THE SOUND OF HEAL­ING

PER­CUS­SION­IST THABANG TABANE’S DE­BUT AL­BUM, MATJALE, IS A TES­TA­MENT TO HIS DE­VO­TION TO LEARN­ING AND HIS STRONG CON­NEC­TION WITH TSHIVENDA CUL­TURE

Destiny Man - - DOWNTIME - | BY KOJO BAFFOE

Grow­ing up in some­one’s shadow can be hard, although a shadow can pro­vide pro­tec­tion from the sun’s harsh rays, en­abling one to grow within a gen­tler en­vi­ron­ment. Some of us grow bet­ter with­out the at­ten­tion. How­ever, some shad­ows are deeper and wider than oth­ers – which seems to be the case for Thabang Tabane, son of leg­endary mu­si­cian Dr Phillip

Nchipi Tabane.

Tabane, who passed away last year at the age of 84, was more than a gui­tarist and cre­ator of mal­ombo mu­sic. He was also a healer, a spir­i­tu­al­ist and a philoso­pher of sorts, who carved his own path, rooted in SA, even when he had am­ple op­por­tu­nity to make a home in the USA and be­yond. An oft-told story is that he turned down the chance to work with Miles Davis to come back home to Mamelodi.

But this story is about his son, per­cus­sion­ist Thabang Tabane. Asked about the chal­lenges of hav­ing such a leg­endary fa­ther, he replies humbly: “My fam­ily’s very sim­ple. I’ve never felt any pres­sure. I guess I was lucky. I’m my own per­son. I’m not in my fa­ther’s shadow.”

Ac­cord­ing to Ox­ford Dic­tionar­ies On­line, mal­ombo has two def­i­ni­tions: “1. A Venda rite of ex­or­cism and heal­ing con­ducted by a di­viner, ac­com­pa­nied by drum­ming, singing and danc­ing, which causes a high

2.

state of ner­vous ex­cite­ment. Usu­ally at­tribu­tive.

A style of mu­sic com­bin­ing el­e­ments of the mu­sic per­formed in tra­di­tional mal­ombo cer­e­monies, es­pe­cially the drums and drum­ming style, with el­e­ments taken from jazz and African pop­u­lar mu­sic.”

Thabang Tabane per­formed and toured with his fa­ther from a young age, form­ing an in­te­gral part of later it­er­a­tions of The Mal­ombo Jazzmen. He con­nected not with his fa­ther’s pub­lic im­age, but rather with the mean­ing and res­o­nance of the mu­sic. And with his de­but al­bum, Matjale, he taps into the mal­ombo spirit in all its forms in songs that are both con­tem­po­rary and an­cient, for­ward-look­ing and rooted in the past.

He’s been around mu­sic all his life – not just through per­form­ing with his fa­ther, but also by liv­ing in the same home in Mamelodi, Pre­to­ria – so you’d think he’d al­ready have a num­ber of al­bums un­der his belt. How­ever, he says: “This is the right time. I’ve been learn­ing all along, play­ing with dif­fer­ent mu­si­cians, play­ing with my fa­ther, tour­ing ex­ten­sively, etc. This is the time.”

Matjale re­flects Tabane’s de­vo­tion to learn­ing and his strong con­nec­tion with Tshivenda cul­ture. It re­flects a mu­si­cal her­itage that goes far be­yond his fa­ther. You in­habit each song, rather than merely lis­ten­ing to it. “I want to cre­ate good mu­sic that can heal peo­ple,” says Tabane. With Matjale, he does just that.

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