Ntombe Thongo SOUTH AFRICA

Ntombe Thongo

 Dibanisile, Tutsu, aka Ntombe Thongo is an artist and lead guitar player.

Here he recounts his story:

I was born in 1977 on the 4th of April in the village of Mthambalala in the Transkei in the Eastern Cape, near Port St Johns. This is how I got to where I am now. In 1983 I was six years old when I started to be a Khankatha (this is someone who helps a trainee to become a sangoma - a traditional healer ) to my sister till 1989. The following year  when i passed to standard 1 I got terribly sick. It was so bad that I was unable to start my new class; my father and my mother found out that the sickness was a sign for me to become a healer.

In April 1992, I had a dream about a sangoma who was coming from far away relative to where we were staying. In the dream the voice of my grand father was telling me that this Sangoma can help me. In a few days, this short and light skin looking person with no teeth on top of her mouth came to my village and I told my mother that she is here. My mom asked me who was here, as she had forgotten about my dream. This then transpired that later I was allowed to begin my training. I was so excited that I was going to do what was needed from my ancestors for my body. I started in April up to the very special day of my graduation first of 1 October 1993. Whilst I was training to become a sangoma, i had a dream in 1992, sometime closer to December, in the dream an old grandmother was talking to me, she said look here and look behind you, when I looked behind me I saw something that looks like a saw, she said this is the beginning take that and play it, I said to her I don't know what it is and I don't even know how to play it. That's when she showed me, that this is an instrument called Mrhube (Mqangi), I promise you it only took me four days to learn how to play this instrument. I never knew what she was talking about when she said this is the beginning until i started learning to play the keyboard very quickly in 1998. But before in 1998 I went to Mthatha looking for a job because things didn't go very well for me as a sangoma. In February I started training in a company called Crime Beat Security. I trained for six weeks then I worked for 4 months, its also didn't go well for me there too. My ancestors had never allowed me to work for somebody and they didn't allow me to study at school. This has been a difficult challenge in my life, so much so that I could not do anything in English till I met Chris Ried in 1995 who we call Ntombe Mhlophe meaning that he is a white girl of the ancestors. He taught me a bit of English while he was doing his training, then when he finished he asked me if i would like to came and stay in Cape Town for a while. In January 1999 I stayed for three months with him and Rod Suskin. Then I met my very best friend Anthony Cohen who could not say even one word in Xhosa, that is when I started to speak better English and learn to read and write in English. As I said in December 1998 I started to learn keyboard that was very quick and easy. By 1999 a friend of mine gave me an old guitar that he got from his boss where he works. Nearly end of 1999 I decided to form a group of young boys in the village as I could see myself getting much better from teaching myself how to play guitar. Sipho Mmoshwa was the first guy that I asked to play with me as I also got the guitar from his uncle, we call him Zero Wally but his real name is MR Z Goba. He has helped me from the beginning by buying the instruments to start the band igniting my music dream. He is not from my family but he just saw the talent in me then decided to help. First I gave the band a name called Ntombe Thongo On The Line. In 2003 when the band got bigger I changed the name to Thongo African Band. The band started with three people but these days I'm working with a group of 11 to 15 people. But on the beginning of 2003 I left the band looking for more information about being a musician. I went to Cape Town to work with Brett Bailey, who was a director of the show called iMumbo Jumbo. In July 2003 we flew to London with our show appearing at Barbican International Theater. After we got back to SA everybody went home as the show time had ended. I came back to my village called Mtambalala to work with my band I found that the band had broken up. I started again with new people who had absolutely no experience with music. I found that I was so lucky to be blessed with talented people who made my job of teaching them so much easier as I was worried about them. Soon we had many shows that were big and popular which made them strong and confident about performing. I have done so many shows with the band around the Eastern Cape area. I also went to Pretoria to perform with the band in a concert that was organized by Melt 2000 parts of it were released on a DVD.

 


I am healing all those who listen to my music because my music is about, letting people know that life change's every day and that we must learn the ways of dealing with life's challenges. My dream is to see this band traveling from place to place not just to enjoy ourselves, but too work as musicians as we always say to the people in our village we are keeping ourselves busy and creating jobs.