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Edward Phiri


Edward Phiri; a young man born in Delmas and brought up in Witbank (Mpumalanga) in a Christian family, was exposed to music from an early age. He internalized this art form, although it was not strictly supervised, until he got comfortable on his mother's lap and started singing her favourite song, which the whole community noted with amusement. This was the beginning of his journey into the music scene, which paved the way for him to become the leading male singer in his church's youth choir.

Like any other normal kid, his interests fluctuated between various sports, with cricket and karate taking precedence. He soon gave up cricket to concentrate on karate and his "first love", singing. His talent in high school was not to be overlooked and he performed as a tenor soloist with the Tirisano Schools Choral Eisteddfod. His fame as a tenor was short-lived as nature took its course and his voice became a baritone, forcing him to give up his solo role, but he was given the opportunity to be part of an ensemble that represented Mpumalanga at the finals.

Thanks to the support of Mr. Simon Hleza (his English teacher) who encouraged his musical abilities, he was accepted into the Tirisano National Youth Choir which won 2 silver medals at the 2004 International Choir Olympics in Bremen. This sparked his realization that passion can be turned into a successful career. He had the responsibility of ensuring that what was considered an extracurricular activity, intended as a career, did not negatively impact the academic mainstream to reassure parents of his chosen career path. Although he was intellectually gifted (a straight A student), he had to be determined and gave up his 9 years of karate experience to devote himself fully to his studies and music.

When he matriculated with honours, he knew that a career in music was the path he had to take. He then enrolled for BA music at the College of KwaZulu Natal's Opera Studio and Choral Academy, where he had the opportunity to work with Madlen Tzankova and Lionel Mkhwanazi. He was an active child and his energy never flagged, for when he was at UKZN he not only focused on completing his studies and becoming a qualified music practitioner, but also had ambitions to become an academic writer. He made his expertise known and explored by performing in numerous concerts at the College, Durban Playhouse and City Hall with KZNPO, including the KZNPO Youth Concert Festival. All these efforts gave him the desired impact and he won the Classical Performer's Competition (College category) and the Festival of Italian Opera. He then developed a great love for writing, which he enhanced by taking academic writing courses as an elective. Thanks to his outstanding intellectual abilities, he graduated summa cum laude from his BA music degree.

A determined young man, he attended the Cape Town Opera Studio (Young Artists' Program) and enrolled in the B Mus Honours at the College of Cape Town under the direction of Dr. Brad Liebl. He was given the opportunity to sing the role of Young Mandela in the world premiere of the opera Mandela Trilogy (then known as African Songbook) and his hard work earned him the Sunrise Rotary Club and Mellon Scholarship.

It became increasingly clear that he was destined for greater things with his skills. The work ethic demanded by various structures led to KZN offering him a teaching position and he moved away from Cape Town without giving up his studies. He transferred from UCT to UKZN and completed his BA music degree (Honours) cum laude.

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