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DEATH OF SIVA DEVAR (article first published : 2003-12-16)

Well-known composer Siva Devar died suddenly of a heart attack at his home in Johannesburg today (December 16).

Born in India, he was educated in Pietermaritzburg at Woodlands High School, before going on to achieve BMus degrees at the University of Durban-Westville and the University of Cape Town. A multi-gifted man who had a particular penchant for mathematics, he also had an MSc from Stuttgardt Hufschule in Germany.

Durban audiences will remember him for his music for Jimbo which was directed by Themi Venturas and produced by the Playhouse Company. He wrote many scores for productions presented at the Asoka Theatre and created some haunting music for Ronnie Govender’s At the Edge.

“In my play, At the Edge, a principal is finally leaving his beloved school after almost a lifetime,” says Ronnie Govender. “I wanted music to set the mood - haunting, yet not maudlin. Siva gave me exactly what I wanted. We worked under pressure in those days and, with his amazing talent, he composed the score almost immediately.”

Siva moved to Johannesburg some years back with his wife, award-winning actress Brenda Radloff, who will be remembered by Durban audiences for her many performances at the Playhouse such as Jesus Christ Superstar, Oliver and Show Boat.

In Johannesburg, Siva had his own recording company called Pink Room Productions where he produced an impressive amount of music for television programmes such as Spirit Sunday, Cartoon Café and ZamaZama. His work is particularly well-known to television viewers as he composed all the background music for Isidingo.

“Siva was very gifted, unconventional and hugely versatile,” says Brenda. “He was a prolific and truly inspired composer whose music had the ability to touch and move people.” She mentioned a message sent to the Isidingo website which referred to a young man who was severely brain damaged and completely unresponsive except when the theme tune from Isidingo came on.

Bongani Tembe, artistic director of the KZN Philharmonic, was shocked to hear the news of Siva’s death: “It’s a tremendous loss to the music industry in South Africa. He was extremely talented and the orchestra has performed his work. His wife is a fantastic actress who has also performed with us. Siva was busy putting the final touches to a big project we were working on with the KZNPO to open at the Mandela Theatre in the Civic Theatre complex in Johannesburg.”

The project is a new South African musical called Drum Beat which will run from January 23 to February 23, 2004.

“Siva had written most of the music himself working with orchestrator John Walton from Cape Town and Lebo M who contributed to the music of the smash hit musical The Lion King,” adds Bongani. “The KZN Philharmonic will perform and we plan to make a CD recording at the end of December. Our hearts go out to Brenda and we will do our best to comfort her. We will find a way with the KZNPO to honour Siva’s memory and his contribution to South African music. It’s so sad. He was really looking forward to this project and working with us again.”

Siva leaves his wife and three children: Kiruna (7), Leena (2˝) and one year-old Ziya who only took his first steps a few days ago. It is comforting to know his father was there to see this achievement. – Caroline Smart




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