I spent my Saturday afternoon teaching marimba workshops at Southburgh Festival of World Music, and what a great day it was! The festival was full of friendly smiles. It was a treat getting to see Chartwell Dutiro perform with his group Mystic Mbira. A big thanks to Anna Mudeka for having me. I hope to be back next year!
I've just come back from a lovely long weekend in Paris where I got the opportunity to teach and perform. The occasion was ZimFest - and the weekend was all about cultural music from Zimbabwe, even though I of course snuck in some material from Botswana :) On offer were mbira and marimba workshops, which included elements of singing and dancing. On the Saturday the teachers and other collaborators came together to give a concert, followed by a second smaller concert on Sunday afternoon where the students got to showcase what they learnt.
It was a lovely weekend at Théâtre de Verre with a beautiful mix of cultures and people from all walks of life coming together through music.
My teaching took me up to Kettering today, where I worked with teenagers of African heritage, most of whom were born here in the UK, or moved here when they were very young. I shared a few folk songs on the marimbas, and we got to sing and dance a bit as well.
My band and I had the pleasure of being part of this year's Art Night, which took place across several venues across south London. We were part of two live performance processions, curated by Marinella Senatore. The first took place at Battersea Power Station, and the second was at New Union Square in Nine Elms.
Here are a few pictures from the lovely night shot by Robert Piwko.
From the Forest is London’s newest theatre and arts festival, which took place in Waltham Forest from 21st June to 1st July. Starting out as a four day festival in a single venue in the Winter of 2016, the festival expanded to over 60 shows this year, spread across multiple venues over two weeks. Championing the creation of new performances in great venues, the festival aims to provide an affordable platform for artists to showcase their material. Anyone and everyone is welcome to apply to be a part of the festival.
Here are a few pictures and videos from our show.
The song we're playing in the clip above is a Tswana folk song called Mangwane Mpulele. It's sung in Botswana, South Africa and Lesotho.
The words are:
Mangwane mpulele, ke nelwa ke pula
Le ga dile pedi, le ga dile tharo, nka nyala mosadi
Here are some pictures from our Make Music Day UK show at the Scoop yesterday!
It was a cold and cloudy day today, but we enjoyed playing at the launch of the summer bandstand season in Victoria Park!
My band and I spent the day in Coventry at a Zimbabwean culture day event. I shared some marimba songs with the young children and had a general jam towards the end of the afternoon with some of the attendees who grew up playing marimba in Zimbabwe. I find that's always the best part of these days out - meeting people who haven't played or seen a marimba in many years, and being able to give them the opportunity to reunite with the instruments and the songs.
In the evening we got the pleasure of performing an hour long set for the attendees at the culture day event, before joining Stella Chiweshe on the stage. We performed two of her songs with her - Cha Chimurenga and Huya Uzoona.
Here are a few pictures and videos from the day!
Here's a little look into our May bank holiday show at Summer Vibes in Eltham.
Here's a little taster from our show at Wandsworth Arts Fringe! It's a cover of a beautiful lullaby written by the late Chiwoniso Maraire for her children. The song is called Usacheme (Don't Cry).
Summer Gigs Alert!
Here are some of the places to you can catch my lovely band and I this summer! (Updated 24/05/18)
May 19th - Wandsworth Fringe Festival at St Mary's Church in Putney. Click here for tickets.
May 27 - Summer Gala at Goals Eltham. Click here for tickets.
May 30 - All Points East Festival, Bandstand, Victoria Park. Free entry.
June 2nd - #Heritage Zimbabwe Culture Show at Dunchurch Sportsfield and Village Hall in Rugby. Click here for more information.
June 17th - Victoria Park for Victoria Park Bandstand Season.
June 23rd - Luna - Home of Live Music in Leytonstone.
June 30th - From The Forest Festival at Mirth, Marvel & Maud. Click here for tickets.
August 31st - One Love Festival at Gilcombe Farm in Somerset. Click here for tickets.
Friday night saw the marimba band and I performing our southern African music at the wonderful Cadogan Hall in Chelsea. I was last there a few years ago watching Sibongile Khumalo performing alongside Thandiswa Mazwai and Glora Bosman. What an honour it was to play on that same stage!
Here are a few pictures from the night:
Finally, after several years of trying to get a recording underway, I've gotten myself to the studio! I had a great first day recording at Blue Studios in Dalston with Karabo and Graham.
Here are some pics Karabo took:
Here's a little glimpse into our blisteringly cold - but wonderfully artistic - Saturday afternoon at Nine Elms! We were one of five acts invited by _inventory London to take part in On-And-Off (Winter Trail, Remapping Nine Elms). Photo credit: Giulia Brescianini.
Playing marimba music amongst the tropical plants of the Barbican Centre's conservatory felt very right! Although not much of the conservatory is visible in the picture, this was definitely one of the coolest weddings my events band, Duduetsa African Marimba Band, has had the privilege of playing at this year! Warmest congratulations to Ben & Steph!
Every year in December, more than 300 stars, footballers, philanthropists, and leaders in business and media come together at the Grassroot Soccer World AIDS Day Gala in London to support the Grassroot Soccer charity's work to educate, inspire, and mobilize young people in challenging circumstances to live healthier lives.
My events band, Duduetsa African Marimba Band, had the honour of providing southern African entertainment during the first part of the evening.
I'm very excited to be a part of this year's ThisIsNotArt Festival, which is running under the theme of Liminal Boundaries. I'm billed to perform with my band at The Brookmill in Deptford at 8:30. And it's free entry - so come dance with us!
On October 21st in London, marimba percussionist Otto Gumaelius launched the Taste of Southern Africa Cultural Arts Festival, a weekend of activities celebrating the cultural arts of southern Africa.
The festival was founded with the desire to share and promote the cultural arts of southern Africa with the UK during Black History Month. The driving vision behind the festival was to create a platform to appreciate southern African culture in the UK, and to reinforce a positive image of the African continent.
Born to a Motswana mother and a Swedish father, Otto started playing folk music on the marimba in primary school in Botswana. He moved to Sweden in 2003 to pursue his International Baccalaureate diploma, and was able to continue playing the marimba through Zimba Marimba Band, a Swedish marimba band playing traditional Shona music from Zimbabwe. The band undertook several study tours to southern Africa and performed at HIFA (Harare International Festival of the Arts) in 2007. After completing his studies, Otto moved first to Edinburgh for university, and then to London for work.
In 2016, he decided to dedicate himself full time to the marimba and the cultural arts of southern Africa, and founded African Marimba Music Ltd, a business delivering cultural marimba workshops and performances, with music from Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa. With the business established, Otto felt the time was right to establish a cultural arts festival.
Otto explained, “For many years now, I have wanted to put on a cultural arts festival to celebrate my cultural heritage and to generate a positive spotlight on southern Africa. It was important for me to create a space where people from all walks of life could come together and engage with the cultural arts of southern Africa. My intention was to do this by giving people a chance to try it out themselves through workshops, and then get the opportunity to see the cultural arts in action through live performance”.
In this first iteration of the festival, five workshops ran throughout the day – dance from Mozambique led by Nelson Neves; marimba from Botswana led by Otto Gumaelius himself; mbira from Zimbabwe led by Takudzwa Mukiwa; singing from Zimbabwe and South Africa led by Tsungai Tsikirai; and drumming from South Africa led by Yusuf Legwabe.
After the workshops, participants had the chance to taste some southern African cuisine, before watching the headline marimba concert, which Otto put together with his London-based musician colleagues. The concert included marimba and mbira, with both traditional and contemporary songs and dances. The repertoire was predominantly from Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe – and included folk songs, liberation struggle songs, a gospel cover and some of Otto’s own original music.
Otto revealed, “I have been passionate about the cultural arts of southern Africa for as long as I can remember, from the days when my cousins and I would watch cassette recordings of my late maternal grandmother’s traditional dance troupe, Ditshepe. I feel proud to have been able to put on a festival like this – and for it to have been received so warmly by everyone who came to watch, participate and support. I look forward to growing the festival further next year, and to eventually bring local acts from the various southern African countries to perform live here”.
For enquiries about the festival or marimba music and lessons in the UK, contact Otto through his website www.ottogumaelius.com
I'm performing at KataKata in Brixton this Saturday together with Graham Knight. Come down for a lovely night of acoustic southern African marimba music! Music starts at 8pm, and it's £5 entry. See you on Saturday!