In the pres­ence of folk­lore

Mu­si­cians Dizu Plati­jies and Ibuyambo bring their unique brand of South African mu­sic to St. John’s Col­lege and the In­ter­na­tional Folk Art Mar­ket

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Paul Wei­de­man

Eight mem­bers of the South African ensem­ble Ibuyambo bring their brightly per­cus­sive mu­sic and col­or­ful stage pres­ence to Santa Fe this week­end. The group, led by Dizu Plaatjies, is a stand­out at this year’s In­ter­na­tional Folk Art Mar­ket. The mu­si­cians of­fer a free con­cert on the evening of Wed­nes­day, July 8, at St. John’s Col­lege, and play at the an­nual mar­ket on Mu­seum Hill on Satur­day, July 11, and Sun­day, July 12.

Plaatjies is the founder and for­mer leader of the South African group Amampondo, which per­formed world­wide for more than 15 years. “The group started out as Amampondo and that is de­rived from the Pondo Tribe,” said Jongisilo Pok­wana ka Men­ziwa, man­ager of Dizu Plaatjies and Ibuyambo, in an in­ter­view from Johannesburg. The Pondo (aka Mpondo) peo­ple be­long to a South­ern Nguni cul­tural group — Nguni is the col­lec­tive name for a ma­jor group of Bantu-speak­ing peo­ples who live be­tween the Drak­ens­berg Moun­tains and the In­dian Ocean on the south­ern tip of the African con­ti­nent.

The group leader re­turned to South Africa in 1997 fol­low­ing an in­ter­na­tional tour with Amampondo. He be­gan lec­tur­ing about African dance and mu­sic at the Univer­sity of Cape Town. To­day he is a se­nior lec­turer at the South African Col­lege of Mu­sic, Univer­sity of Cape Town. “Most of the work he does is re­lated to mu­sic pro­duc­tion and de­vel­op­ment,” said Pok­wana, a tribal leader who also plays acous­tic guitar and pi­ano.

Plaatjies was born in 1960 in Lusik­isiki, a town on the ru­ral out­skirts of South Africa’s Eastern Cape province. As a child, he was in­ter­ested in the tra­di­tional ways of his peo­ple. His fa­ther, a healer, saw that Dizu and his other chil­dren par­tic­i­pated in tra­di­tional cer­e­monies and schooled them in tribal cus­toms and mu­sic. Plaatjies went on to grad­u­ate from the Univer­sity of Cape Town.

He has been en­cour­aged on his path — fo­cus­ing on pre­sent­ing a mod­ern­ized form of South African tribal mu­sic to the wider world — by Ugan­dan com­poser Evan­ge­listo Muyanda, Cuban per­cus­sion­ist Chan­guito, and Aus­trian eth­nol­o­gist and mu­si­cian Ger­hard Ku­bik. He has in­te­grated non­tra­di­tional el­e­ments into his per­for­mances; these in­clude work­ing with rhythms that re­late to the mu­sic of Mozam­bique, Congo, and Zim­babwe.

His cur­rent ensem­ble, Ibuyambo, came into ex­is­tence af­ter he gath­ered a new group of mu­si­cians for his de­but al­bum, 2003’s

Ibuyambo. He ex­plores novel, in­ter­est­ing sounds but still in the con­text of a band pri­mar­ily play­ing lo­cally pro­duced per­cus­sion in­stru­ments. The sto­ry­telling lyrics, some­times de­liv­ered in a lively call-and-re­sponse style, deal with the dif­fi­cul­ties of rec­on­cil­ing tra­di­tions and the is­sues of mod­ern life, so­cial dis­il­lu­sion­ment, and ro­man­tic themes.

In Santa Fe, au­di­ences will hear Ibuyambo per­form­ing a host of per­cus­sion in­stru­ments and guitar, but no horns. The mu­sic is daz­zling and of­ten play­ful, but it also holds deep tales. “There are cul­tural mu­sic and cul­tural dances and cul­tural fes­tiv­i­ties that hap­pen dur­ing the year,” Pok­wana said. “Dizu Plaatjies started this move­ment and wanted to pop­u­lar­ize it and show how these peo­ple dance and sing and celebrate in the scope of the African pres­ence of folk­lore. This move­ment gave to what is now called Ibuyambo, a word that means ‘back to the roots’ or ‘home­com­ing.’ This is why you see the group uses in­stru­ments like the marimba and some­times the kora [stringed in­stru­ment] and the

mbira [or African thumb-pi­ano]. “The per­for­mance is about mu­sic and dance and also show­cas­ing our at­tire that is worn for var­i­ous fes­tiv­i­ties. In our cul­ture, there is a par­tic­u­lar mu­sic and a par­tic­u­lar dance and par­tic­u­lar at­tire for par­tic­u­lar oc­ca­sions, whether it is when a child is born or when a boy is go­ing to ini­ti­a­tion school [for man­hood rites in­volv­ing tra­di­tional cir­cum­ci­sion] or when some­one dies.”

The group’s acous­tic guitar is a new in­no­va­tion with Ibuyambo. In Plaatjies’ ear­lier work, he col­lab­o­rated with pop and jazz mu­si­cians, or­ches­tral brass play­ers, and techno dance pro­duc­ers, but only in his new­est work — in­clud­ing on his sec­ond al­bum, African Kings (2008) — did he add a Western in­stru­ment: the guitar. How­ever, it is played in the

maskandi style com­mon in ru­ral south­ern Africa. Mar­ket­go­ers can find out more in an in­ti­mate work­shop with Ibuyambo.

Dizu Plaatjies; cour­tesy In­ter­na­tional Folk Art Mar­ket

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