Bongani Ndodana-Breen

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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 and studied composition in Stellenbosch under Roelof Temmingh.[1] 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.[2]

His 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).[3]

He has received commissions from across the globe from the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra[4] the Miller Theatre of New York,[5] Vancouver Recital Society, Madame Walker Theatre, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Ensemble Noir/MusicaNoir, Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO), National Arts Council, Haydn Festival Eisenstadt, Johannesburg International Mozart Festival, The Emancipation Festival of Trinidad & Tobago and Wigmore Hall, London.[citation needed]

He has written operas, orchestral and chamber works, including the opera Winnie The Opera based on anti-apartheid activist Winnie Mandela.[6] South Africa's liberation struggle seems to be a major theme in his orchestral works such as his piano concerto Mzilikazi: Emhlabeni, the short opera Hani on the anti-apartheid activist Chris Hani and more recently the oratorio Credo, a musical testament to the Freedom Charter.

Ndodana-Breen is also an advocate for cultural diversity, various African efforts including gay and lesbian rights.[7]

Notable works[edit]

  • 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[8]
  • 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. ^ Phathu Ratshilumela (2009). "Gifted Bongani Ndodana". Music Industry Online. MIO Media. Retrieved 2014-04-15. 
  2. ^ Brett Pyper (2008). "Bright young things". Mail & Guardian Online. Mail & Guardian. Archived from the original on 7 January 2008. Retrieved 2014-04-15. 
  3. ^ Bernard Holland (January 23, 2006). "For One Composer, the Power of African Music Is Endless". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-09-04. 
  4. ^ "Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra". Archived from the original on 16 April 2014. Retrieved 2013-09-04. 
  5. ^ 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 2014-04-15. 
  6. ^ Louise Redvers (2011). "Winnie the Opera premieres with all eyes on Winnie the spectator". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 2014-04-15. 
  7. ^ Graham McKelvie (2005). "Gifts beyond measure". Daily Xtra. Pink Triangle Press. Retrieved 2014-04-15. 
  8. ^ "Miscelánea". 2008-07-31. Retrieved 2013-09-04. 

External links[edit]