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Music

Neo Muyanga

In South Africa, no protest song can be attributed to anyone in particular. These are community songs, which belong to everyone.

The music of Neo Muyanga is part of South African singing history, an artistic practice strongly characterised by the fight against apartheid. As an emeritus composer as well as a renowned theorist, Neo Muyanga claims to be an activist who goes beyond the confines of his works and concerts.

Updated on 09/09/2019

2 min

Born in 1974 in Soweto, South Africa, Neo Muyanga discovered music through traditional choirs, before taking a classical course in music theory. He went to study madrigal in Trieste, Italy, and then developed both practical and theoretical activities. In the mid-1990s, he co-founded with Malawian musician Masauko Chipembere the acoustic jazz duo Blk Sonshine, which enjoyed both public and critical acclaim. He then invested in various collective projects such as Chimurenga magazine and the launch of the Pan African Space Station. A theorist, librettist, musician and composer, he has written several operas and numerous pieces for choirs and orchestras.

In all the genres he crosses or reproduces, Neo Muyanga focuses on the subject of revolt and resistance to all forms of domination. In this way he regularly highlights the role of protest music and songs in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, and more generally in the liberation of peoples. He created the original soundtrack of Göran Olsson’s documentary Concerning Violence (2014), inspired by texts by the psychiatrist Frantz Fanon, opera Heart of Redness (2015), an adaptation of the novel by Zakes Mda (translated into French under the title Au pays de l’ocre rouge), which recounts the divisions within a village in British Kaffraria in South Africa in the 19th century. 

Returning to a certain form of activism, Neo Muyanga is involved in numerous conferences, concerts, performances and installations. To date, he has collaborated with renowned South African artist William Kentridge, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Handspring Puppet Company, which was discovered in France in 2012/2013 as part of the France-South Africa season with the show Ouroboros, for which Neo Muyanga directed the music. Invited to the Sharjah 2019 Biennial in the United Arab Emirates, he presented work inspired by Miriam Makeba (1932-2008). He recently received an invitation to the Liverpool 2020 Biennial in the UK.

  • 1998

    1998

    Neo Muyanga releases his first record by the Blk Sonshine duo with Masauko Chipembere. He enjoys success in South Africa with the songs Building and Born in a taxi.

  • 2008

    2008

    He co-founds the pan-African radio platform Pan African Space Station with his Cameroonian writer friend Ntone Edjabe, founder of Chimurenga magazine, in which Muyanga has collaborated.

  • 2012

    2012

    Neo Muyanga creates the The Flower of Shembe operetta with Zulu references.

  • 2019

    2019

    Neo Muyanga performs House of MAKEdbA — with the voice of Miriam Makeba — questioning the notion of artistic and political exile.

The Institut français and Neo Muyanga

Neo Muyanga is a "music" sectoral expert for the Africa2020 Season. They support the General Commission of Africa2020 in order to put African professionals in contact with French institutions that are partners to the Africa2020 Season.

Find out more about the Africa2020 Season.

L'institut français, LAB