Amampondo
 

AmampondoAmampondo was formed in 1980 by Dizu 'Zungulu' Plaatjies, Mzwandile Qotoyi and Simpiwe Matole; and was originally made up of seven young men from the same neighbourhood in Langa township, outside Cape Town. They were raised in an environment of traditional dancers and singers, which meant that they begun to realize the importance of their culture at a very young age. Amampondo, which means 'the people of Mpondo', the fabled land of the Xhosa Kingdom in the Eastern Cape was founded with a strong desire to preserve and protect South African traditional music. Their goal has always been to carry traditional sounds into the future rather than see it washed away by the wave of westernization and the growing influence of American music amongst the African youth. 

Albums:

  1. Drums For Tomorrow
  2. Electric Pondoland
  3. Raw and Undiluted
  4. Vuyani (Celebrate)
  5. Africa 2000 Live at Bagleys London (DVD)
  6. 25 Years Of Skins (DVD)
  7. M.E.L.T. 2000 - The Music Videos
featuring on:
  1. African Meltdown 1 Padare
  2. African Meltdown 2 
  3. Lungiswa - Ekhaya
  4. Music With No Name 1
  5. Music With No Name 2
  6. Music With No Name 3
  7. Juno Reactor - Shango

Twenty years later Plaatjies, Mzwandile Qotoyi, Mandla Lande, Simpiwe Matole, Xola Mbizela, Michael Ludonga together with the newer members are still bound by their dedication to African culture. The journey of this eleven-man percussion ensemble has been a long one. Starting out on the streets of Cape Town, they busked to raise cash for more instruments and by 1981 were playing at the Scratch Club. During the same time they were also working with ethnomusicologists to study the traditions found in Nigeria, The Ivory Coast, Uganda, Zimbabwe and the Transkei.
Working with the rhythms, dances and songs of the Xhosa, Zulu, Shangaan and Sotho people, the group created a pan African sound that soon won them critical acclaim. In 1983 they travelled to Johannesburg where they played at the Market Theatre. Here they were reviewed to see if they were suitable for export as ambassadors of South African music. Planning on spending two weeks there they stayed six years, given work and subsequently sent to perform in Israel, Reunion and Taiwan. These travels however led to some amount of trouble for the band later on.

altIn 1988 Amampondo were asked to play at Nelson Mandela's seventieth birthday concert at Wembley. This spectacular performance established their international reputation as one of the world's best percussion groups, and seen by millions on television worldwide was a huge success for the band. All their fees were donated to the ANC demonstrating their political activism during this period, but unfortunately on their return the ANC's cultural desk had banned them from performing either outside or inside South Africa. They claimed it was a result of them playing in Israel and Taiwan, but having just played at Mandela's concert the boycott was somewhat surprising. Unable to perform for four years, the band stayed in Langa and concentrated upon educational programs in an effort to teach South African culture in schools. These workshops and the satisfaction gained from giving something back to society helped keep the band together. Eventually help arrived with the assistance of Archbishop Desmond Tutu with whom they had previously recorded an album Give Praise Where Praise Is Deserved after he won the Nobel peace Prize.alt He wrote to the ANC complaining about the boycott, and it was shortly reversed unleashing Amampondo once more onto the international stage. Carrying their clearance letter they set off for Germany and France in '92 with five months grace before the boycott was reinforced ! However by this time Nelson Mandela was about to walk free giving them his blessing. Madiba recommended them for work having seen one of their videos whilst in prison. He promoted them as ambassadors of South African music and to this day they remain his favourite band. It was he who nominated them to represent their country at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games held in Atlanta in '96. "WE HAVE TO MIX" was the slogan at a live concert at the Baxter Theater in Cape Town where , during the Outernational Meltdown recordings in 1994 Amampondo met with Robert Trunz.

