Tsidii Le Loka
Vocalist / Composer / Actress / Speaker Visionary Tony Award Nominee and winner of several top industry awards including Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award, EW Award, Drama League Award for Outstanding Performance in a Musical (for originating the role of "Rafiki") in THE LION KING ON BROADWAY, Tsidii Le Loka continues to bring her electrifying performances and multi-faceted artistry to international audiences. The supremely talented Lady also shares the honor with Elton John, Tim Rice, Julie Taymor, Hans Zimmer and others as Grammy Award recepient for her music contribution to the score of The Lion King On Broadway with her self-penned, Rafiki Mourns . In addition, she was awarded the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for International Achievement in Musical Theatre from The British Academy of Composers and Songwriters. She is also the recipient of The Harlem Jazz and Musical Festival Outstanding Cultural Achievement Award, as well as theBIOGRAPHY
Vocalist / Composer / Actress / Speaker
Tony Award Nominee and winner of several top industry awards including Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award, EW Award, Drama League Award for Outstanding Performance in a Musical (for originating the role of "Rafiki") in THE LION KING ON BROADWAY, Tsidii Le Loka continues to bring her electrifying performances and multi-faceted artistry to international audiences. The supremely talented Lady also shares the honor with Elton John, Tim Rice, Julie Taymor, Hans Zimmer and others as Grammy Award recepient for her music contribution to the score of The Lion King On Broadway with her self-penned, Rafiki Mourns . In addition, she was awarded the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for International Achievement in Musical Theatre from The British Academy of Composers and Songwriters.
She is also the recipient of The Harlem Jazz and Musical Festival Outstanding Cultural Achievement Award, as well as the Distinguished Alumna Award from The University Of Massachusetts at Amherst, making her the first Alumna in the history of the University to receive the honor within one year of graduation. Prior to coming to the United State in her mid teens, The Star Newspaper named Tsidii at the age of 18 the most promising Artist in South Africa.
Her Concert career performances, festivals, international tours, recordings, include a roster of world-class stars such as Sting, Elton John, Madonna, Harry Belafonte, Miriam Makeba, Dionne Warwick, Youssou N'Dour, Roberta Flack, Max Roach and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Upn the invitation of her mentor Anneline Malebo, ex-singer of "South Africa's Supremes", JOY, Tsidii started her career as a member of the top South African Trio, SHADIII with Anneline Malebo and Faith Kekana.
Her film and TV credits include lead roles in two Stephen King made-for-television movies ROSE RED and THE DIARY OF ELLEN RIMBAUER (Stephen King and Ridley Pearson) and LAWY AND ORDER. She is the Executive Producer of "On The Wings Of Joy", a documentary on AIDS and the Arts in South Africa. Her television special CAUGHT IN THE ACT on WGBY won the Iris Award for best local program. She has also done endorsements for JOHNSON AND JOHNSON in South Africa. The television special TSIDII LE LOKA IN CONCERT aired on major television networks and was re-aired several times by popular demand.
Seminars and Master Classes: Tsidii designed and presented master classes on South African Arts and Culture for Disney Theatrical Productions. She was the only Performer invited to perform at Dr Nelson Mandela's first International Press Conference in Johannesburg after his release from Prison. Tsidii holds two degrees: a BAin Economics and a BA in Music (1997, both Magna Cum Laude / honors from The University Of Massachusetts, Amherst). In addition, Tsidii speaks five languages including English.
African American musicians from jazz to hip hop often claim the assorted titles of King, Queen, Duke and Count, yet a more authentic sort of royalty exists in the lineage of South African-born musician and actress Tsidii Le Loka. The Tony Award-nominated performer from the original Broadway cast of The Lion King actually is a princess of noble African ancestry.
With a successful performing career in Africa already on her resume, Le Loka moved to America in 1991 to attend the University of Massachusetts - Amherst, where she double-majored and earned degrees in music and economics and graduated with honors (Magna cum Laude) in 1997. Her Broadway debut soon followed in the same year, however, success did not happen over night for the multi-talented artist and activist. With the year of 2004 being the 10th anniversary of democracy in Southern Africa, Tsidii's journey from Africa to America is part of the unofficial celebration that represents the African essence of the American dream.
