Otto Gumaelius

Marimba & Mbira Music From Southern Africa

Otto Gumaelius is a London based, Botswana raised, performing artist & teacher of southern African folk music on the marimba.

Filtering by Tag: marimba

Gandanga: Folk Songs of Southern Africa

Gandanga is a tune that was sung by the guerrilla combatants during the independence struggle from the illegal, racist government of Ian Smith, in what was then called Rhodesia. Songs like these would have been sung during the night time when the combatants sought refuge in the various villages. Very tongue-in-cheek, the combatants sing that they cannot be fed okra, because otherwise they will become ill or go insane. They of course want to be fed meat! After all, they are out fighting for the freedom of their people!

Some commentators draw parallels to modern day politics, where far too often political leaders think they are justified in their demands for things like huge pay cheques because they claim to be serving the people. Perhaps this is why Chiwoniso Maraire sang in her beautiful song Rebel Woman, "there will be no compensation, it was of your free will, that you stood on the front line. Rebel woman, these are the rules of war. Remember that you fought for your people, and all the freedom's been hard won, it's been so hard won. But as you weep rebel woman, remember you were strong".

It's a reminder of the harsh reality that when you stand up and fight for what you believe in, your ultimate reward lies in what you achieve for your people, rather than what your people will give you in return.

The lyrics to Gandanga go:

Gandanga haridye derere (A rebel doesn't eat okra)
mukoma rinorwara (Brother, it would make them ill)
Gandanga haridye derere (A rebel doesn't eat okra)
mukoma rinopenga (Brother, it would make them crazy)

Here's a marimba version I performed with my band a few weeks ago at the annual Africa Utopia festival at the Southbank Centre in London.

Pata Pata Tribute To Miriam Makeba by Duduetsa

The late Miriam Makeba blessed the world with so many beautiful songs. One of Duduetsa's all time favourites is Pata Pata, which we performed last night at Juju's Bar & Stage, with the lovely Tsungai Tsikirai on lead vocals.

Pata Pata is sung in isiXhosa, one of the 11 official languages of South Africa, and the title means "Touch Touch". The song was originally recorded in South Africa in 1957 but was only released in 1967 whilst Miriam Makeba was living in exile in the United States of America.

The original lyrics in isiXhosa are as follows (with a rough explanation in English in brackets):

Saguquka sathi 'bheka' (As we danced we said "Look!")
Nants’ iPata Pata (It's the Pata Pata)
Saguquka sathi 'bheka' (As we danced we said "Look!")
Nants’ iPata Pata (It's the Pata Pata)

Yiyo mama, yiyo mama (This one, mama; This one, mama)
Nants’ iPata Pata (It's the Pata Pata)
Yiyo mama, yiyo mama (This one, mama; This one, mama)
Nants’ iPata Pata (It's the Pata Pata)

Pata Pata is the name of the dance
We do down Johannesburg way
And everybody starts to move
As soon as Pata Pata starts to play

Saguquka sathi 'bheka' (As we danced we said "Look!")
Nants’ iPata Pata (It's the Pata Pata)
Saguquka sathi 'bheka' (As we danced we said "Look!")
Nants’ iPata Pata (It's the Pata Pata)

iyo mama, yiyo mama (This one, mama; This one, mama)
Nants’ iPata Pata (It's the Pata Pata)
Yiyo mama, yiyo mama (This one, mama; This one, mama)
Nants’ iPata Pata (It's the Pata Pata)

Every Friday and Saturday Night
It's Pata Pata time
The dance keeps going all night long
Til' the morning sun begins to shine

ABOUT DUDUETSA

Duduetsa is a rhythmic world-music African marimba band, based in the United Kingdom, playing folk music from Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana.

Duduetsa is available for hire for all types of private and corporate events, including weddings, private parties, fundraisers, charity events, business networking events, conferences, festivals and concerts. Workshops are also available in marimba, mbira, drumming, singing, and African dance.

For bookings and enquiries, contact us on +44 (0)751 550 8934, or email duduetsamusic@gmail.com.

www.duduetsa.com

Zimba Marimba International Marimba Camp

What a weekend it's been working with lovely young musicians from Sweden, Norway, Iceland and England - and working alongside a wonderful teaching team of African cultural arts practitioners from Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Africa, Guinea, The Gambia, France and Sweden! I've returned to London with a thoroughly nourished soul after all the beautiful music and dancing!

The camp started off on Friday afternoon with a round of workshops, before we all gathered in the main concert hall for an evening of live music led by the workshops teachers. There was mbira music, sabar drumming, kora and of course, marimba.

The camp then continued on Saturday morning with a full two days of workshops. Below you can see a picture of where I was doing my teaching.

My shared office with Erik Noresson for the weekend

My shared office with Erik Noresson for the weekend

We had a lovely two days and worked with a total of 8 groups - ranging from young children to young adults. Below you can see a clip of one of the songs I taught to the group from Iceland.

One of the songs I taught was Silang Mabele - a folk song from Botswana.

On Sunday afternoon, all the student groups got to share some of what they had learnt over the weekend. The oldest group closed the concert with a lovely Mhande-rhythm song from Zimbabwe called Cheke. It's an mbira song arranged by Jacob Mafuleni for the marimba, and the song is about crossing the river. 

For more information about marimba workshops, camps and performances in Sweden, visit: www.zimbamarimbaband.com

Zimba Marimba International Marimba Camp

Zimba Marimba International Marimba Camp

All roads lead to the south of Sweden at the end of April for Zimba Marimba International Marimba Camp. It's going to be a stunning weekend of African music workshops in marimba, mbira, drumming, singing and dancing - with a fantastic line up of musicians and teachers from Zimbabwe, The Gambia, Tanzania and South Africa. This year the camp will attract keen participants from Sweden, Norway, Iceland and the UK.