 

Trunz became instantly enamoured with their music. Only a few tracks of their repertoire we released on the triple CD release and due to other contractual arrangements he was unable to sign them until '96, but their debut album for MELT, Drums for Tomorrow (BW096) was certainly worth the wait. Produced by Cameroonian virtuoso Brice Wassy this album incorporates the familiar marimbas, drums, chants and acappella singing as well as adding other African instruments alongside saxophones and trumpets. It also features guests from around the world such as Airto Moreira from Brazil and Changuito from Cuba, Emmanuelle Sejourne from France and Chris Stiefel from Switzerland on keyboard. Introducing global influences, the spirit of the album remains true to Africa. Another important step in their career has been their collaboration with Mabi Thobejane, who since leaving Sakhile, has found a new spiritual home with Amampondo.

Check live video

 
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From October through to the middle of November 1998, the fifteen Amampondo members braved the Scandinavian winter and toured extensively throughout Sweden, Norway and Finland, performing and running educational workshops at festivals, clubs and schools. Hosted by the School of Music at the University of Gothenburg, their goal was as much to heighten the interest in traditional African music, as it was to demonstrate the importance of such music and instruments as tools in the education of music students and teachers, thus redressing the previous reliance on Eurocentric music teaching methods in South African schools and worldwide. Whilst preserving the spirit of tradition, they also want to carry this forward and make it more accessible to the masses. This is demonstrated in their collaboration with techno outfit, Juno Reactor whom they met in 97. Dizu Plaatjies, Simpiwe Matole, Mandla Lande, Michael Ludonga, and Mabi Thobejane toured with Juno Reactor supporting Moby on a five week tour of the US bringing the music of their homeland into the realms of contemporary dance music. Clad in body paint and full costume Amampondo wowed the crowds with their acrobatics whilst beating out their percussive rhythms alongside Ben Watkins' techno and guitar riffs. They have since collaborated on Shango (ELM8033), Juno's new album and are touring the album internationally. In October 2000 six members of the band performed with the great British jazz saxophonist, Alan Skidmore, around Great Britain and Berlin. Simpiwe, Mandla, Michael, Blackie, Mzwandile and Alan continued their creative collaboration that begun in 99 when they guested on Skidmore's album The Callreleased on Provocateur Records. In addition to this Dizu and Mzwandile Qotoyi also work together as DZM Projects, which is dedicated to recording and advancing the cause of traditional South African music. altThey featured on the bootleg.net release, Ethno Trance Live (BNET002) and have recently worked on an album from Madosini. Educating people about the importance of preserving their heritage, Dizu also teaches African instruments and dance at the University of Cape TownÙs College of Music. We believe that music is a unifying force and our task is to unite people and encourage them to appreciate Africa explains Dizu, We started Amampondo because of the lack of African music in our country. The kids are now influenced musically by America and we need to change that. Having travelled the world transporting their music to over thirty countries on every continent, their dynamic display traverses cultural and historical boundaries and has made them the popaltular percussion ensemble that they are today. The closing of the millennium marked a milestone in the life of Amampondo, celebrated in the release of Vuyani(BW2143) in October 2000. Completed at the end of 99, Vuyani is a celebration of twenty years of music making in the life of this exceptional group. The album includes some of the band's favourite past tracks revamped and performed in different ways with some superb new tunes as well, and is guaranteed to carry you through Africa to the heart of the motherland, lifting spirits and awakening the dancer within everyone. Vuyani not only celebrates the coming of age of the group, but also the immense talents of Simpiwe Matole, as a multi-instrumentalist and fine producer of the new album. The current members of Amampondo are: Simpiwe Matole Soprano marimba, vocals, dance/acrobatics Mzwandile Qotoyi Bass & piccolo marimba, African drums, percussion, vocals, and dance Michael 'Nkululeku' Ludonga African drums, tenor marimba, vocals, dance Mandla Lande African drums, percussion (djembe/congas), vocals, dance/acrobatics Blackie Zandisile Mbizela Bass marimba, percussion, vocals, dance Nondzondelelo Fancy Galada Lead and backing vocals, percussion, dance Mantombi Matotiyane Lead and backing vocals, umrhumbhe, isitolotolo and dance Dave Mxolise Mayekana on vocals.