By Novell Zwange – JOHANNESBURG – Hamburg-born Germany businessman Wolfgang W. Sabrowsky is an idealist, visionary thinker and go-getter. His prolific rise in the international showbiz circles has seen him co-produce the 80th birthday bash for Africa’s highly-esteemed icon Nelson Mandela, handled events for big international corporate companies, and organised festivals for the United Nations bodies.
Wolf, as he is affectionately known in the showbiz has come all the way from Europe to promote musical talents in over 27 African countries, and now spends most of his prime time developing communities in places such as Alexandra, one of South Africa’s oldest townships.
He came to Africa in 1995, and produced and promoted several arts and cultural programmes in countries such as Burkina Faso, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Swaziland, and Nigeria. Almost 15 years later he still holds an unshaken vision for the cultural enterprises on the continent and feels strongly for its people. Prior to his arrival in Africa, Wolf was a Pop Organiser and his company produced the likes of Michael Jackson, Prince, Elton John, Sammy Davis, Frank Sinatra and Pink Floyd in Germany.
The soft-spoken conceptualist shuns luxurious lifestyle, and is always available to give a hand to the needy, “When I look at wealth I feel I’m not interested in acquiring riches, and neglecting a progressive ideals for human development.the fascination is not money, I am not driven by profits no matter how bigger, I am arouse by the wealth of cultures, wealth of creatives, and how human beings can empower each other to improve livelihoods,” he remarked recently at the launch event for the Soweto Festival.
Presently residing in South Africa, Wolfgang is the founder of the International South African Classics and Jazz Festival Pty Ltd, and is currently the producer and management member of one of the country’s biggest festival, Arts Alive International Festival held annually in Johannesburg. Thirteen years he initiated the Song of Africa contest, an adaption of of the world biggest televised music competition: Eurovision Song Contest and a talent developmental project aimed at raising future music stars in Africa.
In 1994, before arriving in South Africa, Wolfgang launched his own venue, The GALARIE HAMBURG has since then been host to famous companies.
As concert promoter he organised the first “International South African Classics & Jazz Festival” in 1995 and managed to enlist Lord Yehudi Menuhin for an opening performance of the “Messiah” in Johannesburg, KWA Thema Springs and Cape Town, the “Classic Open Air Concerts” starring Lord Yehudi Menuhin in Placido, Domingo, Lorin Maazel and the late Leonard Bernstein in Germany .
He has done and produced musicals, with Queeneth Ndaba, including the Mandela tribute musical: Madiba´s Farewell, which was staged at Market Theatre and Windybrow Theatre.
“This man is a source of inspiration, he is a real wealth of knowledge. I am personally advantaged as I am learning a lot of things from someone whos been to me much more than a mentor,” said Themba Ndala a young South African, promoter and entrepreneur who runs a popular local blogsite www.thembandala.com
In 1997, Wolfgang Sabrowsky organized an official presentation of South Africa at the “Kieler Woche-Festival”, one of Germany’s biggest cultural festivals. The Superqueens”, performed on the main stage in front of Kiel’s City Hall for seven days.
When he starts to speak about his involvement in Africa’s arts industry his eyes lighten up, “In 1997, I invited the exceptional ballet “Moving into Dance” to perform at my GALARIE for over 450 celebrities. In the same year, I invited Zindzi Mandela to Germany to accept an award on behalf of her father, which was presented to her by one of Germany’s biggest companies, Kai Wuensche AG. At the same time I presented one of South Africa´s most well known singers Sibongile Khumalo in Germany “
Wolfgang was also asked by Lenaka Entertainment to co-produce the Re-Union of South Africa-Festival, which took place on Heritage Day at Johannesburg Stadium in 1999.
“I co-produced the 80th birthday party of former South African President Nelson Mandela in 1999 and brought the legendary singer Audrey Motaung to his 78th birthday gala.”
Endemol Productions SA contracted him in his capacity as an event manager to co-run the opening and closing parties of all Big Brother eviction parties.
He was chosen to co-produce the Limpopo Province launch in June 2002, World Summit Opening Ceremonies, Johannesburg 2002. In June 2002 again, he invited Suthukazi Arosi to perform in Germany.
In July 2002 Transnet contracted Wolfgang as part of Mulemba Creations to organize a tremendous re-launch of the Transnet Theatre Trucks : Culture On Wheels.
A seasoned arts manager, Wolfgang does artists management and bookings for South African legendary artist and jazz songstress Dorothy Masuku and Oumar Pene of Senegal , and has also handled bookings for kwaito star Mandoza, the Nigerian sensation Femi Kuti, the late reggae music great Lucky Dube, the UN Goodwill Ambassador, Salif Keita, among so many other notable African artists.
Then in 2004 he organised a national tour of South Africa for Prof. Justus Frantz and the Philharmonia of The Nations.
In his career he developed a close and long-term cooperation with Professor Justus Frantz, the former Artistic Director of the internationally renowned “Schleswig-Holstein Musik-Festival”, which soon led to a successful career in organising and promoting Festivals in the area of classical music, such as: Musikfeste auf dem Lande, Festspiele Mecklenburg Vorpommern and in 2009 when he co-produced a new classic festival: musik:landschaft westfalen
The charismatic and enterprising Mzungu (Tanzanian reference to a foreign European) has done almost everything from staging SAFA (South African Football Association) AGM Gala at the Convention Center in South Africa’s richest mile, Sandton City, to organising launch parties for notable companies such as Wideopen Pty Ltd and African Legend and Technologies Pty Ltd .
