STORY: South Africa's first Black female conductor Ofentse Pitse is pushing the boundaries of a traditional orchestra.
Performing on the stage of a crowded Johannesburg theater,
she's mixing jazz, pop, electro house and classical styles
to create a whole new sound.
“I never saw an orchestra that looked like me, and I consume a lot of orchestral music so from your grand philharmonics and all of these things, right? But then the issue is that I’ve never seen something that looks like me. So then I was like okay, ‘Why?’"
Pitse founded her musical collective Anchored Sound at the age of 27.
The group is made up of 20 choir members and 19 musicians, many of whom come from Johannesburg’s disadvantaged communities.
“I started with a group of young people from the Katlehong township, so I was like, 'let’s meet one Saturday', and then we were just jamming, these were classically trained voices. And then after one Saturday I said, 'bring your friends', let them bring instruments and before I knew it, I had a 19-piece ensemble. And then after the 19-piece ensemble I was like shucks, ‘who’s going to conduct this?’. So then that sort of like prompted me to learn how to conduct."
Pitse says she hopes to create an innovative, Coachella-level experience for the audience.
“Anchored Sound is about innovation, so the main gist of really starting Anchored Sound was really to break away from what people normally see. So, I like juxtaposing; so you’ll find Anchored Sound doing jazz, you’ll find us doing pop, you’ll find us doing classical but with a twist. Now you’re finding us doing electro house with a symphony sound. So it’s really just about juxtaposing the sound and all that."
Pitse says she wants to take the orchestra to new heights and set a new international standard.
Audience member Kungwano Motswane is already a fan.
(Thebiso Mufamade, Kungwano Motswane)
“Ofentse was incredible on stage, her energy, her craft it came across. I mean we had so much fun. I was right there in the grandstands, and we were feeding off her energy. As much as her back was turned to us but we could feel her energy, the way she was conducting the orchestra, they way she was conducting the backup singers, you know the instruments – it was incredible.”