South Africa: Benjamin Tyamzashe – the Man, His God, and Music

As was with Xhosa prophet, evangelist and hymn writer Ntsikana and journalist John Knox Bokwe before him, Benjamin Tyamzashe’s journey coincides with his African ancestry and culture, together with his spirituality and also music composition, both Western and traditional, that preserved the goings-on of the time.

As we constantly drive ourselves to celebrate our cultural pioneers, bringing to life the man, his God and his music is a healthy exercise. There are fundamental links and idiosyncrasies between the Western influence of archiving traditional Xhosa music and choral/worship music. This man was able to transcend the two schools of thought, I argue.

Also known affectionately as B-ka-T, as ethnomusicologist David Dargie alludes, Tyamzashe was the son of a congregational minister in South Africa and a prolific composer of more than 200 works. He followed in John Knox Bokwe’s footsteps in adding innovations to the makwaya style of singing, a choral form often sung by large groups in church and civic settings.

This very same innovation was and still is criticised fundamentally for the apparent handicap of not being proper as far as Western classical notations are concerned even though its creators were partially educated in such. A trend that carried on…

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