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Bongani Ndodana-Breen is a South African-born composer, musician and cultural activist. He was born in 1975 in Queenstown, South Africa and is a member of the Xhosa clan. He is often referred to by his Xhosa paternal ancestral name (isiduko), as Rhadebe. He was educated at St. Andrew's College and Rhodes University in Grahamstown (where he graduated with a PhD in Music Composition[1]) and also studied composition in Stellenbosch under Roelof Temmingh.[2] In 1998 Ndodana-Breen was the first Black classical composer to be awarded the prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Music, by the National Arts Festival and sponsored by Standard Bank of South Africa.[3] He was one of Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans and was profiled on CNN African Voices for his work Harmonia Ubuntu commissioned for the centenary of Nelson Mandela and based on his writings and speeches.[4]. He is a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University for the 2019/2020 academic year.[5]

Dr. Ndodana-Breen's music is a blend of African and classical styles. Some of his music reflects on various scenes from his native Xhosa culture (such as Hintsa's Dances, which is based on the life of Paramount Chief Hintsa ka Khawuta, Apologia at Umzimvubu and Sons of The Great Tree).[6]

He has received commissions from across the globe from the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra[7] the Miller Theatre of New York,[8] Vancouver Recital Society, Minnesota Orchestra,[9] Madame Walker Theatre, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Ensemble Noir/MusicaNoir, Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO), National Arts Council of South Africa, Haydn Festival Eisenstadt,[10] Johannesburg International Mozart Festival, The Emancipation Festival of Trinidad & Tobago and Wigmore Hall, London (a quintet for pianist Maria João Pires[11]).[12]

He has written operas, orchestral and chamber works, including the opera Winnie The Opera based on anti-apartheid activist Winnie Mandela.[13] South Africa's liberation struggle seems to be a major theme in his orchestral works such as his piano concerto Emhlabeni,[14] the short opera Hani on the anti-apartheid activist Chris Hani and more recently the oratorio Credo, a musical testament to the Freedom Charter.

Dr. Ndodana-Breen is also an advocate for cultural diversity, supporting various African efforts including LGBT causes.[15]

Notable worksEdit

  • Orange Clouds, music by Ndodana-Breen and libretto by filmmaker John Greyson
  • Winnie The Opera
  • Safika, piano quintet commissioned by Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival
  • Uhambo/The Pilgrimage, opera/oratorio based on the epic poem by Guy Butler
  • Zulu gazing at the Rising Sun commissioned by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra
  • African Kaddish for orchestra
  • Rituals for Forgotten Faces, chamber music cycle in 6 parts
  • Apologia at Umzimvubu, string quartet
  • Miniatures on Motherhood, string quartet
  • Flowers in Sand, piano solo
  • Visions, flute solo
  • C'est tres Noir, piano duet
  • Two Nguni Dances, piano trio commissioned by the Haydn Festspiele for the Haydn bi-centenary
  • Hymn and Lament for the Sudan from the chamber opera Threnody & Dances
  • Intlanzi yase Mzantsi, piano quintet based on Schubert's Trout Quintet[16]
  • Hani, short opera, commissioned by Cape Town Opera and the University of Cape Town
  • Mzilikazi: Emhlabeni, commissioned by the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival
  • Credo, oratorio with libretto by Brent Meersman based on South Africa's Freedom Charter


  1. ^ "Rhodes University". Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  2. ^ Phathu Ratshilumela (2009). "Gifted Bongani Ndodana". Music Industry Online. MIO Media. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
  3. ^ Brett Pyper (2008). "Bright young things". Mail & Guardian Online. Mail & Guardian. Archived from the original on 7 January 2008. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
  4. ^ South African composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen is hearing his music for the very first time - CNN Video, retrieved 25 September 2018
  5. ^
  6. ^ Bernard Holland (23 January 2006). "For One Composer, the Power of African Music Is Endless". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  7. ^ "Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra". Archived from the original on 16 April 2014. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
  8. ^ Bernard Holland (23 January 2006). "For One Composer, the Power of African Music Is Endless". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
  9. ^ "South African composer celebrates 'Mandela's message' with Minnesota Orchestra premiere". Star Tribune. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  10. ^ "Bongani Ndodana-Breen- Albums, Pictures – Naxos Classical Music". Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  11. ^ "Folha de S.Paulo - Em série de concertos, pianista atualiza obra de Schubert - 13/07/2007". Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  12. ^ "Africa Arts". Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  13. ^ Louise Redvers (2011). "Winnie the Opera premieres with all eyes on Winnie the spectator". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
  14. ^ Brukman, Jeffrey (17 July 2018). "'Less a New African Music than an African New Music': A Close Musical Analysis of Bongani Ndodana-Breen's Emhlabeni". Musicology Australia. 40: 1–25. doi:10.1080/08145857.2018.1480863. ISSN 0814-5857.
  15. ^ Graham McKelvie (2005). "Gifts beyond measure". Daily Xtra. Pink Triangle Press. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
  16. ^ "Miscelánea". 31 July 2008. Retrieved 4 September 2013.

External linksEdit