Brief Biography

Jennifer Ferguson

One of South Africa’s foremost performing artists/ singer-songwriters and political activist in the 80’/90’s during the country’s liberation struggle, many of her songs were banned from airplay, as she performed on the stages of protest in that time. After liberation, Jennifer was appointed to serve 3 years as a member in the First National Parliament, under then President Mandela between ’94-97. It was during a national tour of Sweden that she met Swedish choral conductor and composer, Anders Nyberg: They married in Cape Town in 1996 beginning what would be many years of creative collaboration. They founded Peace of Music, a non-profit organisation that worked culturally with the children of the eastern inner-city slums of Johannesburg. Many of their projects have involved dynamic cultural meetings between Sweden and SA.

 

Jennifer has been a committed explorer and innovator of healing sound-journeys, a Tai Chi- Yoga- Voice and Course in Miracles practitioner – teacher for many years. Based in Falun, she currently works a performer- musician-composer as well as voice therapist-life-counsellor and group facilitator. ‘The Forgotten Song’ is a new CD recorded by Jennifer and pianist Rickard Åström .

 

www.peaceofmusic.com

www.facebook.com/jennifer.kestis.ferguson


 The Student

Studies

-Journalism/ Media: Rhodes University ( 1979)

-Bachelor of Arts.(1980-82 )University of Cape Town / English; Theatre; Psychology.

-Performer’s Diploma:( 1980-82) Univ. of Cape Town.

-Trinity College of Music London / pianoforte. (1970-1979) Johannesburg.

-Tai Chi: (1990-2010) Kobujistu Master Edward Jardine, based in Johannesburg South Africa.

-Apprenticeship to founder of the Market Theatre, Johannesburg: Barney Simon. ((1985-1993)

-Metamorphic Technique Practitioner under Gaston St. Pierre ( London) and Norwegian specialist Laila Klausen.

-Svenska som Andra Språk. 01.

-Ongoing self-education with Course in Miracles : 1991-


The Saga

A Comprehensive Biography

Jennifer Ferguson ( BA; Perf. Dipl UCT) multi-award winning performing performer, composer and poet, and classically trained pianist, served as MP in South Africa’s first democratic National Parliament for the ANC.

She was inaugurated alongside Princess Magogo, into the SARREL Composers Hall of fame. She was voted SA’s Best Female Performers at the KKNK Arts Festival and named by critics as one of SA’s ‘National Treasures’. During the eighties much of her work was banned due to its political content. She was one of the first SA artists to tour Finland In Nov 89, as the cultural boycott was being lifted, performing and recording with some of Finland’s leading artists. She was invited to do a National Tour of Sweden in 2004, giving over 28 concerts in 31 days, appearing both as a musician and Member of the SA Parliament. During this time, she met many of Sweden’s leading political and cultural figures, including Margaret Wallström, Ingvar Carlsson, Birgit Kulberg ,as well as many of Sweden’s Africa-group cultural activists.

A much sought-after composer, she co-wrote the welcoming tribute to Nelson Mandela-,”The People want Mandela” alongside Ray Phiri, Victor Ntoni and Rashid Lanie. She also arranged “Bread and Roses” for the ANC 1994 Election Release.

Her song “Sweet Feedom” dedicated to Irene and Wilton Mkwayi, featured as the theme song for the BBC documntary on the stuggle activist Helen Jospeh.

Jennifer has also worked as producer, producing the “Mayoral Festival of Lights Concert” in Soweto, in 2004, a production involving over 250 performers for an audience of over 6000.

She has over the last 18 years been concurrently living and working in Sweden, her other home, alongside her husband, renowned Swedish/South African choral conductor and composer, Anders Nyberg, who also co-wrote the script for the hugely successful “As it is in Heaven” film.

In 2004 their music, creative direction and performances were featured alongside international artists such as Barbara Hendricks when The Swedish SA Amandla/ Freedom Concert was a major sell-out success. It played for over 4000 people in one of the world’s most impressive open -air amphitheatres- Dalhalla.

Both have nourished a deep commitment and love for South Africa and its people. Anders worked in Gugulethu township Cape Town during the eighties, collating and arranging SA freedom songs, many of which would become part of the standard international choral repetoire, and a powerful tool galvinising international aid for the Freedom Struggle.

 

Their work encompasses original, world and South African choral music, as well as extensive song-walk/pilgrimages in nature. They often lead Nordic/SA ‘Song Safaris’ creating authentic cultural and music encounters between Swedes local SA cultural groups.

Jennifer was one of the founding directors with Anders, of the non- profit organisation, ‘Peace of Music’. The “Seeds of Peace” Project fused ecology, music and human rights in a powerful response to the scourge of child neglect and abuse assailing SA.

The Peace of Music Centre, from it’s premises in a beautiful heritage mansion, in the derelict and impoverished Joburg eastern inner-city, partnered with the Johannesburg Devpt. Agency, for a major Urban Renewal Programme for the area. This included the regeneration of a derelict neighbouring park to the POM Centre. R1 million was pledged by the city, and the David Webster Park was launched earlier this year.

The Peace of Music Centre programmes included The Peace of Music Children’s Choir, Drum Circles in the Park, as well as a Music Outreach and other life-skills oriented programmes toward social transformation.

