The golden-voiced Grade 11 pupil, 17, won the grand prize of the 2018 ABC Motsepe South Africa School Choir Eisteddfod (SASCE) National Championships in Johannesburg.
The SASCE is the country’s biggest school choral music competition and pupils need to advance through at least four stages to qualify and compete at national level.
Joja, who hails from the rural area of Zalarha and attends St Thomas High School in King William’s Town, wowed judges with a seven-minute solo that earned him top place in the bass/baritone category.
“I am very happy and excited. I did not expect to reach this stage. I really worked hard for this,” he said.
He has loved choral music since primary school and only recently began performing solo. Last year, his first competitive outing, he was eliminated at Buffalo City Metro district level.
A year later, speaking to the Daily Dispatch after his victory, Joja said this was his most competitive tournament. In his category he was awarded an 84% rating, second place received 82% and third 80%.
“You could see from the scores how close it was and it shows you the competitiveness of the tournament itself,” said Joja.
His school teacher and choir conductor, Ntombomzi Adonis, 67, said they worked hard rectifying last year’s mistakes.
“He listened to everything I taught him. He has an amazing gift that needs to be taken care of. I feel so thrilled.
“I never thought we would reach this phase. I just run out of words just thinking of it,” said an emotional Adonis.
His mother, Nomzamo Joja, has travelled to every choral competition her son has competed in since primary school and she drove all the way to Johannesburg to watch her son triumph in front of hundreds.
“I was there when he lost last year and I was here when he won the highest prize in the country. As a parent this is a great feeling,” she said.
She praised Adonis and said “had it not been for him we wouldn’t have Kuhle as a national baritone soloist today.”
Joja, however, said singing is his second love.
His sights are set on studying medicine after school.