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South African Music: Where Africa Meets the West

South Africa is a singing nation. Known by many as the “Rainbow Nation”, it is no surprise that the music is reflective of a colourful and vibrant nation. This multi-cultural society combined with a nations’ love for singing, has resulted in a pulsating fusion of African and Western elements, creating a unique style of choral music.It is the music of our present that reflects a young, strong and united people and a nation that is still growing.


South Africa is a richly diverse nation with a plethora of musical styles that originate from the numerous cultural groups. Composers today are combining the unique essence of Western and African harmonies, textures, rhythms and texts aiming to address the on-going societal challenges. Music as a tool for change, both political and social, is very much at the forefront of choral compositions in South Africa. For over twenty years composers have intentionally fused these elements together.Although this could be expected due to South Africa’s pluralistic environment, there have been specific motivations for these conscious decisions.

This interactive workshop/lecture presentation, together with the University of Pretoria Camerata, will explore these issues through selected South African compositions.

Michael Joseph Barrett is the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. He is the conductor of the University of Pretoria (Tuks) Camerata and a lecturer in Choral Music Studies in the Department of Music.


Michael Joseph Barrett was a member of the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir from 1992 to 1997. He obtained the degrees BMus in Performing Arts (cum laude) in 2005 and MMus (Performing Arts), specialising in choral conducting from the University of Pretoria. He holds a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) from UNISA and a Performance Licentiate in Singing (2008). Michael has recently completed his Doctorate of Music in Choral Conducting through the University of Pretoria.

Michael’s choirs have won many national and international awards for conducting. His choirs have won choral competitions all over the world including The 8th World Choir Games (Latvia 2014); St Petersburg Choral Competition (Russia 2013); Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod (Wales 2012); Krakow International Advent Choral Competition (Poland 2012); Europe and its Songs (Spain 2010); and the International Youth Music Festival (Slovakia 2010).


Michael is also an active composer and arranger. His music is internationally published by Santa Barbara Music Publishers. Michael attends workshops regularly to stay up to date with all the latest trends in choral music. He is regularly invited internationally to adjudicate choral festivals and to present workshops on South African music. 

Bio en CAT

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