Mokale Koapeng, pianist, conductor, and composer, is enjoying a fulfilling career in South Africa, where he is a lecturer in music theory and choral composition at the Wits School of Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University) in Johannesburg. He has taught at and been an administrator at several community-based schools in South Africa and has composed music for a variety of ensembles and international festivals.
Mokale was born in and spent his childhood in Johannesburg, South Africa, the son of Tukisi Samuel and Maleshane Elizabeth Sekgaphane Koapeng. He recently wrote about the importance of music in their home and his early training:
There was a lot of singing in our home. My parents had met in a church choir whilst they were Anglicans, and my father and brother were members of the acclaimed Ionian Choir, which was conducted by professor K.V. Mngoma.
My oldest brother was my first teacher. I started on the recorder and then proceeded to the piano. I studied theory with my brother and had a private piano teacher. I passed the royal schools of music theory and piano examinations. My late piano teacher, Peter Molobye, was an inspiration to me.
Mokale attended Thuto-Lore Senior Academy, graduating from there in 1981. While in high school he decided to pursue music as a career and completed a B.Mus.Ed. at the Wits University School of Music in 1986.
Koapeng then taught at and headed music departments in community-based music schools such as the Funda Centre, Fuba, and Alexandra Arts Centre before becoming a teacher at his alma mater, where he is completing an M.Mus. in composition.
During these years, he was the official pianist for the Old Mutual National Choir Festival from 1985 to 1993, accompanied the Imilonju Kantus Choral Society at the Hlangohlen Eistedfodd in Wales in 1996, and conducted the Seventh-day Adventist South Africa (SDASA) Chorale and the Sydney Music Conservatoire Ensemble from Australia.
Additional conducting responsibilities included leading the Nation-Building Mass Choir Festival of 1000 voices and a sixty-piece orchestra from 2004 to 2009, conducting the Messiah with five Adventist choirs and the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra, and conducting his composition Cantus in Memoriam’76’ in 2006. The last featured the SDASA Chorale, Chanticleer Singers, and the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra.
Koapeng has composed music for a number of ensembles and international festivals, including Consonances in France, Salisbury Community Choir in the UK, The Gillespie String Trio in Ireland and the Nightingale String Quartet in Denmark. He has also composed works in South Africa for the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, the South African Choral Festival in Ihlombe, New Music Indaba, the South African National Youth Orchestra, and the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival. Working with composers Sibongile Khumalo, Motsumi Makhene, and Hugh Masekela, he co-wrote the music of the SAMA-award winning CD Milestones.
He also toured with and conducted the Soweto Youth Jazz Orchestra and toured in South Africa and in Norway, Finland, and the UK with the SDASA Chorale and the noted British vocal ensemble I Fagiolini. Both choral groups recorded a collaborative CD titled Simunye.
In 2002 he was awarded a bronze medal at the second annual Choir Olympics in Busan, the Republic of South Korea, for his work with the University of Pretoria Chorale. He also received a medal of recognition from the Mayor of Saint-Nazaire, France, when he served as composer-in-residence at the Consonances Music Festival hosted by that town in 2005.
Koapeng serves on the artistic committee of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstone, and the board of Ingoma Music Trust, and is a founding member of Music Now, an organization that promotes new music in the Gauteng Province. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he gives workshops on South African vocal, choral, and jazz styles.
Mokale is married to Nolutahndo Mzangwa, a member of the health and fitness profession. They have two children, Kgosietsile and Tshenolo.
Sources: Information provided by Mokale Koaeng, October 2013; Biography at Wit University website (2013); Biography at the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival (2012).
Music by Mokale Koapeng
A Selective Listing
Simunye “Music for a Harmonious World”, 1998
Milestones, Musical by Mandla Langa, 1999
Utlwang Lefoko La Morena for I Fagiolini, 1999
Tshelo Bosha for the National Symphony Orchestra, 1999
Komeng, String Quartet, Grahamstown Festival 2003 (included in the ‘The Bow Project’ CD)
Sedo Lame, commissioned by the University of Pretoria, 2003
African Enigma for oboe, string trio and djembe, commissioned by Consonances Festival, France, 2005
Gazi Lemvana, co-composed with Roderick Williams for the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music, London, 2005
Cantus in Memoria ’76 for choir and orchestra, commissioned by the National Arts Festival, 2006
Kopano for choir and percussion, commissioned by the Salisbury Community Choir, UK, 2006
Isijabane for orchestra, commissioned by SAMRO for the South African National Youth Orchestra, 2009
Malatsi A Bosha for string orchestra, commissioned by SAMRO for the UNISA String Youth Orchestra, 2010
Motswako for solo guitar, commissioned by SAMRO for guitarist Avril Kinsey, 2010
Letlang Bana for ‘IHLOMBE! South African Choral Festival’, 2010
Dipesalema Tsa Dafita, commissioned by JIMF 2011