Tag Archives: South African music

Artist Profiles: Thandiswa


Ever since she burst into the public’s consciousness as the lead vocalist and songwriter of award-winning South African kwaito group Bongo Maffin, Thandiswa has been an indelible part of the South African cultural landscape.

Born in Mofolo and raised in Soweto, she began her career singing in a church choir, and made her professional debut at the Market Theatre in 1993 in a production called SA Love. She was awarded a scholarship by both Nedbank and the Permanent Bank, which enabled her to study opera at the Technikon Pretoria. Since then she has amassed an impressive biography, having performed and sung with the cream of South African musicians.

Her first attempt to get noticed occurred at the Shell “Road to Fame” talent show. She did, catch the eye of musician and producer Don Laka, who arranged to include her in a project he was working on, Bongo Maffin’s second album.

The band became known as one of the founding members of kwaito, and went on to release four more albums, becoming widely recognized as the voice of South Africa’s conscious youth. Their compositions consistently combined dance floor favorites with thought-provoking lyrics. They were invited to perform all over the world, and shared the stage with musical icons Stevie Wonder, the Marley clan, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Chaka Khan, Sean Paul, Steel Pulse and Skunk Anansie, amongst others. Their contribution to the South African musical cannon earned Bongo Maffin numerous awards, the Kora All Africa Music Awards, and the Metro FM Music Awards.

After almost eight years with Bongo Maffin, Thandiswa finally resolved to begin work on a solo project. The album, titled Zabalaza, including well known South African singers and producers: Tshepo Tshola, Xhosa traditional vocalist Madosini, Mandla Spikiri, D-Rex and Bluey Maunick. Thandiswa became a central part of the entire recording project, from the production to imaging of the album cover, Thandiswa was involved in each phase of the process.

As additional preparation for the recording process, Thandiswa also embarked on a pilgrimage to her mother’s home village in the Transkei, moving on to spend a fortnight in Mkhankato, Madosini’s village in the heart of rural Transkei. Here she was exposed to the original sounds of Xhosa traditional melodies, and was introduced to the Uhadi, a traditional Xhosa one-string harp.

Zabalaza was folowed by Ibokwe, Dance of the Forgotten Free, and Belede.


Thandiswa Mazwai holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations and English from Wits. She is the first national pop singer to wear Xhosa make-up and has taken a leading role in the fight against AIDS in South Africa.


Zabalaza (Gallo Records, 2004)
Ibokwe (Gallo Records, 2009)
Dance of the Forgotten Free (Gallo Records, 2010)
Belede (Universal Music, 2016)

Bongo Maffin

New Construction (Gallo Records, 2005)
Bongolution (Sony BMG, 2001)
The Concerto (Sony BMG, 1998)
Final Entry (EMI, 1997)
Leaders of D’Gong (EMI, 1996)


Artist Profiles: Vusi Mahlasela

Vusi Mahlasela

Vusi Sidney Mahlasela Ka Zwane was born in 1965 in Lady Selbourne, near Pretoria, and grew up in Mamelodi township, where he still resides. Vusi never knew his father, lost his mother at a young age, and was raised by his maternal grandmother. Growing up in Mamelodi, a cradle of creativity that has produced a number of noted poets, writers, artists & musicians, the young Vusi began to teach himself to play on a homemade guitar, a remarkable instrument made of tin cans and fishing line.

Vusi can’t remember a time when he wasn’t singing. “I’m sure I learned to sing before I could talk,” and was a seasoned performer by the age of seventeen. He soon discovered that he had a flair for composition and began to write his own music and lyrics.

From the outset, Vusi’s songs addressed themes of political and social significance, and so he found himself in demand at political rallies and cultural events. His message of peace also drew him into close contact with poetry groups, especially the Ancestors of Africa, a rousing group of poets, musicians and actors, formed in 1981. He recalls, “We were picked up and harassed in all types of situations, going to church every Sunday and being forced to sign a piece of paper at the police station first. If I was going out of town for a wedding, it had to be reported to the police first. They kept on harassing me with the things I was doing. But I stuck to it.”

After joining the Congress of South African Writers in 1988, Vusi developed a new level of confidence as a poet and a writer. He struck up a creative friendship with South African poet Lesego Rampolokeng at the same time he was falling under the spell of artists like Miriam Makeba and Phillip Tabane. He was also exposed to the work of Victor Jara, whom Vusi acknowledges as a central influence on his own music and lyrics.

