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Matlhaela Michael Masote (1941 - )

The Order of Ikhamanga in

Matlhaela Michael Masote (1941 - ) Awarded for:
Outstanding contribution to the development of youth orchestras and choral music in the classical genre in South Africa.

Profile of Matlhaela Michael Masote

Matlhaela Michael Masote was born in 1941 in the Johannesburg suburb of the then Sophiatown, fondly known as 'Kofifi'. He spent the beginning of his childhood there, until his family was forcibly removed from the suburb in 1955. Respectfully called 'Ntate' Masote, Masote and his family moved to Soweto to carry on with life under difficult circumstances.

While still living in Sophiatown, Masote's siblings were members of the local Methodist Church choir. The choir would assemble at the Masote home for their regular rehearsals. It was during these sessions that Masote was captivated by the beauty of choral and classical music.

In 1952. violinist Yehudi Menuhin was on a post-World War II tour of South Africa, and Sophiatown was one of his stops. A very young Masote was also present and he instantly developed an interest in the violin.

He took up violin lessons in Johannesburg. The police, who were invariably suspecting that he was carrying a machine gun in his violin case, often stopped him. In 1977, he was imprisoned for defying a law prohibiting public gatherings, after he had assembled with fellow orchestra members for rehearsals.

After completing matric, Masote wanted to study music further and applied to tertiary institutions in South Africa. He was frustratingly turned down by institution after institution. The only option he was left with was to study abroad, and he was successful in registering to study at the Royal Schools of Music in London, where he obtained a Licentiate in violin teaching in 1973.

It was only in 1998 that a South African institution, the University of South Africa (Unisa), awarded him his B Mus degree, becoming the first black South African to obtain such a degree. He received an Honorary Licentiate in music from Unisa in 2005.

Ntate Masote founded the first black youth orchestra – the Soweto Youth Orchestra, now the Soweto Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra gave birth to the Soweto String Quartet, one of the internationally acclaimed musical groups to come out of South Africa. Koloane Mantu, Prince Lengoasa and Kutlwano Masote are other musical successes the orchestra has produced.

He is the musical director of the African Cultural Organisation of South Africa and has also established five youth orchestras, namely the Mmabatho Youth Orchestra, the Klerksdorp Youth Orchestra, the Soweto Youth Orchestra, the Thembisa Youth Orchestra and the Seventh Day Adventist Orchestra in Soweto. His other project is the rural music development initiative, which has resulted in the establishment of the Vaal Symphonic Wind Band and the Moretele Recorder Ensemble. Today, more than 200 choirs participate in the activities of the two projects.

One of Masote's greatest contributions and achievements was his translation of Handel's Messiah into 10 South African languages, a project he dubbed Africa's Messiah. Handel's Messiah has all along been one of his favourite musical arrangements.

Masote adjudicates international and local music competitions for Unisa, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (formerly University of Port Elizabeth) and the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (Samro). He serves on a number of musicrelatedboards, including the Sasol Pro Musical Orchestra as chairperson; the Unisa Graded Music Exams Board; Samro Dual Notation Board; Classic FM Board and the South AfricanSociety of Music Teachers.

Matlhaela Michael Masote can be described not only as a teacher, but also as a father to all who cross musical paths with him. His contribution to the development of choral and classicalmusic remains indelible to the many aspirant children he took under his wing until they could launch onto their own flight. His contributions continue, as he remains an enthusiastic and patriotic visionary.

Ntate Masote is married to Sheila and they live in Roodepoort. They have three children who too are accomplished violinists.