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SOUTH AFRICA’S 3 TENORS (article first published : 2001-09-10)

In 1997, Friends of Music gave a platform to three young music students from the University of Durban-Westville for their first public performance. What followed was one of South Africa’s best success stories.

The very existence of the famed South Africa’s Three Tenors – Mfanafuthi Hlophe, Eddie Motlhakoane and Musa Nkuna – is attributable to two people: Eddie Motlhakoane for having the idea in the first place and Durban singing teacher James Conrad for skilfully guiding their young voices in the operatic style.

The three tenors have performed innumerable concerts since those early days. These range from orchestral concerts and Last Night of the Nedbank Proms to the 10th anniversary of the Sowetan Nation Building celebrations and the Taung Cultural Calabash. They have appeared at prestige events such as the launch of the Princess Di rose; at the Presidential and Premier Awards for Education Africa, and the Millennium Celebration at the Calvary Methodist Church in Midrand, to name a few.

“Eddie takes all the credit for the creation of the 3 Tenors,” says Musa Nkuna, now working in Lausanne in Germany. “It was entirely his idea and I was sceptical that it wouldn’t work at the beginning. But to my greatest surprise it did and we had many successful concerts together. We sang in all corners of South Africa. We were also able to pay for our studies through performance fees.

“Eddie is a very good organiser. I admire his negotiating skills and when it comes to figures you can’t beat him. When Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras came to sing in Pretoria in 1999, Eddie phoned the sponsors -Vodacom- and negotiated six free tickets for us and our girlfriends and we were given the best seats a few rows behind Nelson Mandela! We had a great party with all SA celebrities and business people that were invited to the event.”

Musa describes Mfanafuthi as “maybe the coolest of the three with the best talent and the best potential …singing high notes with considerable ease.”

They have become firm friends and there is no feeling of jealousy among them. “It’s a real brotherhood support for each other,” says Musa. “But of course we have differences sometimes and we fight but we sort it out amicably at the end. The one I will never forget was the choice of an encore at a concert we gave in Swaziland. So there was no encore at the end because we had different opinions!”

The three keep in touch regularly and send SMS’s to each other, “I learnt a lot from those guys and I really miss singing with them. I can’t wait for our Friends of Music concert!,” says Musa, who has been based in Switzerland since September 1999. He has just sung Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni at the Uhr summer festival with enormous success and has been engaged to sing Belmonte in Il Seraglio next year.

South Africa’s Three Tenors will give a concert for Friends of Music on September 11 at 19h45 in the Durban Jewish Club. There is a cash bar available and a car guard on duty. Early booking at Computicket is advised.




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