Gauteng musos bring A-game to SAMRO Foundation competition


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Gauteng semi finalists, clockwise, Siya Charles, Linda Sikhakhane, Matthew Lombard and Benjamin Jephta
Gauteng semi finalists, clockwise, Siya Charles, Linda Sikhakhane, Matthew Lombard and Benjamin Jephta

Four young Gauteng instrumentalists – two saxophonists, a trombonist and an electric bass player – will be hoping for home-ground advantage when they vie for glory at the SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition in Johannesburg in August.

Jo’burg-based saxophonist Linda Sekhakhane and bassist Benjamin Jephta and tenor/bass trombonist Siyasanga Charles, who was born in Jozi, are among the six semi-finalists in the Jazz Music category of this illustrious annual music competition, which this year focuses on instrumentalists.

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Matthew Lombard, a Pretoria-based concert saxophonist, is the sole inland representative in the Western Art Music category of the competition.

Adding further spice to the pot is the fact that Matthew and Benjamin were both semi-finalists the previous time the SAMRO Overseas Competition was held for instrumentalists, in 2012 – and so possess rare insight into the rigours of this long-established music contest.

On 18 August 2016, Linda, Benjamin and Siya will join fellow young jazz prodigies Keenan Ahrends, Justin Bellairs and Sidney Rash to compete before a high-level judging panel during the semi-final round of the SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition.

Matthew will go up against the five other semi-finalists in the Western Art Music category — Sally Minter, Neil Robertson, Tatiana Thaele, Myles Roberts and Dylan Tabisher — as they try to dazzle the adjudicators with their mastery of their respective instruments.

Two Jazz and two Western Art Music instrumentalists will then go through to the final round: a public concert – always an immensely entertaining and highly charged affair – at the Linder Auditorium in Parktown on Saturday, 20 August 2016.
The prize all 12 semi-finalists have their sights set on: two R200 000 scholarships from the SAMRO Foundation to further their music studies abroad, plus several additional awards.

About Gauteng’s young instrumental prodigies:

Jazz Music category

Benjamin Jephta is regarded as one of South Africa’s premier jazz double bass and electric bass players. Born in Mitchells Plain, his love of jazz was nurtured by Muizenberg High School music teacher Fred Kuit. He has been performing since the age of 15 with orchestras and small ensembles in Africa, Europe and Asia. He graduated from UCT in 2013 with the fourth-year class medal.
He has performed with jazz musicians such as McCoy Mrubata, Sibongile Khumalo, Paul Hanmer, Feya Faku, Jimmy Dludlu, Simphiwe Dana, Hugh Masekela, Marcus Wyatt and Kyle Shepherd. His debut album, Homecoming, was nominated for Metro FM and SAMA awards.

Linda Sikhakhane is a saxophonist, composer and arranger. He was born in Umlazi, where his love for music, especially jazz, was triggered at an early age. He attended music classes and started performing professionally at the age of 15, before studying jazz at the University of KwaZulu-Natal under Prof Mageshen Naidoo.
Now based in Johannesburg, Linda has played with respected South African and international artists such as Barney Rachabane, Brian Thusi, Feya Faku, Marcus Wyatt, Gregory Potter and Malcolm Braff, as well as at several jazz festivals. He played tenor saxophone on Nduduzo Makhathini’s recent album and forms part of Afrika Mkhize’s septet.

Siyasanga Charles is a tenor/bass trombonist who was born in Johannesburg and was raised in Cape Town. She graduated with a Bachelor of Music (Honours) degree in jazz trombone performance with distinction at UCT in 2013 and is currently completing the final year of her Master’s degree, specialising in jazz trombone performance, at UCT.
Siya has played in ensembles such as the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the Jeunesses Musicales Jazz World Orchestra and the South African National Youth Orchestra. She has performed at several local and international jazz festivals, from Italy and Sweden to Nigeria and Norway.

Western Art Music category

Matthew Lombard is a Pretoria-based concert saxophonist and educator. After completing his postgraduate studies in the United Kingdom in 2013, Matthew started promoting the saxophone as a serious classical instrument in South Africa by initiating the first National Saxophone Symposium, in partnership with Karendra Devroop and the Unisa Music Foundation, which was followed by a national tour inspired by the Battle of the Saxes event. The second such symposium was hosted earlier this year to great success.
Matthew has been offered a doctoral position for saxophone performance at the University of California in Los Angeles, which he will pursue in September 2016 under renowned saxophonist, Doug Masek. Matthew is a Henri Selmer Paris endorsee.

To find out more about attending the finals of the SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition at the Linder Auditorium on Saturday, 20 August 2016, email Visit for more information on the SAMRO Foundation’s programmes and projects, or follow @SAMROFoundation on Twitter and Facebook.

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