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A multimedia concert unearths the buried music of South African composer, Reuben T Caluza

Reuben Tholakele Caluza (1895 to1969) was once a household name in South Africa. For decades though his music was largely forgotten in the sound archives of music history. Now, a multimedia concert at The Market Theatre by acclaimed contemporary musicians, sets out to change that.

As part of Heritage Month, Reuben T. Caluza – The B-side will celebrate a musical legacy of one of South Africa’s most accomplished composers. The performance will feature imaginative new interpretations of songs based on the original recorded album, called The Double Quartet, that Caluza made in London in 1930.

Caluza’s lyrics were often commentaries on the social issues of the day, ranging from the brutal apartheid laws coming into effect in the early 1900s, to his critical views on the growing aspirations of the Black middle class living in the cities of Joburg and Durban. His work was influenced by a variety of styles and idioms from choral hymns to ragtime and protest music.

The project to re-introduce Caluza’s music is led and arranged by the internationally acclaimed composer Philip Miller, together with his collaborator, Tshegofatso Moeng, a multi-talented musical opera singer and composer. An impressive ensemble of singers join Miller and Moeng, alongside award-winning theatre-maker Khayelihle Dominique Gumede who directs the concert.

The project began at the beginning of the Covid pandemic, when Miller came across the song ‘Influenza’ (1918) which Caluza had written in response to the devastation of the Spanish flu pandemic in South Africa. It resonated so powerfully at that time, that Miller and Moeng brought together a talented ensemble of twelve singers to record this song remotely, raising awareness of the plight of singers who were struggling to make ends meet.

The Brazilian video designer, Marcos Martins joined the project.  He created a video on social media, using mostly cellphone video footage filmed by the singers who were isolating in their homes during the hard lockdown. Miller says that, “The response to the song was so overwhelmingly positive that the they collaboratively continued to learn, arrange and record more of Caluza’s incredible repertoire.”

Miller adds, “It become clear that Caluza’s music, and the messages of his songs still has strong relevance today.”

Martins has gone on to create twelve unique films that now provide a contemporary visual response to the music that is to be presented theatrically in this dynamic multimedia concert. He uses a rich mixture of visual languages ranging from original filmed footage, archival material, and typographic animations and drawings.

The singing team includes many of the singers who have collaborated with Miller and Moeng over the years – most of them would have been heard singing Millers music for William Kentridge’s work: The Head and the Load that was seen earlier this year at the Joburg Theatre.

The singers include: Ayanda Eleki, Ann Masina, Bulelani Madondile, Nokuthula Magubane, Lydia Manyama, Zebulon Mmusi, Mhlaba Buthelezi, Mapule Moloi, Lindokuhle Thabede, Lubabalo Velebayi and Bham Ntabeni.

Other great instrumentalists like Dan Selsick, trumpeter Adam Howard, cellist Kutlwano Masote, and bassist Thembinkosi Mavimbela complete the ensemble which has led to the creation of the concert and digital album, entitled Reuben T Caluza – The B-side.

Don’t miss this exciting concert over Heritage Day weekend that aims to advance the legacy of South Africa’s rich musical history.

Bookings at Webtickets or visit for more information.

Listen to the album @


 “Learning about Caluza has been a revelation to me…”  – Albie Sachs, Former Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa

 …a perfect example of how the rich archive of black South African musical traditions may still speak to contemporary issues and audiences. – Prof. Veit Erlmann, Professor of Ethnomusicology and Anthropology, Butler School of Music, University of Texas at Austin

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