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Amampondo (South Africa)  
Amampondo in Pondoland

FORMED in 1979 by Mzikantu Zungula "Dizu" Plaatjies, the son of a traditional herbalist and healer, the core group consisted of seven young- boys from the same neighborhood in Langa township outside Cape Town. Twenty years later, Plaatjies, Mzwandile Qotoyi, Mandla Lande, Simpiwe Matole, Blackie Mbizela, Michael Ludonga and Xola Miambo, were still bound by the same dedication to African music and culture.

During the politically turbulent 1980's, the group went from being Cape Town buskers and cultural activists to being an internationally acclaimed percussion ensemble. To this achievement, may be added the fact that not only are they accomplished musicians, but educators in their own right.

Amampondo's first appearance "off the streets" took place at Cape Town's legendary music venue, Scratch circa 1979. Shortly thereafter, they completed their debut recording: a cassette release by the independent Obz Productions. A signing with Cape Town based Mountain Records followed, and the label released five albums, establishing Amampondo as the recording artists we know today. The 1980's also saw the group's first forays beyond Cape Town, first to Johannesburg, and then abroad.

With South Africa's political transition in the early 1990's, the group travelled extensively, and their 1996 signing with the (then) UK-based MELT 2000 label saw growing interaction with a number of great drummers and percussionists: Brazilian legend Airto Moreira, Cuban master percussionist Changuito, and Cameroonian drummer Brice Wassy, who have been label mates with the Capetonians for their MELT 2000 releases.

Another important collaboration has been that with legendary South African percussionist Gabriel "Mabi" Thobejane, who, since leaving afro-fusion group Sakhile, found a new spiritual home with Amampondo. During October - November 1998, the 15 Amampondo members braved the Scandinavian winter and toured extensively throughout Sweden, Norway and Finland, performing shows and giving educational workshops at festivals, clubs and schools. In all, the group completed 16 full-day workshops, two short workshops and 16 concerts in 36 days - an intensive programme by any standard!

Hosted by the School of Music at University of Gothenburg, the goal of Amampondo's tour was as much to heighten the interest in traditional African music, as it was to demonstrate the importance of African music and instruments as tools in the education of music students and teachers. In part, this was done to mirror a recent programme at UCT's School of Music, sponsored by the University of Gothenburg. Led by Linda Muller and "Dizu" Plaatjies, the programme advocates the use of African music and instruments in the continuing education of music teachers, in an attempt to redress the previous reliance on Eurocentric music teaching methods in South African schools.

marimba, percussion
Genre: traditional / indigenous, African
Starting in the south of Sweden, the tour began with the group performing a series of workshops at the university music schools in Maim, Stockholm, Orebro and Gothenburg, where the receptive students were majoring in jazz and rhythmic studies. After a performance and workshop for immigrant youth as part of a major world music project in the Stockholm suburb of Botkyrka, the tour continued to Oslo, Norway, where the group was based for a week, giving full-day workshops at a number of secondary schools with a particular focus on the arts: music, dance and drama. The Norwegian tour segment was crowned by a sold-out performance in Oslo, as part of the "World in the Nordic Countries" music festival. Returning to Gothenburg towards the end of October, the group conducted an intensive two-day seminar for music teachers from all over Scandinavia, with a special interest in African music.

Amampondo was to have given a performance to officially open the Swedish leg of the "World in the Nordic Countries" festival at the Gothenburg Concert Hall on 30 October (1 000 tickets had been sold in advance), but due to the catastrophic nightclub fire in which 26 young people tragically died the previous night, this performance was cancelled. Instead, Amampondo were asked to guest with Angelique Kidjo in Vagen, Gothenburg the following day; their performance dedicated to the victims of the fire. During the first week of November, Amampondo toured schools in small towns and villages in western Sweden, giving workshops and evening performances in community halls and small concert halls.

Amampondo in Pondoland
The impact of Amampondo's workshops on the rural youth, for whom their visit was a rare treat, was evident in school corridors between sessions, where groups of boys and girls spontaneously got together to practise dance steps and phrases of songs just learned. After a hectic trip to Nijmegen in Holland, where the group participated in the 14th Annual Music Meeting Festival (alongside Busi Mhiongo, Ernest Ranglin, Trilok Gurtu and many others), the final days of the tour were spent in Finland and Sweden. The band performed to a full house at the Savoy Theatre in Helsinki, and gave a much appreciated full-day workshop at the Sibeiius Institute, the music school of the University of Helsinki. Fittingly, the tour ended with two fantastic shows at the House of Culture in Stockholm, where the group had previously performed in 1988.

- Text and pictures courtesy Christian Syren of MMP Artist Agency.

The new millennium saw Dizu Plaatjies spending increasing time at his teaching post at the University of Cape Town, and releasing his debut solo album Ibuyambo. See separate entry for Dizu Plaatjies
  Recordings : Amampondo
Heartbeat Of Africa

Heartbeat Of Africa
Image Of Africa

Image Of Africa


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