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Talking music, heritage and culture with Mandisi Dyantyis

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Musician Mandisi Dyantyis loves telling stories through song. 
Photo: Dave Stone
Musician Mandisi Dyantyis loves telling stories through song. Photo: Dave Stone

It’s like humming your grandmother’s favourite hymn years after she passed to comfort yourself in times of sorrow. 

It’s when you pass a white flag perched high up a neighbour’s home and knowing someone is getting married. It’s like watching a mother’s tears when she sees her son coming home safely from the bush during initiation season. 

It’s being invited to watch ‘intlombe yamagqirha’ (a traditional healer’s gathering), or smelling impepho, or hearing ingqongqo (sticks hitting a drum) at 6am in the morning and knowing you are home.

It’s those little pockets of happiness, of memories, that’s what Mandisi Dyantyis brings with his music. 

And he does it on purpose. Drum editor Thulani Gqirana caught up with the popular musician just before his next show. 

“My music is transportation that takes you home. I say to people, remember where you come from. If we as people don’t know where we come from, we will have problems we can’t solve because we don’t who we are.”

The musician has been hosting a conversation series throughout the national Covid-19 lockdown. First it was struggle songs, then he took fans to church with his rendition of hymns and now for Heritage Day, he’s taking fans home. 

“Heritage Day in South Africa is complicated. We carry our heritage with us every single day and I wanted to showcase that. It’s not going back 100 years or 50 years with this show, I’m going back to where I come from. 

“Songs I heard when I was a child, songs that shaped me as an artist and songs that shaped how I see other people in the community. My art comes from where I come from, those early sounds shaped me.”

Mandisi, who is also a musical director, says those are the types of conversations he has when he talks to students. 

“I ask them who are you? What’s the first song that you listened to? Do you remember where you were? Because that’s what you need to create your art, lived experiences, not trying to be someone else.”

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