Every year, the South African College of Music awards the Paul Bothner Music Jazz Prize to their most promising Jazz student. We spoke to the 2016 winner, 1st year saxophone student Ofentse Motshweti about his musical journey, influences, and plans for the future.
Winner of the 2016 Paul Bothner Music Jazz Price, Ofentse Motshweti during a recent visit to Paul Bothner Music’s Claremont store.
What was your musical journey that led you to studying at the South African College of Music?
I am a person who loves music and I grew up singing a lot in the church Sunday School choir. In my sixth grade at school, my uncle, Arcs Moshwetsi started a community project aiming to educate people about music theory, including reading and writing music – a more academic approach to music. I decided to join the project (it was an easy choice) and; although the theory was of a classical nature; that was where and when I was introduced to Jazz music, and the different instruments common to this genre.
Over the years I listened to my uncle talk about some of the great jazz musicians in South Africa – Buddy Wells, Marcus Wyatt, etc. – and I discovered that many of them went to the SA College of Music for their education, particularly in jazz music and performance. And, because I had already set myself to pursue music professionally then, I knew that studying Jazz at the SA College of Music only seemed a logical choice once I completed high school.
I also loved the fact that it was a challenging opportunity for me, as not many people make it into the College, let alone those whose hometowns have no jazz at all (such as mine in the North West Province, Klerksdorp). It is for this reason that I feel so privileged to be part of the SACM and the wider UCT community.
Do you have any personal music projects outside of your studies at SACM?
I am still involved in my uncle’s community music project, Committed Artists for Cultural Advancement Matlosana (CAFCA Matlosana in short), back home in North West. When I am home I give workshops on all that I have learnt at College. I give saxophone lessons, and sometimes when needed, I take responsibility for certain music theory classes (Pre-grade 1 – 5).
I also play in my uncle’s band, Turnaround Band, and I arrange the music for its members and take a leadership role in some of its performances and projects.
Could you name a few musicians who have influenced you?
Because I was not exposed to sufficient jazz resources back home (until recent years), I do not have many influences significant to my musicianship. My most influential source in terms of jazz playing is Cannonball Adderley. Following him is Charlie Parker as the source of the jazz language.
At home, I look up to musicians such as Barney Rachabane, Mike Makhalemele, Khaya Mahlangu, Hugh Masekela, etc., to feed the South African jazz side of me.
What are your music goals for the future?
My priority is to complete my undergraduate degree in Jazz Studies (Performance). I strive to achieve that in record time (4 years – end of 2019). I would like to start my own band, during or after College years. I want to gain experience in leading a group of musicians on my own, for as long as I can keep it going.
I also want to continue helping at the music project CAFCA Matlosana, to help younger, talented musicians to reach their creative potential and unlock doors for opportunities of studying professionally at accredited institutions.
After gaining enough professional experience in the music performance and business arenas, I intend pursuing the academic route further, so that I could have a balance between playing and research. Although I do not have specific timeframes for each of my goals; I also wish to author at least on book (it need not be music-related).
How do you plan on using the prize money from the Paul Bothner Music Jazz Prize?
First things first! I need to get the necessities secured first; that includes – reeds, a strap, sax cleaning gear, ligature, cork grease (another tuner?)
Then comes the “lekka” stuff, which includes – decent headphones, portable Bluetooth speaker, and a Flute, if there’s enough credit to cover it. If not, well…I’ll use the rest to buy must-have stuff for my musician friends (like…more reeds).