Final farewell for choir conductor

Zamile Gantana with founder of the Hout Bay Ingoma Choir, Tanya Blacher, marching through the streets of IY.

The Hout Bay Ingoma Choir is mourning the loss of its conductor, Zamile Gantana, who died from Covid-19.

He was admitted to hospital earlier this month and was placed on oxygen for a couple of days before dying on Wednesday July 15.

Tanya Blacher, who helped start the choir, said the news had come as a shock.

“We are absolutely devastated to lose Zamile. He was a larger than life character and a great mentor and inspiration to the choir members.”

Mr Gantana had been very active and generally healthy, despite suffering from type 2 diabetes, she said.

“He had an amazing stage presence and passed on to them his love of performance, as well as emphasising the importance of hard work and discipline. He was also a lot of fun, and became a good friend of mine personally,” Ms Blacher said.

Born in 1973, Mr Gantana grew up in Kimberley and most of his family still live there. One of seven children, he showed a love of music from a young age.

He moved to Cape Town to study music and opera at UCT, where he made a name for himself with his powerful baritone voice.

His voice took him abroad to the UK, America, Australia, France and Norway, and he toured internationally as a founding member of the Isango Theatre Ensemble.

Ms Blacher was introduced to
Mr Gantana in 2017 while she was busy with auditions to set up a choir in Imizamo Yethu, and he joined the judging panel before later becoming the conductor.

Sanele Krishe, another founding member of the choir and a close friend of Mr Gantana’s, said his death had left them lost for words.

“Never in our wildest dreams did we even imagine that he would leave us like this.

“He was our conductor, father, brother, mentor, coach, role model, friend and our everything.”

Mr Krishe said the choir had thrived under Mr Gantana and they had learnt something new every day.

“He would say to us, respect your craft, be professional, have confidence, perform as if it’s your last performance, give it your all. When he stood in front of the choir you would feel his presence.

“He would bring a smile to the whole choir, he would use theatre-stage imagination in each song, and he would explain and translate the song so when you sing it you have that nice feeling.”

Mr Krishe was fond of listening to Mr Gantana’s many future plans for the choir and said, “Our choir will never be the same without him.”

On Monday July 21, Mr Gantana was laid to rest in Kimberley and many of his followers were able to tune in to a special ceremony held online in his honour.

“This pandemic delivers a double heartbreak because we could not, of course, travel or attend his funeral,” Ms Blacher said, adding that they were looking forward to participating in a Cape Town memorial or would host a tribute concert once lockdown was over.

Mr Gantana is survived by his long-term partner, Tshego, and a large extended family of siblings, nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews.

“He will be very sorely missed and is totally irreplaceable, but we are determined to keep going in our journey and keep his legacy alive through the joy and upliftment of choral music,” Ms Blacher said.