World premiere of isiXhosa requiem

The world premiere of the first requiem in isiXhosa will take place on Sunday March 5 at the Cape Town City Hall, from 4pm to 6pm.

Jali’s Xhosa Requiem is set for four soloists, a choir and an orchestra. However, the orchestra will be replaced by two pianos for this premiere performance.

The soloists are Ondelwa Mjana Martins (soprano), Linda Mbozi (mezzo), Sakhi Martins (tenor), and Phelo Nodlayiya (bass). The project is under the musical direction of David Lubbe, who will be principal pianist.

Conductor Samukelo Mhlongo will conduct all the singers, including the 60-member choir from the Injomane Arts Company, an arts organisation that draws its members from Crossroads and Nyanga. Mhlongo, a baritone and choir master, has conducted choirs such as the UCT Choir for Africa and has worked as a singer with opera companies nationwide.

Composer Litha Jali was born and raised in Butterworth in the Eastern Cape, where he started composing music before he could actually write it, and taught himself staff notation.

At 16 he wrote his first piece, a setting to a poem, Goodnight Irene. It was two minutes long and was for soprano, alto, tenor and baritone with piano. After school he attended the University of Fort Hare where he studied piano, voice and indigenous instruments.

In 2013 he completed a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education. He then became a transcriber of music for the Western Cape Choral Music Association (WECCMA). In 2020 he was elected chairperson of the WECCMA. Jali also works as a singer, traveling the world with an international entertainment company, Umberto, based in Türkiye.

This performance, funded by the National Arts Council courtesy of the 2022 Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme of the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, will be recorded, to be streamed later and also shown on Cape Town TV. Tickets cost from R150 through Quicket with limited number of tickets available at the door.

SA Operatunity, a non-profit, brings this new work to life as part of its mission to create performance opportunities and platforms for artists and composers.