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Nthoroane's cry for a break

By unknown | Mar 26, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Len Kalane

Len Kalane

There is a heavenly sweetness in the tune Paul Nthoroane blurts from his soprano trumpet - and a good chance too that this gem could be lost forever in the desert air of the barren plains of Maboloka and Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria.

This is the story of a gifted but under-exposed trumpeter who yearns for a better and bigger stage.

He wants to break into the big time, far beyond his current rural confines.

At 32, Nthoroane has all the positive attributes - he knows how to play the trumpet; he is affable , enthusiastic and ambitious. Above all he is hungry for success.

His style is a freely articulated high pitch that he masterfully lowers to soft notes and then hits the crescendo again, piercing soulfully deep into the heartstrings of the listener.

Funerals are sombre occasions. It was here, ironically, that Nthoroane caught the ears of many among the mourners and lifted bereaved spirits in the process through the melodic tune of his trumpet, playing with the brass band he leads.

He is well-known in the Maboloka-Hammanskraal circles; he has entertained at weddings, birthdays, tombstones, funerals and even in the church.

Incidentally, he grew up in the church where the late Bishop Paul Mpou Nthoroane, his father, marshalled the young followers to be part of the church brass band. Nthoroane was 15 then, and ever since that time his life has centred mostly around playing Diprompeta.

"I don't see myself doing any other thing at the moment, except play music," says Nthoroane.

He feels geographically limited too, confined to Maboloka near Brits, his current abode, and his birthplace of Hammanskraal, where he has assumed the cult status of a village celebrity in the rural settlements of Mogogelo and Temba.

The furthest he's been to play with his band is Mafikeng and some fringe towns in greater Johannesburg.

Brass bands can be insipid in their offering, but not so with his troupe, The St John's Brass Band, and there is a very good reason for this: Nthoroane has some music certificates from the University of South Africa and the Trinity School of Music in the United Kingdom under his belt through correspondence.

This has helped refine his trumpet skills, and has also helped define him, maybe. People say the band without him is like a Hugh Masekela concert without the septuagenarian.

But Nthoroane appears to be his own man, and is determined to establish his own identity and trademark.

Apart from the Masekela mimicking bit, he also draws his influence from the New Orleans circuit, meaning he can combine all influences to carve his own style.

He is at home with most music genres, including mbaqanga, gospel and the so-called African jazz.

The line-up of trumpeters of note is an endangered and ageing species in South Africa, and some retooling and an infusion of fresh young blood is in urgent need.

But there is still a chance for Nthoroane: remember how South Africa almost never got to know of one Teko Modise, the Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana star midfielder? The soccer genius was drawn to our attention at a late age.

The story sounds disturbingly similar and Nthoroane, like Modise then, is crying out for a mentor, someone to show him around the bright city lights of Johannesburg where it is all happening and will happen for him, hopefully.


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