Louis Knobel

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Louis Knobel (1911-1988) was a singer, radio announcer, film producer, teacher and sound archivist.


He was born 12 September 1911 in Mochudi (Botswana), died August 1988 in Pretoria. He went to the Volkskool in Heidelberg (Transvaal), where he took singing with Stephen Eyssen, and sang in school concerts and in school operettas.

He died on 6 August 1988

His daughter is the renowned opera singer and teacher, Marita Knobel[1].

His role as singer

He moved to Johannesburg in 1931, to study with Burns Walker and, after Walker's death in 1932, Madame Leah Williams. Under her guidance he won approximately 20 awards in the vocal section of the Johannesburg Eisteddfod and became known as a stage and radio vocalist. In Johannesburg he became an active participant in John Connell's opera seasons and sang main roles in The Beggar's Opera (Weill), Il Trovatore and Carmen, and participated in performances of Messiah and the St Matthew Passion, in both Johannesburg and Pretoria. In the period up to 1947 he recorded some 120 Afrikaans songs , while continuing to appear in concerts, making commercial recordings and singing in a number of operas. He helped form the Pretoria Opera Group in 1954, an organization which helped to keep opera alive in the Transvaal until the founding of the Performing Arts Council of Transvaal (PACT) in 1962. From the start he served on the opera committee of PACT.

His role in radio

Starting in 1929, when he sang in his first broadcast programme, Knobel became one of the first singers to achieve a reputation in the radio medium, one whose programmes were marked by a preference for Afrikaans songs. In 1938 he went to London, studying voice production with George Baker. In this time he became the first Afrikaans speaking announcer appointed by the BBC. In 1939 he returned and joined the SABC as an announcer.

His role in film

Upon his return to South Africa after World War II he joined Francis Coley’s Unifilms in 1946 and then joined State Films in 1947.

When the National Film Board of South Africa was established in 1964, he became Chief Production Manager and later Head of the Film Institute. From 1971 to 1979 he served as lecturer in film production at the Pretoria Technicon in Pretoria.

From 1979 till his final retirement he served on the staff of the HSRC's Institute for Language Literature and Arts, setting up a sound archives and consulting on visual documentation.

As a director his work includes the feature film Die Wildsboudjie, which he co-directed with Arthur Bennett, and the documentary Remnants of a Stone-Age People (Swerwers van die Woestyn) for Kalahari Films in 1952. The latter film was shown at 1953 Cannes Film Festival, won a Golden Sheaf Award in Yorkton (Canada) in 1954 and was subsequently screened at the Melbourne Film Festival in 1955.

As an actor he appeared in Paul Kruger (Werner Grünbauer/1956) and Gebroke Kontrak (D.B. Steyn/1975)


Correspondence from his son Louis Knobel (28 October 2016)


Correspondence from Freddy Ogterop (16/10/31)


Volume III of the 1986 edition of South African Music Encyclopedia (J.P. Malan, ISBN 0 19 570363 4)

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