Even though he might have shaved off his locks like the mighty Samson, Bonnie Pereko has certainly not lost any of his strength, love and zeal for the music which is his passion.
At the age of 51, the married father of 3 speaks animatedly and passionately about journey since joining UNAM in 1997 as the conductor of its choir.
The story of how the job was secured is in need of a whole other article and one that we at The Lounge might delve into, but the fact that he joined has led to the success story we now know and widely recognise as the UNAM choir.
With the mission of being able to conscientise, Africanise and develop the identity of the African child, in order for him to have no shame, no doubt and absolute pride in his identity, Uncle B seems to have satisfied his mission and continues to do it on a large scale, touching many lives and making a difference at the grass roots where it is needed and has the most chance of making a difference in young people’s lives.
Uncle B studied music at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and a obtained a Bachelors of Music in Education after a lifetime of being passionate about music and singing. Teaching music was never a part of his plans though; he wanted to “pick up a mic and sing.” It was when that did not happen soon enough that the plan had to be adjusted, slightly.
“I am gifted in the field of music; I am a singer and I write music. My idea of life was that I would become a performing artist and life took me to the University of Namibia and to handle the University of Namibia’s choir.” The journey is an ongoing one, 20 years in the making and has seen the choir reaching heights that it had not before, gaining awards and accolades the world over.
Conducting the UNAM choir has given Uncle B a clear love and respect for Namibian people, music, languages and its particular style of music. He actively grooms young people to have the same passion, drive and love for the journey of music.
“I must say in the last 6 years I was fortunate to have young people who have a love for the music, who have passion, who want to learn, who study and who could take over the choir should it be needed.”
“I am an African. I come with a philosophy, I come with the idea that we are going to lift our downtrodden consciousness. I am going to contemporise them, to bring them into a place of celebrating our African-ness and respect the Namibian sound. Everything about us was second class and my philosophy as a pan-Africanist was to change all of that.”
After reaching some stumbling blocks and overcoming them, Uncle B has achieved the mammoth task that he set on out, and reached that goal within a few years of embarking on it.
When he found that there were not many Namibian composers, he went in search of them and reached some who were willing to compose original Namibian music for the choir to perform.
Marcellinus Swartbooi and Axali Doeseb have played a vital role in composing for the choir and recently Uncle B has joined the fold to fill the gap where it is needed.
Having put his dream of performing aside since joining the university in 1997, Uncle B finally decided that he would now focus on to his ‘solo career’. Last year he finally had an album released with the title “Orukupo”, an Otjiherero word referring to weddings.
The album is a personal work of passion and is in a genre yet unnamed, possibly a contemporary afro style.
The music is diverse and deeply moving, speaking to many sided and senses of the listener, enveloping and transporting to a vision yet unseen.
On parenthood, Uncle B has a unique approach that has worked for him and his family where he allows his offspring certain freedoms in terms of their thinking and affording them the opportunity to make their own decisions and live their story to the fullest.
It seems to us that the maestro is coming full circle and achieving his original dream of picking up a mic and singing in his unique and angelic voice.
“I always say choir was a calling, it is not something I wanted to do.” At The Lounge we sure are glad that he answered the call.