His first record, When You Come Back was recorded and released by Shifty/BMG in 1991 and produced by Lloyd Ross. The album is widely acknowledged as a South African classic. Then, in 1994, Vusi was asked to perform arguably the most important gig of his life: the inauguration of South Africa’s new president, Nelson Mandela. That same year, with South Africa undergoing massive transition, Vusi released his second album, Wisdom of Forgiveness. The album saw Vusi receive a finalist nomination for Best Male Vocalist at the FNB SAMA (South African Music Award).

Vusi released several albums since ‘Wisdom’, including the Gold-certified and double SAMA winning Silang Mabele (1997), Miyela Afrika in 2000, and Jungle Of Questions (2002), which Vusi produced and recorded alongside his Proud People’s Band backing outfit. Vusi is featured in Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony, the celebrated film about the importance of music and song in South Africa?s anti-apartheid struggle.

An accomplished guitarist, percussionist, composer, arranger, band leader and performer, Vusi now enjoys an ever-growing following that spans worldwide. Among his most ardent supporters is Dave Matthews, who is a native of South Africa and has long aimed to make Vusi’s music known in the U.S. In fact, when Matthews founded ATO Records several years ago, one of his foremost goals was to sign Vusi to the label. In 2000, he invited Vusi to contribute guest vocals on the title track of the Dave Matthews Band?s multi-platinum album Everyday.

In 2002, ATO was approached by the producers of Amandla! and enthusiastically secured rights to release the soundtrack. Matthews further realized his goal, signing Vusi to ATO.


When You Come Back (BMG, 1993)
Wisdom Of Forgiveness (BMG, 1994)
Silang Mabele (BMG Records Africa, 1997)
Jungle Of Questions (BMG Africa, 2002
The Voice (ATO Records, 2003)
Guiding Star (ATO Records, 2006)
The South African Meeting Of Viramundo (Dreampixies, 2010)
Say Africa (ATO Records, 2011)
Sing To The People (ATO Records, 2013)


Artist Profiles: Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Headed by charismatic founder/composer Joseph Shabalala, Ladysmith Black Mambazo is Africa’s number one selling recording group. The name of the group comes from the city where the group comes from, Ladysmith, the black ox and mambazo, the Zulu word for ax.

With over 40 releases since their first recording in 1962, Mambazo’s captivating Zulu harmonies are a proud, strong homage to the jubilance, power and beauty of indigenous music.

Joseph Shabalala is a man that carries on developing his dreams. He has enlisted the talents of four of his sons the next Mambazo generation. Joseph’s ambition is now to establish the first Academy for the teaching and preservation of indigenous South African music and culture in South Africa.

Since the cooperation on the Graceland album – more than 14 million copies sold – with Paul Simon and their hit title “Homeless,” Mambazo have been known all over the world. The group has recorded over forty albums, selling over six million records at home and abroad, establishing them as the number one record selling group from Africa.

Their first album release for the United States, Shaka Zulu, won a Grammy Award in 1987. Since then they have been nominated for a Grammy Award six additional times, including a nomination in 2001 for the album Live From Royal Albert Hall.

The group has performed at two Nobel Peace Prize Ceremonies, for the Pope in Rome, South African Presidential inaugurations, the 1996 Summer Olympics, a Muhammad Ali television special and in the summer of 2002 at a celebration for Queen Elizabeth II’. Dubbed “The Party at the Palace,” Ladysmith Black Mambazo joined with Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Joe Cocker, Phil Collins and Paul McCartney on McCartney’s song’s “Hey Jude” and “All You Need Is Love.”

The music sung by Ladysmith Black Mambazo is called isicathamiya. In the mines of South Africa, black workers would entertain themselves after a six-day week by singing songs into the night, and choreographing dance steps on “tip toe” so as not to disturb the camp security guards. When the miners returned to the homelands, the tradition returned with them. Ladysmith Black Mambazo is by far the most famous of the South African isicathamiya groups.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

While the group’s music is clearly rooted in African musical traditions, the message speaks to all people whose ears and hearts are open, says Shabalala, a native of South Africa’s Zulu people who converted to Christianity around the time of his musical awakening in the late 1950s and early 1960s. To this day he is an active minister in a township outside of Durban, where he gives sermons in Zulu. “Without hearing the lyrics, this music gets into the blood, because it comes from the blood,”? he says. “It invokes enthusiasm and excitement, regardless of what you follow spiritually.”

Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Joseph Shabalala – Photo by R. Hoffman

Shabalala’s spirituality underwent the supreme test during the making of Raise Your Spirit Higher -Wenyukela. In the spring of 2002, his wife of thirty years was murdered in a church parking lot by a masked gunman. To date, no conviction has been made. Despite the overwhelming grief that inevitably follows such a profound loss, Shabalala chose the spiritual high road and has remained on it since. He keeps Nellie’s memory and spirit alive in his heart and music, and his faith remains unshaken. “?At the time that this happened, I tried to take my mind deep into the spirit, because I know the truth is there,” he says. “In my flesh, I might be angry, I might cry, I might suspect somebody. But when I took my mind into the spirit, the spirit told me to be calm and not to worry. Bad things happen, and the only thing to do is to raise your spirit higher.”

Eternally optimistic, Shabalala is confident that his perseverance in the face of personal tragedy is a powerful sign for the world to heed: “When the world looks at you and finds the tears in your eyes, but you smile in spite of the tears, then they discover that, ‘Oh, he’s right when he says you must be strong, because many things have happened to him, and he still carries on with the spirit of the music.”

Ladysmith is regarded as a national treasure of the new South Africa in part because they embody the traditions suppressed in the old South Africa.

Line-up: Joseph Shabalala -lead vocals; Albert Mazibuko – vocals; Sibongiseni Shabalala – vocals; Thamsanqa Shabalala – vocals; Thulani Shabalala – vocals; Msizi Shabalala – vocals; Jockey Shabalala – vocals; Abednego Mazibuko – vocals; Russel Mthembu – vocals; and Jabulani Dubazana – vocals.

Jockey Shabalala died in 2006.


Amabutho (Gallo Record Company, 1973)
Imbongi (Gallo Record Company, 1973)
Ufakazi Yibheshu featuring Empangeni Home Tigers (Gallo Record Company, 1973)
Umama Lo! (Gallo Record Company, 1974)
Isitimela (Gallo Record Company, 1974)
Ukukhanya Kwelanga (Gallo Record Company, 1975)
Amaqhawe (Gallo Record Company, 1976)
Ukusindiswa (Gallo Record Company, 1977)
Shintsha Sithothobala (Gallo Record Company, 1977)
Phezulu Emafini (Gallo Record Company, 1977)
Ushaka (Gallo Record Company, 1978)
Indlela yaseZulwini (Gallo Record Company, 1978)
Ezinkulu (Gallo Record Company, 1979)
Intokozo (Gallo Record Company, 1980)
Nqonqotha Mfana (Gallo Record Company, 1980)
Ulwandle Oluncgwele (Gallo Record Company, 1981)
Cologne Zulu Festival (Gallo Record Company, 1981)
Phansi Emgodini (Gallo Record Company, 1981)
Umthombo Wamanzi (Gallo Record Company, 1982)
Induku Zethu (Gallo Record Company, 1983)
Ibhayibheli Liyindlela (Gallo Record Company, 1984)
Inkazimulo (Gallo Record Company, 1985)
Inala (Gallo Record Company, 1985)
Ezulwini Siyakhona (Gallo Record Company, 1986)
Shaka Zulu Warner Bros (1-25582) 1987)
Thandani (Gallo Record Company, 1987)
Zibuyinhlazane (Gallo Record Company, 1988)
Journey of Dreams (Warner Bros Records, 1988)
Isigqi Zendoda (Gallo Record Company, 1990)
Two Worlds, One Heart (Warner Bros Records, 1990)
Favourites (Gallo Record Company, 1992)
Classic Tracks Shanachie Records 1992)
The Best of Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Vol 1 (Shanachie Records, 1992)
Liph’ Iqiniso (Gallo Record Company, 1993)
Gift Of The Tortoise (Gallo Record Company, 1994)
Zulu Hits Vol. 1 (Gallo Record Company, 1995)
Gospel Hits Vol. 2 (Gallo Record Company, 1995)
Shosholoza with the Team Shosholoza (Gallo Record Company, 1995)
Thuthukani Ngoxolo (Gallo Record Company, 1996)
Ukuzala-Ukuzelula with the Mahubo Nesigekle Ladies Choir (Gallo Record Company, 1995)
Heavenly (Gallo Record Company, 1997)
The Best of Ladysmith Black Mambazo – The Star and the Wiseman (Gallo Record Company, 1998)
Gospel Songs (Wrasse, 2000)
In Harmony (Wrasse/UMTV, 1999)
Live at the Royal Albert Hall (Shanachie Records, 1999)
In Harmony – Live at the Royal Albert Hall (Wrasse/UMTV, 1999)
Lihl’ Ixhiba Likagogo (Gallo Record Company, 2000)
Wenyukela (Gallo Record Company, 2003)
Raise Your Spirit Higher – Wenyukela (Heads Up International/Gallo, 2004)
No Boundaries, with the English Chamber Orchestra (Heads Up International/Gallo, 2004)
Live at Montreux (Eagle Records, 2005)
Long Walk to Freedom (Heads Up International/Gallo, 2006)
The Hits (Gallo Record Company, 2006)
Ilembe (Gallo Record Company/Warner Jazz, 2007), also released as Ilembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu (Heads Up International, 2008)
My Dream – African Sounds, with the SABC Choir (Gallo Record Company, 2008)
Kobuye Kulunge (Gallo Record Company, 2010)
Songs From A Zulu Farm (Listen 2 Entertainment, 2011)
Ladysmith Black Mambazo & Friends (Listen 2 Entertainment, 2012)
Live: Singing For Peace Around The World (Ladysmith Black Mambazo, 2013)
Always With Us (Ladysmith Black Mambazo, 2014)
Music from Inala: a Zulu Ballet (Ladysmith Black Mambazo, 2014)
Walking in the Footsteps of Our Fathers (Ladysmith Black Mambazo, 2016)
Shaka Zulu Revisited (Ladysmith Black Mambazo, 2017)
Songs of Peace and Love for Kids and Parents Around the World (Ladysmith Black Mambazo, 2017)


