UFH’s “Dimitri” backs his vocals with a Music Degree

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He has won several international opera singing competitions and has performed for the President of South Africa, and now, the University of Fort Hare’s opera singing sensation, Sazi “Dimitri” Gcaba has crossed the 2023 UFH May graduation stage to collect his Bachelor of Music Degree – backing his impressive music career.

The 24-year-old who hails from Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape rose to stardom in his second year of study at the UFH Music Department when after several rounds of meticulous judging by acclaimed opera maestros such as the now late Sibongile Khumalo; Andrew Staples and Marsha Thompson, was announced winner of the London-based Voices of South Africa International Opera (VOSA) 2020 online competition in the under 22 years category.

The VOSA victory was the first of many international opera competitions he went on to claim – deservingly so.

He is the winner of the 2021 Aspiring Opera Singing Voice Competition under the Emerging Artist Category – a US-based competition that aims to create a platform for music students around the world to showcase their talents.  In the competition, he was selected out of 121 music students worldwide who submitted their pre-recorded auditions. The judges’ citation read: “Out of 121 videos, your performance exemplified a combination of stellar technique, and great acting skills, creating a captivating performance.”

He is also the winner of the 2021 Online London International Music; the 2022 Medici International and 2023 the Birmingham International Competitions.

In April 2022, he was selected to join 20 opera singers from around the world in an international fundraising event for Ukraine war victims. The Artist for Peace production was organized by Opera Cecilia, an international opera company.

The Baritone opera singer could not contain his excitement when he spoke to Institution Advancement Department (Marketing and Communications) about his journey to graduation and his time as a student at Fort Hare.

“My time here at Fort Hare has been the highlight of my life. I enrolled in 2019 and a year later I was already singing and winning on international stages. Amazingly, I went on to perform and win four more international competitions.”

Last year, during a memorandum-of-understanding signing ceremony between the ANC and UFH at the De Beers Art Gallery, he gave a stellar performance before President Cyril Ramaphosa with his rendition of Ngabe Kwenzenjani?  - a powerful piece about the 1976 Soweto Youth Uprising.

“I do not know how many times I have relived this moment in my life where I performed in a room full of people, and among the audience was the President of the country. I will forever cherish that moment,” he said.

Sazi says he owes his success to several people who have supported him, among them is his Grade 9 Music Teacher, Mr Fada who recognized his talent.

At Fort Hare, he found three “fathers” who shaped his singing career, according to him. They are Mr Tamsanqa Ncokwana his voice trainer; Mr Ndumiso Mtshali, Ethnomusicologist and Music Lecturer and; the former HOD, Dr. Nduduzo Makhathini who is a world-renowned multi-award winning jazz maestro. “I learned from them, I learned from the best.”

Dr Nduduzo named him as one of the most “hard-working students” in the Department.

Currently, he is participating in an international competition, the Virtuoso International Music Competition.

For now, he plans to enroll at the University of Cape Town Opera School next year, a step that he believes would unlock his future aspirations to study abroad and become a global opera singer.

Commenting about his graduation, Sazi described it as both sad and joyous. Sad because his greatest supporter, his mother, will not be there to witness it. “She passed away in 2021 due to Covid-19.  Knowing that she won’t see me graduate is painful but knowing wherever she is, she is proud of me, makes it all better.”