By: Elesi Azumah

The name Khayakazi Madlala speaks volumes as this young South African woman has a beaming future looking over her shoulder. Working her way through the classical music scene, Khayakazi is evidently proving she is a force to be reckoned with and has great intentions towards pushing the genre in the country at the age of 23.

Tell me a bit more about your background and upbringing. Who is Khayakazi ‘Mirranda’ Madlala? I am a young woman from a small town in the Eastern Cape called Matatiele. As far as I can remember my siblings and I had a normal upbringing and have our grandparents to thank for that. I grew up in a family where music was loved and every Sunday we attended church and would sit with the choir and would sing our hearts out, except for my mother and younger sister due to their singing inabilities. I’m very reserved and tend to stray away from places with a lot of people due to my slight speech problem hence I have resorted to expressing myself through music rather than talking and firmly believe I have made a good decision.

Where did your love for Classical music stem from? My love for Opera music came when I first heard my brother sing. He would often perform for the family and would be persistent towards training my younger sister and I but we were so young at the time and never took anything he said seriously until one day he heard me sing an aria from an opera called, ‘The Magic Flute’, he insisted on how much potential I had and that I could make it big.He has groomed me till this present day and I started listening to a lot of music by Andiswa Makana and Anna Nebtrebko and I have fallen in love with classical music ever since.

When did you start taking it seriously and realised you have a talent for singing? After my matric I wanted to study the genre, so I attempted to get into University but due to my low APS score I couldn’t but I never gave up and decided to find other ways of reaching my goals in music. I joined a choir called Voices of the Nation and have learnt a lot from them.

Tell me about the first time you sang in front of an audience? The first time I sang in front of an audience was with my brother’s choir at my previous high school, Mariazell Senior School. I don’t recall being frightened during the performance but trouble began when I performed my solo. My stage fright was awful to an extent I’d cry on stage due to my insecurities but as time went on, I have become more comfortable on stage but the nerves never go away.

Why Classical music out of all the musical genres and was singing always the main plan? Singing was never my main plan growing up, I always saw myself in an office chair, ordering people around but that changed when I was introduced to music at the age of 13. There is something that completes me when I sing opera music, I can’t explain it but it feels right.

What drives your passion towards singing Classical music? When my opportunity to sing arrived, I grabbed it with everything I had because we all don’t get the same chances in life and there are people out there who dream of being in my position yet can’t find the right resources to help them follow their dreams. I was once there for the longest time so I work hard in order to help people who were in my position especially in the Eastern Cape. I want to bring music to them so that their souls may be fed like mine because that’s what keeps me going.

Classical Music isn’t as recognised or taken seriously, what do you have to say towards the manner South Africans view the genre and what steps should be taken towards informing the everyday South African about it? Classical/Opera music does not receive the recognition or support it deserves due to the manner South Africans dismiss it and that’s one of the underlying issues we deal with in the industry. It’s killing the genre because without support we can only do so much. We prepare for months to put out a show yet receive a small number of people coming to watch and many of that few ask for complimentary tickets which I find so disturbing. I would never go to Shoprite and ask for free food but people find it very easy to do that in our line of work. We really do need the support from our fellow South Africans.

You are slowly climbing the ‘Classical ladder’ and have featured in plays around the country and travelled to Germany, tell me more about your featured plays and international trip? That is all thanks to the Gauteng Opera Company that took me under their wings and made me the person I am today. They were able to restore my dreams of becoming a singer and accepted me into their academy as a trainee. I recently played my first big role in La Boheme as ‘Mimi’ which is my favourite role thus far. With my trip to Germany, I performed in a play written by Gabrielle Goliath called Elegy. It was one of my toughest performances because of the raw emotions behind it. Elegy is a piece that was written for two South African girls that were raped and killed. This piece mourns the girls.

Who are some of the names you have worked with and see yourself collaborating with in the future? I am still blooming in this industry but I’ve worked with wonderful singers such as; Luthando Qave, Bongani Khubekha, Sibabalwe Yoko, Bongiwe Nakani, Litho Nqai, Phenye Modiane, Siphokazi Maphumulo and many more. I really enjoyed my time with these artists and learnt a great deal from them because they are more seasoned artists than me. In future I would love to work with Anna Nebtrebko. I love the way she sounds and her work ethics.

Who is your mentor and which singer do you look up too in general? I do not have a mentor but look up to my singing teacher Mr. Marcus Desando. He trains and guides me about the industry and is someone I really admire. I look up to many singers but my favourite soprano is Sibongile Mntambo from the Free State.

How does your family feel about your line of work and how supportive are they about your career choice? My family has always been supportive of everything I do, they travel long distances just to watch my shows and they are always in contact and asking about my progress. I thank the Lord for them and I appreciate their presence in my life.

What are your plans and hopes for 2018? I am hoping for a very busy 2018 with extensive production work and gigs. I’m praying for a successful year and plan to achieve all these goals I have set for myself this year.

Where would you like to see yourself beyond 2018? A lot of people see themselves succeeding overseas but I see myself bettering myself in South Africa because I’ve been groomed thus far here at home and believe I will become successful right here. I want to help other young girls and boys who want to sing but have limited opportunities and resources.

Any words of advice to South Africans who would like to pursue a career in Classical Music Khayakazi says: “To the youth, it’s not easy but if you work hard there will always be better result that come out of it and if you don’t get a chance now, don’t give up your time is coming, she concludes.’’

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