“One of the spectacular tasks assigned to me was by the most successful Afrika! Afrika! Production to supply artists from the continent. He worked with ANDRE HELLER, the Austrian based artist of International renown, and his shows and projects, such as “Body and Soul”, “Flic Flac” and “Luna Luna”, among others).On a more family-oriented entertainment level, I was involved with the internationally famous “Chinese National Circus”and the renowned Circus Roncalli,” said Wolfgang.
The Hamburg Tourist Office also commissioned him to organise the main event, called “German Night”, of the 60th ASTA World Congress for over 8000 executives in the tourism sector from all over the world. After which he organized the “New Years Eve Mega Party” for Germany’s biggest radio stations , Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Coca-Cola Germany, and the Churchill Society, as well as annual events of the German Tennis Federation, large-scale annual events like the Hamburg Harbour Celebrations visited by around one million people each year, Grand openings of hotels like the newest Steigenberger Hotel and industry galas for the likes of Mobil Oil, Yamaha or the international retailer Esprit.
Wolfgang did markets conceptualisation and implementation of Hamburg’ prime Christmas Market: Hanseatischer Weihnachtsmarkt auf dem Gänsemarkt Arts Exhibitions and also helped launch the multimedia exhibition Lifetime, which is about the life of HIV-infected children in South Africa.
He also created and organised art exhibitions, among them “Shona Art”, “Pictures from South Africa” and “Nachtfarben” in collaboration with the Princess of Schleswig-Holstein.
“As a consultant, I have advised renowned international companies such as BMG/UFA , and was involved in rendering advisory services for UFA/Bertelsmann/CLT, one of the biggest global media players , on the development of multi-functional stadiums in Germany.”
“I initiated several competitions and awards and among the ones I created three special awards stand out above the rest and these are: the International Mendelssohn Competition, The International Comic Salon and the John Lennon Talent Award. I was Co-Initiator of Germany’s music industry award, the ECHO .” said Wolfgang Sabrowsky
A resolute visionary thinker, he has seen some of his major projects destroyed or dismantled by greedy partners whom he sometimes invited to join forces. Naturally and though somewhat embittered, he remained loyal to his ideals, objectives and sound business policies to overcome what would have otherwise spoilt his passion for the arts.
Not to forget his professional affiliation to the Dorkay House Trust in Johannesburg, “ they asked me to develop and maintain Grovenor House, a large building of 30,000 square meters located in the centre of Johannesburg and serving as a monument for arts and culture -MADIBA’S (Mandela) VILLAGE. I managed to get the financial support of the Japanese Government for the opening of a youth-fashion academy at MADIBA´S VILLAGE and conceptualised a live-music club: INDABA Chicken+Jazz on street level of MADIBA´S VILLAGE.”
“Besides my engagement in African continent and South African projects I am currently engaged in 2 major entertainment project Beijing and Dublin,” he added.
Wolf has sat on The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Member of the Advisory Board, chaired by Moeletsi Mbeki, brother of the former South African President Thabo Mbeki, SAMPA ( South African Music Promoter Association), and was the only European member and Vice Chairman of SAMPA Gauteng ,The German Honorable Businessman Association’s Honorable Member and a board member and chairman of the PR committee of the International German School Johannesburg.
His insights on the creative industry of Africa in comparison to that of Europe has proven invaluable in the ongoing challenge of having African talent fully-recognised on the global stage.
“Working as a promoter, manager, mentor and consultant, I assist emerging and established artists and arts entrepreneurs in most things from contracts, tours and promotions to branding, marketing and public relations,” he said.
“But music in particular has changed because of the ever evolving technology. African artists need to embrace the new media to market and prop up their image. They also need to build reliability and professionalism. “
Through a variety of music and mentoring programs, Wolfgang creates a positive environment where the youth is encouraged to develop their ambitions and turn them into reality. Wolfgang helps the youth of all backgrounds, especially those who are underprivileged and marginalized to build confidence, develop character, and acquire skills that prepare them for stage performances and for a professional arts career, as citizens who will mature into responsible adults.
In Alexandra Township he has availed a portion of resources to provide general support to the communities living in the high-density areas of Johannesburg.
Mamoleke Masegela, a young South African journalist wrote in the Alexandra Pioneer, “Wolfgang’s love for the community progressed as he was involved in a fourteen day mentorship with an African performance group… he was back again offering Alexandra a platter of wholesome music.”
He continues to defend the rights of the artists and he strongly believes that all music produced to the artist’s best creative effort should remain the ownership of the artist.
Wolfgang is a recreational footballer at the Germany International School of Johannesburg, but also a photographer, and a community developer. He recently initiated developmental projects in Alexandra, where he is experiencing a drastic appreciation in his effort to building communities for better lives. He shared with me his journey in the “land of nice good people”, also known to the locals as Alex.
“Some of the challenges that the African artists face in the continent include lack of equipment, poor infrastructure and scarcity of communication tools. It is my belief that by initiating community development projects we find inner satisfaction and true well-meaning to our entrepreneurship,” decried Wolf.