When asked where she is from, Tsidii paused a moment - smiled - and answered, "Southern Africa." Explaining the distinction between South Africa and Southern Africa, she says, "My family history and roots are in ALL of Southern Africa, and this includes South Africa and Lesotho." Born in the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, one of the few remaining kingdoms in Africa, Tsidii grew up in the age of apartheid.
Tsidii Le Loka was born in the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, one of the few remaining Kingdoms in Africa. Her grandfather owned expansive land and livestock in the mountain Kingdom. The establishment of the apartheid era and the policies in Southern Africa several decades before its final legalization in the late forties, outreached, dispossessed and dispelled the economic potential of the majority of Africans in all of Southern Africa, rendering it difficult and mostly impossible to sustain or develop any material means of sustenance for Africans outside of dependence on providing cheap labor to the mines and the white population of South Africa. Thus many fortunes were reversed and eradicated and the devastation continued till later years.
From this small country with beautiful majestic snow-capped mountains is the highest point at its lowest point in the world (in terms of altitude). With its special music, language and culture it has given rise to some of the most beautiful and charismatic, and not yet internationally widely known sounds. With its landscape reminiscing a fleeting glimpse of a remote Irish landscape and its mohair industry once lucrative in better times, this small gentle-spirited Kingdom has produced beautiful artwork. Tsidii's father along with the late King Moshoeshoe II, were the first graduating class of the then only University Of Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland, now known as The University Of Lesotho. In his younger days he played the accordion and sang the music of Lesotho in its epic-style of praise poetry.
"Praise poetry has a special place in Southern Africa. The familiar bombastic, histrionic praise poet of the Southern Bantu is at his height in this region. Known mostly for its use as the poetry of Kings, praise poetry is however, the territory of the commoner as well. Young boys in the fields learn to sing their own praises and the praises of others and the items praised include cattle as well as inanimate objects such as bycicles and trains. The term "praise poetry" may be a misnomer since it can be used to lambaste as well as laud a figure. Indeed much of its power lies in its ability to criticize.."
~ David Wesley, Africana Bibliographer - Boston University, Massachusetts.
On her maternal side Tsidii is a direct descendent of the 19th century Amahlubi Leader, Chief Langalibalele. Her Royal ancestry dates back several centuries and includes a history that spelled through the ages to encompass Robben Island. The world's most famous Robben Island Prisoner, Nelson Mandela recently flew in by helicopter to lay a wreath at Langalibalele's grave. So Nelson Mandela paid tribute to Langalibalele, completing a particularly important and historic circle in the history of South Africa; a circle that began with Langalibalele and ended with Mandela and his contemporaries.
Chief Langalibalele was imprisoned on Robben Island and at Uitvlugt by the British for defying their 19th Century dictates and leading his people in rovolt against British rule in 1873. In Xhosa "Langalibalele" means "The Sun Has Set /Sunset", and so it has for a new age and time in the history of Southern Africa. In song it has been brought close to heart by the song "Beyond The Isle (music by Francois Breant and lyrics by Tsidii Le Loka). The song was written in tribute to Langalibalele and all persons who fight for human dignity and freedom who have seen the sun set on Robben Island and beyond.
"I am the son of Tembekile of Qotole. I am the great-great grandson of the Great Chief of Amahlubi Langalibalele, who the pink race with transparent ears ("indlebe zikhanilanga") from across the seas put away to rot and die on Robben Island for defending his motherland. The spirit of resistance was brought down to the present generation and men like Tatu Mandela, Tambo, Sisulu, Makwetu Sobukwe and the rest took over the struggle for the motherland. The whole of South Africa was riddled with what the pink race government called treason and we called patriotism. When our leaders wanted to talk to the government, they were labelled terrorists and we and the whole world knew them as freedom fighters. Tatu Mandela is now regarded as one of the world's greatest freedom fighters...."
