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NONTUTHUZELO ELAINE PUOANE (article first published : 2004-05-31)

This year, Standard Bank gives its Young Artist Award for Music to deserving young candidate, Nontuthuzelo Elaine Puoane who, and in the words of the Vice Chair of the National Arts Festival Committee, Sibongile Khumalo, is a” worthy recipient of this prestigious award."

Tutu, as she is fondly known, was born in 1979 in Attridgeville, Pretoria, into a family filled with music. Her grandfather is a classical piano player and her mother a great singer in her own right, particularly jazz. So, for Tutu, music was inescapable.

At the age of two, she moved to Mamelodi to live with her grandmother when her parents divorced. She did some of her schooling there until 1991 when she went to St. Mark's boarding school in Jane Furse, Sekhukhuneland at the age of 12. Tutu started her music career by taking piano lessons but when her teacher discovered her singing ability, she stopped the piano lessons and continued with singing.

In 1993, her family moved again and Tutu ended up in Noordwyk, Halfway House, where she finished her schooling at Fourways High. Sadly, she did not do too much singing in those years but she enrolled at the Fuba Academy after she had completed her matric, and the rest is history.

Tutu's first band was under the musical direction of Geoff Mapaya, who was a graduate of the UCT College of Music. Under Geoff's guidance she enrolled at the UCT College of Music in 1998. It was here that Tutu started to perform with the College Big Band under Professor Mike Campbell. Later she played with the JazzAttack Big Band and toured New York in April 2000. In 2001 she was sponsored by Southern Comfort to attend the New Orleans Heritage Jazz Festival with trumpet player Marcus Wyatt. She is regularly invited to “guest” at various festivals and recently performed in Stuttgart and Heidelberg.

While Tutu was studying at UCT, she met the Dutch pianist Jack van Poll, an incident she believes changed her life.

Jack invited Tutu to go with him to Belgium and Holland to play a few concerts during May 2001. The concerts were highly successful and Tutu networked with many influential musicians. The following year Jack invited her to his birthplace, Roosendaal in Holland, to take part in the MAM (Music Against Misery) Concert, with Hein van de Geyn, Hans van Oosterhout and the Roosendaal String Section.

In 2002 Hein van de Geyn persuaded Tutu to audition at the Den Haag Conservatory, where she was accepted. Since then she has been living in Holland where she continues to study and perform.

On hearing the news of the award Tutu said, "I'm thrilled and very grateful to Standard Bank whom I wish to thank sincerely for this great honour."




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