“She took her mother’s personality which can also be seen in the way she carries herself. From her father, she took love for jazz. Rorisang’s elder sister is always excited to see her younger sibling scatting in front of audiences. The two siblings also have share a common love for cosmetology. Her parents were not surprised when she obtained a distinction in music since her singing began when she joined Jacaranda Children’s Choir at Grade 6
Vocalist and musician Rorisang Sechele is a young woman who is trying to navigate her way through life, a visionary who is always trying to look for ways to empower those around her. The 20-year-old third year music student at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) is passionate about music and art. She is the second daughter and last born child to Queen who is a pastor and Henry who is an architect. Her elder sister Princess is currently studying Cosmetology, a Drama graduate, dancer and an aspiring model.
“My mother is a worshiper which is probably why I was given the name Rorisang. She is my greatest influence”, she told Jazz It Out. Her mom used to sing at church when she was younger which is something she still does to this day and her sister currently sings in the church choir. “My dad’s side of the family is very big on jazz from African to Classic Jazz and my mom always says I got my musical taste from him”, she added. Rorisang’s father used to play drums at church when he was younger.
This young introvert was born and raised in Pretoria and has lived in several parts of the capital such as Mabopane, Pretoria North, East and West. Her parents describe her as an intelligent, focused and passionate about what she does and always wants to be in a harmonious environment. The Sechele household would listen to jazz on Saturdays and would play gospel on Sundays. Rorisang would enjoy listening to gospel, R&B, pop and soul. Her favourite musicians were Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin, CeCe Winans, Celine Dion, Freshly Ground, Lira, Lisa McLendon, Beyoncé, Brandy, Keyshia Cole, Jhené Aiko, H.E.R and Music Soul Child.
Her best moment at primary school was when she was chosen to sing as a soloist for her school concert at Loreto Convent School which was called Catastrophe. After that performance, they went to a private studio to record the songs. “This was my first time being exposed to a studio recording and I was very thrilled”, she said. Rorisang also remembers receiving an award for Leadership. At high school, she created an acapella group called Nostalgia which entered the “Pharrell My School Competition” and made it to the finals.
Enrolling at Pro Arte Alphen Park exposed Rorisang to classical musical which is intense and the training is very strict. “You always have to be on point, from your technique to your appearance, everything has to be perfect”, she told Jazz It Out. After obtaining a distinction in music as a matriculant, Rorisang was invited to perform at the National School of Arts where she performed one of the Top 20 items in Gauteng. The item she performed was a duet and a piece from the musical “Prince of Egypt” titled “When You Believe” (which was famously recorded by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston). “I was excited and emotional. The experience was priceless”, she remembers.
In 2018 Rosirang enrolled at TUT where she is studying Jazz and Popular Music. “I am currently doing my third year”, she said. She has made friends with Bokang Ramatlapeng, Dominica Mthombeni, Tumisho Kgwete, Ofentse Sebola, Ontlametse Putu (also known as OhTeeh), Nhlanhla Manana, Mthokozisi Sithole, Clement Khanye, Constance Mokoena, Bongani Dube, Ntokozo Baleni and many others. She describes the Berklee curriculum which is used by the institution as one of the best. Rorisang also likes the academic approach of TUT’s music department in striking a fine balance between theory and practice which builds their confidence as music students.
On her first year at TUT, she participated at the Standard Bank Youth Jazz Festival and performed alongside Lisette Spinnler, Nthabiseng Motsepe and Zenzi Makeba-Lee. “This was the experience I needed. The first few days were a bit stressful because of the auditions that were taking place. I was priviledged to watch performances by amazing jazz artists like Thandi Ntuli and Sisonke Xonti”, she said. Rorisang also attended workshops with seasoned musicians which gave her an opportunity to engage and interact with them. The best part for the young vocalist who once considered pursuing Cosmetic Sciences (which is what her elder sister is studying) was attending the jam sessions at Saint Bistros after all the performances.
Performing with Spinnler, Motsepe and Makeba-Lee was a wonderful experience for the young Rorisang. With Lisette they performed Bobby McFerrin’s “Circle Songs”. “During our rehearsals Lisette taught me the importance of knowing my voice as an instrument so that I can use it to the fullest potential. She also showed me how to manipulate my voice so that I can create different sounds”, she told Jazz It Out. Rorisang thinks Nthabiseng Motsepe is a powerful vocalist from a technical point of view. “We sang African songs with her and I learnt the importance of using technique to strengthen your voice and make it powerful”, she added.
Rorisang recalls that while she was still at high school, she would perform at corporate gigs, weddings and church. Since enrolling at TUT, she has performed with artists like Thami Mahlangu, Victor Masingi, Clement Khanye and Lein Nkosi for their recitals. She has also worked and recorded with Sakhile Twala, Nhlanhla Manana, Ofentse Sebola, Zakes Mahlangu, Tshegofatso Mapetla and Thato Modika. Rosisang finds it hilarious that in this day and age, there are people who still perceive jazz as music recorded and performed “only by old people”. She says most of her peers are warming up to the genre and attend performances in numbers.
She also does not understand while most radio stations only play jazz on Sundays for an hour or two. “More people need to be educated about jazz. They need to understand where it all came from and why it is such an important genre”, she said. If she had her way, jazz would be introduced in the school syllabus, the same way classic music is because it is ever evolving. “I have seen a few people exploring different sounds with jazz and I think that’s another way it could be made popular since it involves a lot of improvisation”, she added.
One day while jamming with her fellow music students at an auditorium, Rorisang realized that they actually make a great team. This led to the formation of the group TreamDeam. The band participated in a competition called “Battle of The Bands” which was hosted by the UJ Arts and Culture Festival where they came second runner up giving them an opportunity to be the opening act for Spha Mdlalose and Titi Luzipo. This is a day Rorisang will never forget. “Bokang Ramatlapeng and I got to speak with Titi and Spha about the challenges females face in the music which was an eye opener”, she remembers how tough the competition was.
Skylark – Vocal & Rhythm (TUT)
While she understands the interim measures taken to prevent infections from the Covid-19, Rorisang hopes that jazz enthusiasts can be able to fill the venues as it used to happen before the pandemic was made known to the globe. “Human interaction is extremely important and is the main reason for music”, she said. Her other concern is that this may result in shutting down of jazz venues which will render many people unemployed, struggling to put food on the table. “It may also have a negative effect on people’s mental health”, she added.
Her favourite jazz artists are Zoë Modiga, Spha Mdlalose, Titi Luzipo, Vuyo Sotashe, Lindiwe Maxolo, Keorapetse Kolwane, Jazzmeira Horn, Rachell Ferrell, Lalah Hathaway, Bobby McFerrin, Cassandra Wilson, Jane Monheit, Alita Moses, Dianne Reeves, Ncamisa Nqana and Zara McFarlane. Rorisang’s hobbies include reading and writing, poetry, dancing, swimming, gardening and flower pressing. Her Facebook account is Rorisang Sechele. Follow her on Instagram @rorisangsechele