~Mafuza Kasiyapi (Radebe), East London, South Africa
The home of South African jazz Langa, meaning "Sun" is Cape Town's oldest township. Langa is named after Chief Langalibalele. It was developed between 1923 and 1927 and was built on the memory of a forced removal in 1901 of Africans from central Cape Town to Ndabeni. Ndabeni was erected on the forestry station and military staging camp Uitvlugt, now an industrial area next to the well-treed suburb of Pinelands.
Langa is also traditionalally a pan-Africanist stronghold and a repository of rich history. Bubonic plague introduced into the city by the British Imperial army, led to Cape Town's white citizens following the Cape Times' 1899 exhortation to "...compel the removal of the alien Kafir (a derogatory term used by the Caucasians for the Africans) population from the city to some suitable spot outside."
Subject to racist policies since its inception, Langa has become Cape Town's Cinderella suburb, a repository of talent and creativity unrecognized by most Capetonians. Its people have been forced, over generations, to fall back on their own meagre resources to draw into themselves. There's a danger they might never come out- depriving us of a history as colorful as New Orleans'.
"Love stares down the barrel of violence. That is how we survive. How else would we have come this far?"
~Mike Golby, South Africa
Tsidii might never have entered the performing world. She ran away from home in her early teens and entered a singing competition at a local hotel in her home town of Maseru on a dare, and was the youngest entrant.
"I had never held a microphone in my hand before nor sang with real professionals and this was my real incentive. I used to go home and literally sing and dance on a little platform I had created with wooden boxes; listening to the latest radio hits and memorizing the lyrics. I would rush home from school to sing along with these hits and try to learn how to play them on the guitar. Oh, I forgot to mention, my sister's friend left a guitar in my home one day, and I made sure the guitar never again saw its owner. I was hooked. I begged the owner not to break my heart by taking it away. She allowed me to have it - provided I agreed to perform for weddings and functions whenever she asked. I was going to have an audience at last - I was in heaven and this was the deal of the century for me!"
Back to the Talent Contest:
"By the time this competition took place I was already 'a performing artist of renown in my own mind'. My only audience had been friends I would torture with stories of how I would one day go to America and be on the international stage performing for thousands. 'You don't even have a passport you crazy dreamer, besides how on earth are you going to do such an impossible thing?' they'd ask me. 'I can feel it in my bones' was my only reply.
My friend Tepsy's mother loved music. She would sit outside the stairs of her home as I rallied the kids in the neighborhood for a 'performance' in her garage which was well situated with an open side and stairs leading to the entrance of her home,looking almost like a little "arena". We would pretend that the garage was the stage and the stairs were the stadium 'seats' for the audience. We would pretend to be artists like Miriam Makeba and Letta Mbulu who we had never seen before because they had left the country long before any of us had been born. Their music was banned but we had access to it. I would assume being Letta Mbulu for examplee (depending on whose songs I fancied on that day) to even playing the trumpet like male artists like Hugh Masekela (I was not interested in limitations). We would sing wearing cabbage bags made out of green plastic twine. "We must have costumes' I would insist......and a band!
Tepsy's Mom Cynthia Mohapeloa, would lovingly listen to us and encourage us to sing and give us very good 'critique' of our performances. Her spirit was invaluable - the only adult who did not at that time dismiss my passion as lunacy. Even my friends would soon have enough and get bored and go off to play something else long before I was ready to go.
Our house cook, Celestina was my other champion. She was my greatest, consistent, and only audience and fan 'inside' the house and placed requests on a daily basis. I would come home in a rush before my parents arrived from work. I had a strict window of time to listen to the 'hit songs' on radio; work out the guitar chords and begin to learn the songs before my parents arrived and banished me outside for 'making a horrendous noise with that guitar you should soon return'. Sometimes when it rained, and outside was no longer an option, I would lock myself in the bathroom and enjoy the echo, pretending I was on radio (singers always sounded like they had an echo going in that little box). Now this was just the best because my parents could not get me out of there - great thing one could only lock the door from inside with a lock and not a key!
