Mteto Maphoyi: The Power of Listening at TEDxTeen (Full Transcript)

Mteto Maphoyi

Mteto Maphoyi – TRANSCRIPT

Hello. “Molweni nonke”.

Well, I’m from South Africa. Where I grew up speaking the languages of course. When we greet one another, if I greet everyone here, I’ll say “Molweni”, but if I’m greeting a single person I would say “molo”. You know? So now, if I say “Molweni” you will respond “Molo”. So now let’s try. “Molweni”. (Audience: “Molo”) Well, that’s the power of listening. Well, try this one.

Well, we can work on that one later on. OK. But first let me tell you where I’m from. I grew up in a township outside Hermanus. When I was four years old, my father left my family. He left behind a CD of Pavarotti singing. All I had of my father was this one CD and so I listened to it all the time. I didn’t understand the Italian lyrics, but I knew I loved the music. I would play and stop the CD again and again until I managed to teach myself the music and the lyrics. I saw my father one more time before he died.

Well, this music is my connection to him. It could become my connection to the whole world. When I was about nine years old, I got my friends together and I taught them how to sing the same way I had taught myself. I use what you might call unusual teaching methods. I told them “Shout as high as you can and remember that feeling. It is vibrato and you do that all the time.” Something like that. You name it.

We will sing for the tourist in town in Hermanus. We will take the money we earn and help our parents and pay the fares from Hermanus to the township, buy food obviously. Well, it’s the way we were living life that time. In Hermanus, in the town, the government there stopped us to sing in town. There was a time I decided, do you know what, I won’t give up. I’ll go to Cape Town. I went to Cape Town. I started singing at The Waterfront. and there we earn enough money to help our family.

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So I would make money and send money to my mother. Because I was three hours away from my mother, I wasn’t with her when she died from HIV/AIDS. That was the time when everything in my life seems to fall apart. My uncle was stabbed to death. My little sister died. My aunt died. My grandmother died when I was sitting on her lap. I dropped out of high school and I joined a gang. It was very hard. I know it was very hard. I joined the gang and I began to think about everything that I once had and it wasn’t easy. And so when I was in Cape Town, I wanted to go back to Hermanus as soon as I heard my mum passed away, but I didn’t know where to start, you know.

But I always had the music keeping me going. Well, it was this one gentleman who once heard me sing. He decided to make a tape recording for me, a demo, you know. So, the night before the recording, I tried to stop a fight and I was stabbed in my face with a broken bottle, from my temple down to my throat. Well, when that happens the first thing that came to my mind is that, remember, you have got nothing. And I had nothing. I did nothing.

My voice was gone and all that. And then I began to think about everything that I had once had. And I began to value them. And then I made up my mind: If I ever got my voice back, I would make a better use of my talent. I started recovering slowly and I forgot about the gang life behind. I put it behind, everything that is nasty. I put it behind. I focused on the music and I started recovering. And then we started singing in the township, me and my friends. You know, while violent continued all around us. We focused our energy on the power of music.

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