Musician Lehlohonolo Peega has no burning ambition to be a big star.
He’d rather make his mark by giving kids in Soweto an opportunity of their own to find their voice through music.
Peega (24) is studying for a music degree at Wits University, but he’s a teacher too, running a free school every Saturday called Music Is Joy. He opened it in 2018 and teaches a variety of instruments to kids and occasionally adults.
“My proudest moment was establishing Music Is Joy, and the joy of seeing my first students walk in was a special moment. I knew this was the beginning of something bigger than me,” he says.
Before opening his own school he volunteered as a teacher at Welcome Soweto School of Music for seven years. “As you move around the community and see the realities, like any other concerned black person you try to make your small contribution to change,” he says. “For me the best way is through music. I’m not interested in being a big star. I’d rather be the guy that makes my contribution at this level, changing innocent and ordinary lives.”
Music Is Joy is based in a church in Orlando West, using instruments that Peega has begged, borrowed or bought. He’s good at calling in favours and persuading people to donate instruments for the youngsters.
Learning music also teaches confidence, discipline, commitment and other life skills, and several of his students have the talent to become professional musicians themselves, he believes.
Peega plays and composes music for about a dozen different instruments, including the trumpet and djembe drums. He performs with his band called Abantu, enjoys theatre work, and has performed with musicians including Mandla Mlangeni, Vuyo Manige, the marimba band Khay’ Afrika and Rand Symphony Orchestra.