Composer, director and conductor
Composer and theatre-maker Thuthuka Sibisi is currently studying performance and directing at Goldsmiths University of London, his studies sponsored by esteemed South African artist William Kentridge.
The faith that Kentridge has in Sibisi has been well earned, as they have collaborated on various projects, with Sibisi composing or arranging the music for their multimedia performances.
He was the musical director for Kentridge’s Triumphs and Laments, an outdoor performance work involving 80 musicians presented in Rome, and for Ciné-Concert presented as part of Notes Toward a Model Opera by Kentridge.
Sibisi also works with the composer Philip Miller, and travelled to Stockholm as the musical director of Miller’s opera Between A Rock and A Hard Place with Cape Town Opera, and visited China as the musical director for Miller’s Pulling Numbers.
His musical education began at the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir School and he graduated with a bachelor of music degree from Stellenbosch University in 2011. He also studied physical theatre and movement, giving him broader abilities than music alone.
He’s now a composer, director and conductor who loves blending opera with contemporary music, and sometimes bringing in traditional African choral music. He’s worked on various unusual productions with Cape Town Opera, including creating a choral arrangement of traditional African sacred songs for the Festival International d’Aix-en-Provence in France.
Sibisi describes himself as an interdisciplinary artist rooted in classical music. “I started working with William Kentridge when I designed the music for his puppetry and art in Triumphs and Laments,” he says. “When you work with William there are no specific titles, everyone works around what needs to be done, so I helped out with the choreography and dramaturge for where the story was going.”
His studies in London will round him out with broader skills for theatre-making rather than only focusing on the musical side. “I want to continue expanding,” he says. Next year he’s due to study at The Juilliard School in New York on an exchange programme, and will premiere a collaborative work in London and New York.
Other memorable moments in his career so far have included being the associate conductor and chorus master for Bongani Ndonana-Breen’s oratoria Credo, written to commemorate Unisa’s 140th anniversary, and collaborating with photographer and sculptor Jake Singer on Joburg City Hustle and Intersections To This City, which features in exhibitions in Venice and Los Angeles.
— Lesley Stones