If Celestina was preparing with a bit more fanfare than usual, she would have me sit at a strategic place where she could hear me so I could sing for her as she prepared the evening meal. In addition to all the local hits, she loved Dolly Parton too, so I would stuff my checst with chuncks of material to give me a full chested look. I was known to predict that one day I would have a bigger bust. This was my aspiration as I thought that was where a voice came from. Looking back (or rather nowadays, forward.........hheheheheeeeee!) I suspect I might have had a twinge of psychic talent too.......
But I couldn't see myself wanting to be blonde like Dolly. I worried a lot about her and thought she looked like an albino person - sensitive to the cruel sun and needing great care. I had a play friend who was albino who I was particularly fond and protective of. Dolly's laugh was hearty like a spirited African girl. I wondered if she would one day come and sing in this country......maybe invite me onstage.....after all I knew all her songs! She seemed like a sharp girl too. I could teach her some traditional songs of my country too and we could yoddle away as two well-busted Southern Gals from different continents - but we would have to do that in Lesotho. Such normal interactions and associations on an equal basis with a white girl in South Africa would be deemed illegal by the apartheid goverment rules........
.......And so the mind of an eight year old dreamt on......After a short while I was composing my own songs. Sometimes taking lyrics, poems and prayers I liked and putting them to music."
At this singing competition Tsidii was heard by the cousing of Anneline Malebo, Tau Malebo. Anneline was one of South Africa's top singers; her claim to fame being lead singer of South Africa's top girl-trio, JOY. Years after the break up of JOY, Anneline had decided to form her own trio and was auditioning singers from different parts of the country. It was only a few months later that Anneline auditioned Tsidii for her new group, which would later be known as SHADIII.
Tsidii continues to recall:
"I had no expectation whatsoever of being accepted. I didn't know what an audition was. I was just asked to come ready to sing a few songs, so I brought my guitar and sang songs I had written because I did not want to be compared with any of the professionals (I was too scared). I was besides myself with nerves and excitement at meeting Stars for the first time in my life. The audition room was a room at a top record company in Johannesburg. Again I had to creatively run away from home, but this time with the help and support of my brother, who traveled with me to Johannesburg. We told our parents the trip was to visit our sister who was studying medicine at Wits University at the time. It would be my very first trip to a big city. I remember sitting in the waiting room outside the audition room and seeing all these famous people walk about looking cool and famous. 'Ah, so that's what they look like in real life!" I mused. I was the most shocked person in that audition room when Anneline along with her Producing Partner Taso Stephanou later told me that I was welcome to her new group!
My second and next audition would be years later in an almost repeat scenario, in another country with another incredible woman Julie Taymor. Again I was the most shocked person in the room to hear I had gotten 'the role'. To neither audition did I go with the expectation of getting any role, nor understanding what this was really about. But the excuse of meeting an exceptional person and artist - to make a connection and appeal my soul and spirit of artistry to another, that was my heart's incentive! My innate love, passion and determination for excellence made me prepare as best I could however. So that was all the gift I expected but Mother Divine had other plans.......
My so far short life has been filled with so many memories, miracles and experiences that at times I feel like I have lived several lifetimes in one. In another way, I feel I have not even started living yet as there is so much to do. My love for life must be speaking. But to give evidence and expression to that is a most important and fundamental need. I think that art is the evidence of the beauty and light of God and that every living being has a creative capacity in one way or another. We spend too much time placing labels and thinking too much instead of just experienceing life in all its fullness.....when we have the privilege to do so, for there are those whose lives are too full of pain to do so. It is them too I hope to reach some day, to know that somewhere some life could have known a moment's happiness because of mine. I seek similar impact from others too from all walks of life and that is why I am drawn to the expression of the world through its art.
But today I start with mine to share and invite you to join me, and also to join those who have given of their faith and love for me by nurturing me mind, body and soul. From the soul of my ancestors, to the budding of my nurturers, to the blossoming of many songs in the coming tommorrows. So I smile with the rainbow for I like you, am the miracle of life, of beauty in colors of love."
Tsidii has spoken and at this point I need say no more!
~ Mark Baszak, Massachusetts 2003
Tsidii's quotations from her memoire, "TRAVELER'S LAMENT, a memoire.… Expand
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