African music was the biggest winner as two new kings of the keys were crowned during the SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition on 26 August 2017.

After a thrilling final round of piano performances at UNISA’s ZK Matthews Hall in Pretoria, Soweto-born Ntando Ngcapu (26) was named winner of the Jazz category and Megan-Geoffrey Prins (27) from Riversdale in the Western Cape came up tops in the Western Art Music category.

The evening was also a celebration of South African music and a rallying call to forge an authentic African musical identity, with the premiere of three new homegrown compositions, various other South African compositions and powerful musical tributes to the late Ray Phiri and Johnny Mekoa.

Prins, who is studying towards his Doctorate in Musical Arts at the Cleveland Institute of Music, will receive a R200 000 scholarship to help fund his studies. He also received R10 000 for the best performance of a prescribed work in his category.

Ngcapu is a Tshwane University of Technology graduate and will be able to use his R200 000 award to further his postgraduate studies or professional development abroad.

The runners-up were Nicholas Williams (31) from Cape Town and Willem de Beer (25) from Pretoria, in the Jazz and Western Art Music categories, respectively, who will each received R70 000. Williams was also awarded R10 000 for the best performance of a prescribed Jazz composition.

In addition to their own choice of repertoire, both finalists performed a SAMRO-commissioned composition by local composer Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph, ‘Catch Me if You Can’, designed to test the technical prowess of the pianist as well as their interpretative ability.

Jazz pianist and former SAMRO scholarship winner André Petersen provided the commissioned work for the Jazz finalists, an ode to his wife titled ‘For Chan’.

In the Western Art Music section, two subsidiary awards went to semi-finalist Lourens Fick, a Master’s student at the University of Stellenbosch – the SAMRO/Flink Award of R30 000 and the merit award of R10 000. The SAMRO/Fishers Award of R6 500 went to University of Cape Town graduate Bronwyn van Wieringen, who is embarking on a Master’s degree at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

In the Jazz category, TUT student Teboho Kobedi scooped the R8 000 SAMRO/De Waal Study Award, Gauteng music professional Lifa Arosi won the R10 000 merit award, and UCT graduate Elizabeth Gaylord received the SAMRO/Fishers Award of R6 500.

Former SAMRO scholarship winner Bokani Dyer’s rousing ‘I Am an African’ jazz composition, based on the seminal speech by former president Thabo Mbeki, also premiered during the scholarships finals.

In keeping with the “I Am” theme, SAMRO Foundation Managing Director André le Roux said indigenous African music (also referred to as IAM) would be the strategic focus for the SAMRO Foundation in the coming years.

Included in this is the development of the SAMRO Online Archive, a digital music portal that will enable South African composers’ scores to be accessible by a global audience, promoting the broader performance of their work.

Another SAMRO Foundation initiative will document the region’s indigenous musical heritage by transcribing recordings of fading cultures into musical scores that will be available for analysis, performance and study throughout the world.