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By Bonginkosi Tiwane

Digital Journalist

South African flutist Khanyisile Mthetwa inducted as member of Grammy academy

The induction of the South African flutist into the academy will bode well for all Africans whenever they submit at the Grammys.

Award-winning South African flutist Khanyisile Mthetwa has been inducted as a voting member of the Recording Academy, otherwise known as the Grammys.

Mthetwa is a two-time South African Music Awards (Samas) winner for her debut album African Bird that was released in 2021.

“Everyone always asked if I submitted it (debut album) for the Grammys but the Grammys aren’t like the Samas where you only have to pay the R250 at RiSA and then you can be considered for the Sama awards,” Mthetwa explains to The Citizen after going through her toiling routine of dropping the kids at school.

“It was a passion project, with 21 tracks. I had a lot to say,” quips Mthetwa. “I’m really happy with the work that album did.”

For South African artists to be considered for the Samas, they must first be a member of the Recording Industry of South Africa (RiSA) where only a small fee is required for membership.

“It is such a process with the Grammys. Wouter Kellerman had to explain it to me and take me through the whole process,” says Mthetwa.

Kellerman, who scooped his own Grammy award this year together with Noncebo Zikode and Zakes Bantwini for Bayethe, helped his fellow flutist in the tedious process. “He helped me throughout the whole process, he gave me recommendations.”

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What does the academy induction mean?

Recording Academy membership is reserved for those whose excellent professional accomplishments are matched by their passion for the music community.

Through membership one can participate in the Grammy Awards process, including submissions for Grammy consideration, propose rule changes to the awards process and vote for the Grammy Awards.

“The Grammys are such a peer reviewed process, where you have musicians listening to other musicians. This [induction] means I’ll be listening and experiencing what happens on a global level,” says Mthetwa.

“It’s a great moment to represent my country – and for me personally.”

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In June the Grammys announced the addition of new categories to its long list, one of which is African Music Performance, which will recognise genres such as Amapiano.

“The Recording Academy is proud to announce these latest category changes to our awards process. These changes reflect our commitment to actively listen and respond to the feedback from our music community, accurately represent a diverse range of relevant musical genres, and stay aligned with the ever-evolving musical landscape,” Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. said on the Grammys website.

Having African artists who are members such as Mthetwa can only bode well for the global democracy of music. “If you have someone like me, I can add my voice. You can’t have a country musician making decisions about Amapiano,” says the flutist.

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Talent not enough

Mthetwa quotes someone who once said that talent can come from anywhere, and that it’s actually about pulling your sleeves up and working hard. She comes from Soweto and has had to work hard throughout her career to get recognition.

“It (academy induction) means everything is possible. You have to keep grinding relentlessly. You have to talk to people and having a mentor is very important. You must be a coachable and approachable person,” Mthetwa explains.

In 2010, during South Africa’s hosting of the World Cup, Mthetwa shared the stage with Andrea Bocelli and Andrea Griminelli.

New work

With her being a confirmed member of the academy, Mthetwa will be able to enter her work for consideration at the prestigious awards. But she first needs to record new music and she says she’s more encouraged to record now.

“I’ve been writing. We’re in the planning stages of the album. I also don’t want to make music for an award, because you’re never guaranteed if you’ll win. But I am encouraged to make music.

“It will take a bit of time, so we’re looking at mid-next year for a release. It won’t only be a SA release, but a global one so even the release plan will be different from the last one.”

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