Solvei Stenslie.

Gifted young musician draws inspiration from African experience

Date: 03 March 2017 By: Andries van Zyl

Viewed: 1554

The Soutpansberg region has seen its fair share of interesting visitors, but few of them as interesting and talented as the 22-year-old Solvei Stenslie.

This bubbling young free spirit hails from North Dakota in the United States and is currently volunteering her services at the Tshiawelo Secondary School at Vleifontein, where her house mother, Dr Tinswato Crace Neluvhola, is principal. The Neluvholas are also her hosts in Louis Trichardt for the duration of her stay until July this year.

Solvei is one of 10 American volunteers who came to South Africa in September last year as part of the Young Adults in Global Mission programme of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), held in partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa. The programme invites young ELCA adults, aged 21-29, to a transformative, year-long journey in international service. As they offer themselves in service, these young adults become the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, providing critical support to ministries and projects in communities of need.

Solvei is acting as the school’s librarian, helping to sort out and build up a library for the school. “Hopefully I will be able to tutor mathematics on the side,” said Solvei. She is qualified to do so, having majored in mathematics and taking calculus, physics and science “just for fun” while completing her studies at the Concordia College in Minnesota. She also holds minors in sociology and religion.

Solvei paid a visit to the office of the Zoutpansberger on Tuesday. Apart from being somewhat of a genius when it comes to maths and science, she also boasts another remarkable talent – that of being a gifted singer and songwriter.

Standing at only 1,59cm tall, Solvei’s powerful and beautiful singing voice leaves one mesmerised. “I always wanted to write and sing my own songs,” said Solvei. She has honed her skills as songwriter and singer over the years and already boasts an impressive list of own works within the folk song genre. To listen to these works, readers can visit

“My love for music comes from my dad. He loves music. His mom was a piano teacher and his dad still plays with the high school marching band. My dad made sure that all of his children took music lessons and learned to play instruments,” said Solvei.

Solvei’s love for music is so deep-rooted that it also influenced her decision as to where to study. Her decision to go to Concordia was not only based on the fact that her parents went there too. “I went to Concordia specifically for their choir, which is one of the most recognised choirs in America with more than 500 choir members,” said Solvei.

Since arriving in South Africa, Solvei has added to her already impressive list of own compositions, many of which were inspired by her experiences of the country. The song she is busy with now has a jazzy/blues flavour and was inspired by the African people and their freedom to dance without fear. “The coolest thing I have experienced in South African is definitely the dancing. I mostly work in the black community, and I am astounded by how easy dancing comes to them. They all have rhythm! I love dancing and singing and everyone here sings, even if they can’t sing that well. It is actually remarkable to watch,” said Solvei. Although she has finished writing the song, it is not ready for recording purposes. “For that I need musicians to make it sound the way I want it to,” said Solvei. The musicians she was referring to include her brothers, all avid musicians.

Looking at the future, Solvei is keen on pursuing a career in music, although her dad is not very happy about it. “Despite my dad’s love for music, he is not so keen on my pursuing it as a career opportunity. He views it as entertainment, not a job. I love science and would like to become an engineer someday. But for now, I am planning on moving back to Norway next year, where I was born. I want to pursue a career in music first,” said Solvei. Judging by her remarkable talent and tenacity, one is almost sure to hear from her again as an established musician. “I want to try and be in a proper band,” said Solvei.

To listen to a selection of songs performed by Solvei CLICK HERE.

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Andries van Zyl

Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.


More photos... 

Solvei Stenslie.

Talented young singer and song writer Solvei Stenslie (middle) from North Dakota in the United States, pictured with Isabel Venter (left) and Andries van Zyl (right) of the Zoutpansberger newspaper during her visit on Tuesday.

Solvei pictured at the Tshiawelo Secondary School at Vleifontein where she is helping out as librarian as part of a international church exchange programme. Photo supplied.