Neo Motsatse to honour the legacy of Mam Dorothy Masuka

A twenty two year old South African violinist, Neo Motsatse, will, this year, be posthumously celebrating and honouring an iconic South African composer and musician, Dorothy Masuka, on what would have been Masuka’s eighty seventh birthday – Saturday 3 September 2022 at the Lyric Theatre in Johannesburg, in a production sponsored by South African Music Performing Rights Association (SAMPRA).
The celebration, titled “Seasons: Dorothy Masuka’s Songbook in the Style of Vivaldi” is a musical production weaving Masuka’s prolific work with that of the well-known Italian composer, Antonio Vivaldi’s “Seasons.” True to Vivaldi’s pioneering work on “programme music,” the performance will be interspersed with extramusical narrative expanding on Vivaldi’s accompanying sonnets to poetically incorporate aspects of Masuka’s own musical journeys.
“I am truly excited and honoured to be able to pay tribute to two of the most prolific and truly iconic composers of their times, Mam Dorothy Masuka and Antonio Vivaldi,” said Neo about the production. “As a classically trained South African musician, it is always my attempt to bring both elements in my music – classical training plus being South African. In this production we epitomize this duality, and the synthesis is something special,” she continued to explain.
The importance of this work is highlighted by the fact that it brings an ensemble of sixteen musicians on stage, representing a fusion of both the classical music and the afro-soul genres. The arrangements and some of the new compositional elements have been created by the legendary music arranger, composer and producer, JB Arthur. “I have enjoyed working on this work with its rich elements to work with. We have preserved the feel and integrity of each of the compositions, while attempting the difficult work of seamlessly fusing and harmonizing works for totally different eras, genres, styles, cultures, and continents,” commented Arthur. “It doesn’t often get more challenging than this, but we did it,” he added.
The production was premiered at the arena of the National Arts Festival at Makhanda, formerly Grahamstown, in 2019 to great reviews and acclaim. “We are excited to be bringing this production home for both Neo and Mam D,” enthused Fezeka Motsatse, executive producer and director of Fezeka Motsatse Activations – the production company responsible for this work. She continued to explain that she and Neo have assembled a top tier group of musicians, including one of the leading academics and artists, Dr Hleze Kunju, as a narrator, the lead guitarist and the founder of the Grazroots Project Billy Monama, SATMA-award winner Aus Tebza on bass guitar, and internationally recognized pianist Avzal Ismail, to mention a few.
Dorothy Masuka, popularly known as Mam D to her fans in South Africa, was one of the leading African singer-songwriters whose career had spanned more than six decades. She achieved early success and fame through her writing and recording her chart topping “Hamba Nontsokolo” in the early 1950s. This was followed by compositions that were recorded by some of her more famous peers like Mirriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela. Masuka was inducted into the American Hall of Fame in 2002 and four year later was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver for “Excellent achievement in and contribution to music composition and performance,” by President Thabo Mbeki. Masuka died on 23 February 2019 on the 19th birthday of Neo Motsatse. It was also the year in which the compilation music production, Seasons: Dorothy Masuka’s Songbook in the Style of Vivaldi” was written and premiered during the National Arts Festival at Makhanda. The performance at the Lyric Theatre on Masuka’s birthday on 3 September 2022 will be the first since being premiered.  
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (1678 to 1741) was an Italian composer of the baroque era. He was also a virtuoso violinist, teacher, Roman Catholic Priest and an impresario who was regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time. Among the many instrumental compositions he also composed a series of four violin concertos, each of which gives an expression to one of the four seasons in a year. Vivaldi’s body of work has formed a basis for much scholarly work in addition to being performed widely the world over.
“This is a celebration and a musical event not to be missed,” concludes Neo.
Tickets are available online at Computicket and you can also get them at any of their outlet stores (Checkers, Shoprite, Checkers Hyper, House & Home and Ok Foods).