Young singers reach for the stars as winners of inaugural Javett Music Awards

Sandisile Gqweta Olu Yakhe 1
Sandisile Gqweta (left) and Olu Yakhe

Two outstanding young South African singers have climbed several rungs on the ladder to stardom, after being named the recipients of the 2018 Javett Music Awards.

Sandisile Gqweta and Olu Yakhe were crowned the inaugural winners of this new music prize during a gala concert at the University of Pretoria (UP) on 5 September 2018. Each budding music professional won R25 000 from the Javett Foundation.

Gqweta, a final-year BMus student at UP, won in the jazz vocal category and Yakhe, a self-taught opera singer from Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape, took home the laurels in the classical singing category.

The Javett Music Awards are set to become an annual event, celebrating young South Africans who display excellence and innovation in music composition and performance, across a variety of genres.

The two 2018 winners also had the opportunity to perform South African and international repertoire at UP’s Musaion Theatre on the night. In so doing, they rubbed shoulders with music luminaries such as Lenora Helm Hammonds, a Grammy-nominated jazz artiste from the United States who recently took up a Javett residency at UP, sharing her vast knowledge with music students.

Says Gqweta: “This award means a lot to me, and it feels very motivating to have won. This is the first competition I’ve entered and won in my whole life – even including raffles and giveaways in school!”

This Drakensberg Boys Choir School alumnus says that although he is enrolled in jazz voice studies, he still harbours a deep love of classical singing. He already has some private performances lined up and is looking forward to his university honours recital in November. Gqweta says he is grateful for the financial boost and increased professional profile that being a Javett Music Award winner has brought.

Eastern Cape-based singer Yakhe is already making significant waves as one of the country’s most exciting and go-getting young sopranos.

Many people sat up and took notice after this dynamic songbird burst onto the scene in December 2017 at the Old Mutual National Choir Festival. Remarkably, she sang two roles (Desdemona and Emilia) in one scene in Verdi’s Otello after her fellow soloist fell ill – learning Desdemona’s lines overnight and pulling off this difficult “double act” with aplomb!

“This award means a lot to me – it’s already made a big impact and has changed my way of thinking,” says Yakhe. She has no immediate plans to record, but the future is looking brighter than ever for this Mdantsane gem with the voice of an angel.

The Javett Music Awards represent the first element in a partnership between the UP and the Javett Foundation, which will also see the launch of the Javett Art Centre on the university’s Hatfield campus in 2019. Known as the Javett-UP, this new art centre is envisaged as a hub for African art appreciation, research and education.