Ladysmith Black Mambazo – In Harmony: Live at the Royal Albert Hall (Shanachie, 1999)

Ladysmith Black Mambazo – On Tip Toe (New Video Group, 2004)

Live at Montreux (Eagle Rock Entertainment, 2005)


Artist Profiles: Juluka


Juluka was a trailblazing band based in Johannesburg, South Africa, led by Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu. The band formed in the early 1970s and split in the mid 1980s when Johnny embarked on a new career with his own band, Savuka. Juluka reformed in 1996 and recorded a new album, Ya Vuka Inkunzi (Crocodile Love).

The band toured in 1998 to support this album. The songs are recorded in Zulu (indigenous South African language) and English. During the apartheid era in South Africa, Juluka and Savuka were instrumental in drawing international attention to the human rights injustices which were taking place at the time. The band was made up of some of the best live performance musicians in the South African music industry.


Universal Men (CBS, 1979)
African Litany (MINC, 1981)
Ubuhle Bemvelo (MINC, 1982)
Scatterlings (MINC, 1982)
Work For All (MINC, 1983)
Stand Your Ground (Warner Bros. Records, 1984)
Musa Ukungilandela (MINC, 1984)
Juluka Live (The Good Hope Concerts) MINC, 1986)
Crocodile Love (CNR Music, 1997)


Artist Profiles: Johnny Clegg

Johnny Clegg

Johnny Clegg, born in Rochdale, England in 1953 was raised in his mother’s native land of Zimbabwe before emigrating to South Africa at the age of nine.

At the age of 14, Johnny began to learn to play the guitar. Through his interest he met Charlie Mzila, a Zulu apartment cleaner who played street music near Clegg’s home. For two years Johnny learned the fundamentals of Zulu music and traditional Zulu Inhlangwini dancing with Charlie. He was 13 years old when he saw the dancers for the first time. Equipped with his guitar, Johnny accompanied Mzila to all the migrant labor locations, from hostels to rooftop shebeens.

Johnny’s involvement with black musicians often led to him being arrested for trespassing on government property and for contravening the Group Areas Act, (an apartheid law forcing different races to keep to their own residential and recreational areas). In this difficult and complex political landscape, Johnny managed to navigate a path, which enabled him to enter the hidden world of the Zulu migrant laborers.

