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PRINCE KGOSANA KUPI (article first published : 2002-03-22)

The winner of the 2002 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Music is Soweto-born Prince Kgosana Kupi. Guitarist, bandleader, composer and arranger, he achieved his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Natal.

He has recorded with the likes of Brenda Fassie and Madala Kunene and performed with luminaries Sibongile Khumalo, Sipho Gumede, Darius Brubeck and Tshepo Tshola. In October he was awarded the Old Mutual Jazz Encounters Award for best soloist.

For Prince, the high-profile Young Artist award means not just fame and fortune, but "a lot of pressure: people are going to expect more from me. I'm working in a relaxed mode now, but I'll have to put in a double effort." Based in Gauteng, he does gigs with a virtual band called Prince Kupi - assembling a group of musicians once he's secured a particular event.

On his overseas travels he has been struck by the way nations treasure their own cultures and he has re-evaluated the wealth of musical material often taken for granted in South Africa. "We have a lot going for us here, but we're also part of the bigger village."

He started music lessons at the Funda Centre, graduating from marimba to a year of classical piano before he discovered guitar. While still a learner at Fidelitas Secondary School, he performed with local bands, some led by Big Voice Jack Lerole and appeared in musicals by his late brother-in-law Matsemela Manaka. As a student in Durban, he led his own band ba'Agisane.

He still "fiddles around" on the piano a bit, finding that a different kind of composition comes to him via the keyboard. He figures the present phase in his musical career will establish his name in preparation for his own recordings. And the experience of marketing, budgeting and organising now will also help him to form a win-win working relationship with the agent he'll one day sign up.

It's part of the bigger picture: "getting lucky" and that ultimate dream of his own recording studio where local musicians will enjoy greater freedom to experiment with new sounds. In response to commercial imperatives, existing studios play it safe which hampers development and creativity and he believes that music suffers as a result.




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