African Marimba Music Classes in London

I'm teaching African marimba and mbira music classes every Wednesday at Saint Peter's North Community Centre in Hackney.

The African marimba builds on the percussive element of the African drum by adding harmonious melodic expression. Using soprano, tenor and baritone marimbas to build an ensemble, participants get the wonderful opportunity to learn, play and create wonderful rhythms and melodies as a marimba band, and have a great time whilst doing so.

Come along and shake off the midweek winter blues to the warm sounds of southern Africa!

Marimba: 6-7:30pm
Mbira: 7:30-8:30pm

Text 07515508934 to book your place. Advance booking required. Classes cost £10.

See you on Wednesday! 

Address:
1st Floor
Saint Peter's North Community Centre
1 Marian Place, E2 9AX

More info:

www.tasteofsouthernafrica.com

Introducing Chimoio - Southern African Marimba Fusion Music

CHIMOIO is a lively, upbeat London based southern African fusion band playing original music with distinct cultural roots in Botswana and Zimbabwe.

We sing in English, Setswana and Chishona.

Using the marimba and mbira at the core of our music, we link our cultural past with the present, and project our hopes and aspirations for a greater world. We aim to spread joy and make people think, smile and dance.

CHIMOIO is available for all types of corporate and private bookings, including festivals, private parties and weddings.

Contact us today to make a booking.

African Marimba Music in Terra Nullius at Ipswich Museum for Spill Festival

I've spent the past two days up in Ipswich doing final preparations for, and performing in, this year's Spill Festival.

Our marimba duo formed one of several elements in the performance installation, Terra Nullius, curated by Shabnam Shabazi and presented inside the beautiful Ipswich museum.

We performed a non-stop 2 hour set which included marimba and mbira music - with both traditional songs as well as original compositions.

Fully kitted with our Terra Nullius red shirts in the incredibly cool room we got to play our African marimba music in.

Fully kitted with our Terra Nullius red shirts in the incredibly cool room we got to play our African marimba music in.

Duduetsa brings lively African marimba music to the Netherlands

Duduetsa has just returned from a lovely couple of days in the Netherlands where we performed at the opening of Biennale Gelderland in the beautiful cultural centre, Rozet, in the heart of Arnhem.

We packed our marimbas in the back of a 9-seater mini bus on Thursday afternoon and headed for the Euro tunnel. 8 hours later we arrived in Arnhem with great thanks to our chauffeur for the journey, Paul Noels - who was also in the line up of performers for the following day.

We checked into our lovely bed and breakfast, and got what sleep we could before breakfast that morning. Later that afternoon we were picked up and headed to Rozet, to soundcheck and await the big opening that evening. 

We went on at 7pm, and delivered an energetic set of Zimbabwean traditional songs - including Mugara Ndega, Manhanga Kutapira, Chemutengure and Zvichapera, as well as popular South African song, Pata Pata, by Miriam Makeba.

After the show, we were invited to a jam session in the restaurant in Rozet alongside all the other acts that had been invited to perform at the opening. This was great fun! We were joined by Vimbai Zimuto, a fantastic Zimbabwean musician who is based in the Netherlands.

Here's one of the songs we performed - Chemutengure - featuring Vimbai Zimuto. 

ABOUT DUDUETSA

Duduetsa is a fun and upbeat London-based marimba group playing traditional and contemporary music from Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana. The group is available for corporate and private bookings, including weddings, festivals, business conferences, private parties and restaurant entertainment.

+44(0)7515508934
duduetsamusic@gmail.com
www.ottogumaelius.com/duduetsa

Live African Marimba Music at Nottinghill Carnival

2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the Nottinghill Carnival - Europe's largest street party - and what an honour it was to be part of the celebrations, performing with Flame Lily Arts on the World Music Stage, hosted and sponsored by the legendary Levi Roots.

The acts on stage were mostly Caribbean, so it was extra special getting to represent southern Africa at such a huge gathering. We performed several southern African classics, through acapella singing in Mbube style, as well as with instrumental accompaniment on Zimbabwean marimbas and djembes. 

Below are a few pics from the day.

Flame Lily Arts in full swing, performing popular Zimbabwean song Ndiani Waronga

Flame Lily Arts in full swing, performing popular Zimbabwean song Ndiani Waronga

Backstage with Beatrice & Nqobile

Backstage with Beatrice & Nqobile

Some of the friends that came out to support us. 

Some of the friends that came out to support us. 

We hope to be back at the carnival again next year!

About Flame Lily Arts

FLAME LILY ARTS is a UK-based African performing arts company. The group specialises in Ndebele and Zulu dances, accompanied by harmonious Mbube style singing, with drumming and marimba accompaniment. The group's members come primarily from Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana, and are proud cultural ambassadors of southern Africa. 

For more information visit: www.flamelilyarts.com

CHIMOIO to exhibit and perform at Migrant Business Show

I'll be at the Migrant Business Show this afternoon with my band CHIMOIO. We'll be on one of the stalls throughout the evening, and we're also currently scheduled to perform a short set at 7:10. Come down and dance with us!

For more information about the band, visit www.chimoio.co.uk

Entry to the Migrant Business Show is free. Get your ticket here.


About Migrant Business Show

The Second Migrant Business Show brings you the opportunity to meet migrant and British entrepreneurs who are succeeding in business in London. Russian, Italian, Colombian, Nigerian, French and Chinese are a few of the nationalities taking part in the show. