Otto Gumaelius is a London based, Botswana raised, percussionist specialising in the Kwanongoma marimba and mbira nyunga nyunga of southern Africa. He writes and performs with his band, Otto & The Mutapa Calling, and teaches music from Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana through his cultural arts and events company, Taste of Southern Africa. He is also a published author with a 1st Class Master of Arts Honours Degree in International Management. He speaks four languages, and has lived, studied and worked in five countries around the world.
Born and bred in Botswana, Otto started playing and performing in marimba bands in 1998 at the age of 11. He continued throughout his secondary school years, studying under marimba pioneer and composer, Alport Mhlanga. He played in the school band until he left Botswana in 2003, having performed widely in Botswana and South Africa.
After relocating to Sweden, Otto joined Zimba Marimba Band, a high energy marimba band specialising in the music, dance and traditions of the Shona people of Zimbabwe. With Zimba, through the great initiative of Peta Axelsson, Otto got to delve deeply into the music of Zimbabwe; learning from and performing with an array of internationally acclaimed musicians; working on marimba, mbira, dance, drumming and singing, with performances in and around Scandinavia, Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the United States of America. Highlights include performances for the King and Queen of Sweden in 2003, ZimFest in the USA in 2004, and being specially invited to perform at HIFA - Harare International Festival of the Arts - in 2007.
Otto moved to London in 2010 after graduating, and played with acts and artists including Flame Lily Arts, Afriquoi and Tsungai Tsikirai. In 2016, Otto quit his job as a project manager to pursue a full time career in music. He first formed African Marimba Music Ltd which specialised in marimba music workshops and performances with a focus on the traditions of southern Africa, before later broadening the scope of the company and re-branding to Taste of Southern Africa.
With almost 20 years of experience, and a need for his own voice, Otto decided to put together a band, Otto & The Mutapa Calling, to perform a collection of his own original material as well as arrangements of the folk songs he grew up listening to and playing.
With his band, in the summer of 2018 Otto released his debut album, Mvura Ichanaya, which is available on all major online stores. Click here to listen to samples from the album, or click here to order a physical CD or download a digital copy.
Otto has also featured on recordings by Thornhill Marimba Band, Maru-a-Pula Marimba Band, Zimba Marimba Band, Afriquoi and Flame Lily Arts. He provided music for the documentary, Apes of Brecon Beacon.
Otto began teaching during his teenage years in Sweden. He taught weekly marimba lessons to young people aged 8 – 18 at Staffanstorp's Community Music School, and was regularly invited to teach both youth and adult groups in Helsingborg and Astorp. Otto led workshops in Iceland with Peta Axelsson in the winter of 2004 and has taught at Zimba Marimba International Marimba Camp in Sweden on several occasions.
Since forming his company, Otto has run a vast number of marimba and mbira workshops at events and festivals in the UK and in Europe catered to people of all ages. Some of these include ZimFest Paris, Southburgh Festival of World Music, The Moonlight Run, Heritage Zimbabwe and Africa Youth Arise Heritage Camp.
Otto runs weekly African marimba and mbira nyunga nyunga (kalimba) music classes in Bethnal Green, London. More info available here.
Taste of Southern Africa
In 2017, Otto launched Taste of Southern Africa Ltd, as a platform promoting the cultural arts of southern Africa in the United Kingdom and beyond. The organisation runs dance and music workshops, talks, jam sessions and various events including live music events and networking.