During this period, he developed a reputation as a competent Zulu guitarist in the Masikande (from the Afrikaans “Musikant”) tradition. This reputation reached the ears of Sipho Mchunu, a migrant Zulu worker who had come up to Johannesburg in 1969 looking for work. Intrigued, he challenged Johnny to a guitar competition, sparking off a friendship and musical partnership destined to alter the face of South African music.

Clegg co-founded Juluka with Sipho MChunu in the mid-1970s. Together they worked, often subjected to racial abuse, threats of violence and police harassment. As places where they could perform were limited by the apartheid laws, they had to stick to the street and private venues such as church and university halls.

When Johnny finished his schooling he went to University, graduating with a BA (Hons) in Social Anthropology and pursued an academic career for four years lecturing at the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Natal.

In 1976 Johnny and Sipho secured a major recording deal and had their first hit song titled, “Woza Friday.” A period of development followed, during which Johnny worked on the concept of bringing together English lyrics and Western melodies with Zulu musical structures.

The formation of “Juluka”, meaning “sweat” in Zulu, as in total contravention of the cultural Segregation laws of the time, which emphasized the separation of language, race and culture. (Juluka was the name of Sipho’s favorite bull, because like all migrants, Sipho practiced some cattle farming in the rural areas). Their music was subjected to censorship and banning and their only way to access an audience was through live touring. In late 1979 their first album Universal Men was released.

Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu released their second album African Litany in early 1981.
Although their work had been largely ignored by the South African Broadcasting corporation due to Juluka’s mixing of languages and African and Western music forms, African Litany became a major breakthrough album for the band through word of mouth and live performances.

Ubuhle Bemvelo was their immediate follow-up Album and was entirely in the Zulu language, but mixing Western and African styles of music.

In 1982 and 1983, Juluka toured the USA, Canada, the UK, Germany and Scandinavia. In 1983 they released Work for All and in late 1984 they released Musa Ukungilandela.

Juluka’s hits in South Africa included “Woza Friday,” “December African Rain,” “Scatterlings of Africa,” “African Sky Blue,” “Universal Men,” “Digging for Some Words,” “Impi,” “Kilimanjaro,” “iBhola Lethu,” “Afrika (Kukhala Bangcwele)” and scores of other great songs.

Juluka split in the mid-80’s and Johnny went on to form Savuka. Their hits included “Great Heart,” “Asimbonanga,” “Cruel Crazy Beautiful World,” “The Crossing,” “Third World Child,” “Shadow Man,” “Dela, Take My Heart Away,” “I Call Your Name” and more.

In 1987 – 1989, Johnny Clegg & Savuka became the largest selling non-French band in France, overtaking the likes of Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson.

In 1996 Johnny reunited with Sipho Mchunu, marking the birth of a new Juluka project. The first major show was at the Standard Bank Arena in Johannesburg. Billed as “The Full Story“, this show marked the rebirth of the new Juluka and after 18 months in studio the album Ya Vuka Inkunzi (Crocodile Love) was released.

Johnny Clegg has worked on several film soundtracks, including Rain Man, Jock Of The Bushveld, Ferngully (with Thomas Dolby), The Power of One, George of the Jungle and many others. He has also collaborated with several other well known artists on various projects such as Sting’s “Carnival” project for the Rainforest Foundation.

Johnny received the Ordre de Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French Government and was nominated for a Grammy in 1993 for the Heat, Dust and Dreams album.

Up until 1994, Johny Clegg recorded four albums, then withdrew from the rock scene little by little, as he came up against various nationalist movements that he was fighting against. Johnny and Sipho began looking at reforming Juluka. This came to fruition in 1996 when they went into the studio and they commenced recording Crocodile Love, released in 1997.

Crocodile Love is a broad crossover album, reflecting a broad variety of traditional and modern African styles current in South Africa today. Some of the songs are energetic combinations of traditional Zulu guitar styles put to contemporary rock rhythms. Traditional Zulu chants feature prominently on this Album and there is a blending of Zulu and English lyrics which Juluka is famous for.

Over the years Johnny Clegg has accumulated a number of songs which could not be incorporated into other albums he was working on at the time. He has collected all of these songs which deal with life in the 21 st century. The songs deal with subjects like genetic engineering, the meeting point between humans and digital information culture, and survival in the new millennium for individuals.

This album, released in 2002, is called New World Survivor and a limited edition of 2000 personally autographed copies were sold off his web site JC.COM.

During this period Johnny began working with a number of AIDS awareness campaigns. He performed concerts on behalf of the Norwegian government in South Korea, Thailand and Cape Town, promoting safe sex and AIDS education

In November 2003 Johnny Clegg performed at the first 46664 Concert for the Nelson Mandela Aids foundation. He has performed for all the subsequent concerts both in South Africa and Norway (2004-2005).

In 2004 he performed in the 10 years of South Africa Democracy celebration in France and the USA. Clegg ushered in 2005 with a spectacular concert on new-years’ eve, in Nantes, France, playing an open-air concert for 60 000 people. At the end of the show, the Mayor presented JC with an honorary citizenship of the city.

In 2005 he did his first tour to Australia and New Zealand and began recording his latest album to be released in September 2006.

It was in 2006 that Johnny Clegg made a remarkable comeback to the world stage.


Third World Child (Minc, 1985)
South Africa: Cologne Zulu Festival (Network Medien GmbH, 1992)
A South African Story (Live At The Nelson Mandela Theatre) (EMI, 2003
Best Of Live At The Nelson Mandela Theatre (Capitol Music, 2004)
One Life (Rhythm Dog Music, 2006)
At The Baxter Theatre Cape Town: Best, Live & Unplugged (2006)
Human (EMI Music France, 2010)
King Of Time (Universal Music, 2017)


Artist Profiles: Abdullah Ibrahim

Abdullah Ibrahim

Some knew him as Dollar Brand, others by his adopted moniker of Abdullah Ibrahim, which he began using in the late 1960s after his conversion to Islam. Either way, the piano styling of this remarkable South African musician have made their indelible mark in both the jazz and world genres for over half a century.

Ibrahim was born Adolphe Johannes Brand in Capetown in 1934, and quickly nicknamed Dollar. Learning the piano from the age of 7, he honed his early talent in the church. By the late 1940s he was already playing with local jazz big bands.

In the early 1960s alongside trumpeter Hugh Masekela, saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi, and trombonist Jonas Gwangwa, he was a central figure in South Africa’s own progressive jazz movement which took its lead from the New York-based sounds being articulated at the time by John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk among others. His Jazz Epistles group, which included Masekela and Gwangwa, broke new musical ground, with a distinctive African influence added to the jazz improvisation.

He left South Africa in 1962 due to the worsening political situation and, in a now-legendary meeting, his new Dollar Brand Trio was discovered by Duke Ellington while playing in Zurich, Switzerland club. Ellington quickly arranged a recording session with Reprise Records, and the Trio began playing the major American and European jazz festivals to enthusiastic acclaim. Brand/Ibrahim’s powerful tonal clusters, repeating African melodies, and creative improvisations were to become his trademarks.

He returned briefly to South Africa in the mid-1970s, but found the conditions so oppressive that he went back into exile in New York. He finally returned to live in Capetown in 1990.

His discography as both a leader and sideman lists well over a hundred album credits, including African Space Program, Ekaya, Tintinyana and Black Lightning. He composed the award-winning soundtrack for the 1988 French/African film Chocolat. Other releases include Cape Town Revisited, Ancient Africa, Celebration, and Township One More Time.


Artist Profiles: Dizu Zungulu Plaatjies

Dizu Plaatjies

The son of an African herbalist, vocalist, percussionist and dancer Dizu Zungulu Plaatjies was born on 5 February 1957. His parents called him Zungulu, ‘the Hunter’, mainly because of the shape of his eyes, which they considered to be searching for something. “When I was young my father, as a traditional doctor, used to take me to celebrations where they used to dance, play the drums and sing and I grew up in that kind of environment.”

This background gave Zungulu a fierce determination to protect the traditions of indigenous music and African culture. “Music,” says Dizu Plaatjies, “is a part of African life. By preserving music, we will preserve the traditions and keep alive the memories of our ancestors that today are so easily forgotten.” His first drum was made by stretching a skin over an oil can and as a member of Langa’s church choir, he met the other members of what became Amampondo.

As well as their work with Amampondo, Dizu Plaatjies &Mzwandile Qotoyi collaborate on what are called DZM Projects, dedicated to recording and advancing the cause of indigenous South African music. The pair are featured on the Ethno Trance Live and the Madosini Project – Power to the Women.