She has recently completed a new album ”The Forgotten Song” with pianist, Rickard Åström.

She was invited to sing in Stor Kyrkan Stockholm for the Swedish Prime minister and various international dignitaries at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.

More recently she has collaborated on the ‘Song for Mandela’ project, which have played throughout Sweden during 2013/14.

 

Jennifer works as a Voice and Life Skills Coach, conducting workshops all over Sweden, including Masesgården in Siljansnäs and Mundekulla Retreat Centre.

Jennifer is a committed Tai Chi/ Chi Qong and Yoga student, specialising in the field of vocal and postural integration techniques. She has been a student of The Course in Miracles,studying meditation and sound healing for over 25 years now. She is a qualified Metamorphoses Practitioner.

 

South African Background

During the dark days of Apartheid, Jennifer worked both as a protest singer-songwriter and as a Cultural Activist serving on the South African Musician’s Alliance (SAMA)’s Cultural Desk- working alongside acitivist/cultural workers such as Mzwakhe Mbuli, David Webster and Johnny Clegg. Active in the End Conscription Campaign, she was a featured performer for many of the United Democratic Front, ECC and other political gatherings of the eighties and early nineties. It was during this time that her songs were banned, concerts tear -gassed, and the intimidatory tactics of the South African Security Branch making performances on political platforms dangerous indeed.

Recordings include-:

CD’s/Albums/ Compilations

‘Hand Around the Heart’- ’85 with Shifty Records(Voted Best New SA Album)- also released in Sweden.

featured on ‘Forces Favourites’- ‘85

‘Untimely’- ’89 featuring Moses Molelekwa, Victor Masondo.

‘Eye for Africa’-Finland ‘90

Houtstok –‘9

Splashy Fen Compilation –‘93

New SA Rock- ‘95

Suite Sweden- Live Album ‘97

Seeds of Peace – collaborative project for Artists Against Abuse/ Peace of Music –‘2001

Best things in Life-

The Forgotten Song- with Rickard Åström.

 

Jennifer’s collaborated extensively with one of SA’s most acclaimed play-writes and directors, Barney Simon, founder of the Market Theatre. It was during this time that some of her best work was produced as composer/lyricist/ actress and singer. She appeared as Ulricke Meinhof in Dario Fo’s “I Ulricke Cry’, in Barney Simon’s ‘Inyanga Women of Africa’ and “Eden and Other Places’, in her own “Women’s Play”; ‘1789- Revolution Year One’; ‘Tom Paine’ and ‘Marat-Sade’ and Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale”.

Jennifer co-wrote and co-musically directed the hit musical “SA LOVE/ Uthando/Lerato”

featuring Gloria Bosman, Sibongile Khumalo, Sophie Mcgina.

 

Jennifer composed music and performed in choreographer PJ Sabbagha’s dance projects ‘Petra’; ‘When Life Happens’ and ‘Still Here’ between 2005/07.

Collaborations include artists such as Moses Molelekwa, Bheki Khoza Su Lubner, Sibongile Khumalo, Paul Hanmer and Vusi Mahlasela.

Jennifer has composed and performed for radio, TV and the commercial field..Her song “I am an African”based on SA’s ex-Pres. Mbeki’s seminal speech, has been featured as part a National Africa Outreach Campaign.

 

Documentaries include the recent “Glow of White Women’ dir. by Yunus Vally.


The Singer

I have often said my conscious journey as a singer, and eventually as ‘voice-animator’, began one night crouched beside a glowing fire, under that infinitely beautiful African sky, in the Groot Marico.

There, in a circle of good friends including a Professor of Music from Hamburg University, a wild-dolphin swim facilitator, a shamanic poet who specialises in the creation of traditional african instruments, we made music again in one of our many spontaneous ‘sound-circles’. The music entwined with the song of the crickets, the distant hooting of the owls and song of the nightjars. Didgereedoos, drums and uhadi, rattles and seed shakers played and played on, until it seemed that I and the night-sounds were one, my body-edge dissolved and my spirit one with the earth and sky. In this exquisite vibration, where all of time stood still and space expanding I found myself in what could be called the Eternal Now. It was there, from spaceless space and timeless time, my voice emerged. The experience almost does not bear the telling. I can say I found myself expressing a song that I could only call ”primal.” The song spanned octaves beyond my imagining and tones I had never dreamed of. But most importantly, the song and i were one, and I found myself free at last, in truth and fearlessness and joy, to express what longed to sing into form.

Thinking back on that night, the gift I received was one of undoing: I left behind all that I had learned from various teachers and institutions, all that had shaped an inner-critic which had caused me much pain, listening so critically, never satisfied, over the years. On that night, I embarked on a road on which there has been no turning back. Along it I would be given the understanding of what is The Natural Voice: The Voice that both you and I, and all of us, were born with; an almost forgotten that longs to express itself, in all its colours, from the centre of  the heart, where we find the spaciousness of ‘non-doing’, and emanating from a point of trust and service. I am still on that road with no beginnings and no endings to a place one could call Home.

There is a place where one needs do nothing, where all has been done, and where all is still possible.