Ofentse Pitse: First Black South African Woman to Lead All-Black Orchestra

Ofentse Pitse: First Black South African Woman to Lead All-Black Orchestra Fuses Opera with Amapiano

Breaking Barriers, Embracing Traditions

In a groundbreaking move, Ofentse Pitse, a 31-year-old conductor from Mabopane, has become the first black South African woman to own and lead an all-black orchestra.

With a fierce sense of passion, she is now producing a one-of-a-kind show that seamlessly blends classical opera with amapiano, a popular South African genre.

“I want to do African works… imagine the juxtaposition of these classically trained musicians and these musicians who just feel by spirit, and we combine that,” an excited Pitse said of the show.

A Musical Journey Rooted in Community

Pitse’s musical journey began at a young age, with her family deeply involved in a Salvation Army church. Encouraged by her pastor to play an instrument, she fell in love with classical music, choral, and opera by the age of 12.

By 25, she had already started her own youth choir, many of whom now perform alongside her in this groundbreaking production.

Speaking to AFP at a rehearsal, Pitse said De Small’s approach to music is similar to opera and that inspired the idea of creating “an amapiano opera” where she would reimagine his songs.

Bridging Cultural Divides

The show’s unique fusion of opera and amapiano is a testament to Pitse’s vision of bridging cultural divides.

As the elegant, unfamiliar version of “Nana Thula,” a popular amapiano hit by Kabza De Small and DJ Maphorisa, filled the rehearsal room, the juxtaposition of classically trained musicians and the genre’s pioneers created a captivating synergy.

“For me it was like ‘wow, so women can really create at this level?’” Pitse reflected on her recent collaboration with Grammy award-winning artist Alicia Keys.

Inspiring Future Generations

Pitse’s driving force is to advance youth opportunities and inspire women of color. As a young, black woman in a male-dominated industry, she acknowledges the pressure to excel and the constant scrutiny she faces.

However, her meticulous preparation and unwavering dedication to her craft have earned her recognition and collaborations with esteemed artists like Alicia Keys.

“I want people to transcend, and I make music for the academics of classical music” and “those who have never been to a theatre,” Pitse stated, emphasizing her desire to bring together diverse audiences.