Dizu also collaborated with trance/techno outfit Juno Reactor, having toured internationally with them in 97/98, and toured to launch Juno’s album Shango.


With Amampondo:

Uyandibiza (Claremont Records, 1983)
Searching for the missing link ‎(Teal Trutone Music, 1986)
State Of Emergency ‎(Assembly Records, 1988)
Feel The Pulse Of Africa (Claremont Records, 1989)
State Of Emergency ‎(ProJazz, 1990)
An Image Of Africa (EWM Records, 1992)
Drums For Tomorrow (M.E.L.T. 2000, 1997)
Inyama ‎(Mountain Records, 1997)
Vuyani ‎(M.E.L.T. 2000, 2000)
Raw And Undiluted ‎(M.E.L.T. 2000, 2005)
IntSholo ‎(Mountain Records, 2008)

Solo and collaborations:

Ethno Trance Live, with Mzwandile Qotoyi (1996)
Ibuyambo ‎(Mountain Records, 2003)
Fidel Pondo ‎(M.E.L.T. 2000, 2005)
Ubuntu – The Common String ‎(Mountain Records, 2015)


Artist Profiles: Mzwandile Qotoyi

Mzwandile Qotoyi – Bass & piccolo marimba, African drums, percussion, vocals, and dance.

Born on 12 November 1951, in Langa, multi-instrumentalist Mzwandile Qotoyi is known as ‘The Big Man’. As a boy, after school he used to jam in the streets with his homemade guitar and drums and then went on to study classical music at the University of Cape Town. As a teenager he started playing in the St. Francis Cultural Church Choir, where he met Dizu Plaatjies and the other members of Amampondo.

Mzwandile also collaborated with Dizu on DZM Projects. The pair is featured on Ethno Trance Live and produced an album from the Queen of Xhosa folk music, Madosini.


Uyandibiza (Claremont Records, 1983)
Searching for the missing link ‎(Teal Trutone Music, 1986)
State Of Emergency ‎(Assembly Records, 1988)
Feel The Pulse Of Africa (Claremont Records, 1989)
State Of Emergency ‎(ProJazz, 1990)
An Image Of Africa (EWM Records, 1992)
Drums For Tomorrow (M.E.L.T. 2000, 1997)
Inyama ‎(Mountain Records, 1997)
Vuyani ‎(M.E.L.T. 2000, 2000)
Raw And Undiluted ‎(M.E.L.T. 2000, 2005)
IntSholo ‎(Mountain Records, 2008)


Artist Profiles: Simpiwe Matole

Simpiwe Matole – Soprano marimba, vocals, dance/acrobatics.

Born on 29 May 1963, Simpiwe Matole is the only boy in a family of daughters and was thus given the name of ‘gift’. He went to school in Langa until Standard 9 and completed his education in Transkei.

Simpiwe’s father, Themba, is a jazz pianist and Simpiwe is more than proficient on piano, but his forte is his masterful playing of the marimba and xylophone, which he learned as a member of the church choir he joined in 1978.

Through the choir, he also met Dizu Plaatjies and joined Amampondo. As the leading marimba player on the Cape, Simpiwe made a guest appearance on the Barungwa album, The Messengers, and produced the debut album from Achisa as well as contributing to their recently released second album Bill of Rights. He has also contributed to the Spotlight South Afrika compilations, with a solo track on Jazzin’and Jivin’. However his talents are fully expressed and recognised on Amampondo‘s release Vuyani, which Simpiwe expertly produced.

Simpiwe has also collaborated with Juno Reactor, and toured internationally with them on the Shango tour.


Artist Profiles: Michael ‘Nkululeku’ Ludonga

Michael ‘Nkululeku’ Ludonga – African drums, tenor marimba, vocals, dance.

Born on 15 November 1962, in Langa, drummer and marimba player Michael ‘Nkululeku’ Ludonga was given the name ‘Nkululeku’, – ‘freedom’ – because of ‘the end of the war’.

Michael’s father is a singer and composer, so he comes from a musical background and played a snare drum with the local Drum Majorettes. However his musical career really began in the church choir where he met other members of Amampondo.

Michael is another member of Amampondo that collaborated with Juno Reactor.