Traditional Orchestra in a performance programme that fuses ancient and contemporary music. The result was a cutting-edge fusion of trance sounds, uhadi bows, kudu horns, reed pipes, marimbas and mbiras with cello, drums and guitar. An almost natural adept in the field of choral music, Thangana Krila Gobingca George Kamxadana has done wonders for both the development and advancement of choral music in South Africa.

Currently, Kamxadana is a music director for Imilonji Kantu Choir based in Soweto. He also continues to serve on a number of bodies in the community, nationally and internationally.

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