History behind Langa’s marimba

2018-05-24 06:00
From left at the back are Banzi Tema, Kanu Moloi. Zuko Londzie, Sindile Moya with dancers Thami Baba, Neliswa Moya and Nomonde Swaartbooi. PhOTO: Steve GORDOn

From left at the back are Banzi Tema, Kanu Moloi. Zuko Londzie, Sindile Moya with dancers Thami Baba, Neliswa Moya and Nomonde Swaartbooi. PhOTO: Steve GORDOn

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As an advocate of indigenous music and founder of Imbewu Marimba Community Project, I feels duty-bound to celebrate Langa’s history.

This is so because in 2023, Langa township will be be celebrating its centenary. I will be doing this the way I know best with a Marimba explosion event.

Marimba music was introduced in the late 1970’s by Roman Catholic Churches in Langa.

Father Dargie used to come to the St Catholic Church to facilitate workshops on how to play and look after the instruments.

You wouldn’t dare sit on top of the instrument, otherwise you would face the wrath of Father Dargie.

This is where one of our internationally acclaimed marimba band Amampondo was formed, led by Simphiwe Matole, Nkululeko Ludonga and joined later by Dizu Plaatjies.

They started busking at the Grand Parade. Simphiwe who went on to become a multi instrumentalist, Nkululeko Ludonga who was a drummer of note sadly passed away a pauper.

Dizu became a professor at the college of music at the University of Cape Town from the humble beginnings of busking with Amampondo.

Sadly, due to mismanagement and frustrations of not being given recognition at home, members started to hit the bottle.

Meanwhile other marimba groups started to mushroom, influenced by the great Themba Tana who was also born in Langa.

Themba is an ambassador of South African indigenous music based in Vancouver Canada.

Amajingqi led by Sindile Moya, Kholeho Mosala, I Banzi Tema, Abasebenzi led by Maqhubela Nqolombe, Thembile Lekoma and Andile Ngonzo, kept the home fires burning locally and internationally with our harmonies and the introduction of gumboot dancing in our repertoire.

But then again, greed and mistrust crept in and these groups faded into thin air. In 1987, the Heshoo Beshoo marimba band was formed, led by me and Nazeem Larney.

The group introduced new, jazz standard ounds; Dave Brubeck’s Take Five, for the first time was played on marimbas.

Marimbas were fused with choral and jazz bands under the baton of Duke and Ezra Ngcukana, including myself and we formed Chorimba. This concept of Chorimba is done all over the world now. This goes to show that we are trendsetters.

When I look at the current marimba player’s state of affairs, it is like history being retold, with young musicians doing gigs just to get paid to fulfil their drugs and alcohol induced wants.

There is no sense of responsibility and ownership of our music. This is a sad story, which is why I’m embarking on this journey of instilling determination, dedication and discipline, to try and prevent our music from getting extinct.

I’ve registered a company named Imbewu Marimba Community with legendary jazz vocalist Sylvia Mdunyelwa and renowned actor Khwezi Kobus as some of the directors.

This is where musicians can have a sense of belonging and find solace. We will be hosting our maiden annual Marimba Explosion on Saturday May 26 at Guga S’thebe Arts and Culture Centre .

The event will have two halves where one will consists of 40 school marimba players paying tribute to late musicians in a 45 minute rendition called Izingqi Zezikhalo Zabantu, loosely translated as the Steps and Cries of the Departed, and hopefully, having 100 players by 2023.

The second half will be a two hour concert which will depict a journey of the marimba and how it has evolved. By the end of the day, we hope to have about 300 marimba players, tutors, makers and students on our data base.

V Banzi Tema is director of Imbewu Marimba Community.

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