South African Native Tells Story Through Songs

By Janee Law

 South African-born songwriter and musician TobyTobias, now of Huntington Station, sings “Hold Me Now” while playing the acoustic guitar.

South African-born songwriter and musician TobyTobias, now of Huntington Station, sings “Hold Me Now” while playing the acoustic guitar.

Toby Tobias, of Huntington Station, found solace in music at age 18 as he grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. Through his music, Tobias now shares his personal story of hope during a time of division, war and upheaval across three continents.

In Johannesburg, Tobias studied classical guitar with instructor Mike Goodgoll and then went on to study jazz at The Rubin Academy of Music and Dance in Jerusalem, Israel.

He said his initial inspiration came four years earlier when he heard “the sounds of the black gardeners, whistling and singing their tunes in the gardens of the white middle class in Johannesburg, all the while tending their lawns. That created a very strong impression on my musical growth.”

Now 58, Tobias is a songwriter and musician who plays acoustic guitar along with his songs.

“It’s my contribution to my community,” he said. “If I in anyway can create an atmosphere of togetherness, love and peace then I have fulfilled my goal as a musician. To write a moving and meaningful song is always fulfilling for me.”

When it comes to writing songs, Tobias said, he’s inspired by the different phases of his life.

“I only have to open my eyes and see what’s happening in today’s world to get more than enough material to create songs,” he said. “I don’t have to look too far for material to write songs that will have an impact on the people who are listening to my music.”

At Finley’s in Huntington village, Tobias hosts and performs the “North Shore Original Open Mic,” where musicians come together every Wednesday to perform.

In addition, Tobias will also be performing at the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County on March 5.

Through his music, he will share his story leaving Johannesburg to avoid war, to his time living in Israel from 1978-1988 and then coming to America in 1988 with his wife and son. Tobias lived in Queens until 1999 before moving to Woodmere and then moved to Northport in 2013. He settled in Huntington Station last November.

“It’s a musician’s tale through three continents with a message of racial equality, understanding of each other’s cultures and the strong hope of togetherness,” he said, adding that he places an important emphasis on social justice and change. “I believe that this performance is my vehicle to open the eyes and ears of every community to effect social change attitude and justice that we need in this county and beyond.”

For his performance next month, Tobias will be joined by members of Glen Cove’s Calvary A.M.E. Church choir, and well known Huntington-based musicians Mike Nugent on guitar and Richie Guererro on percussion. The performance is slated to begin at 2 p.m.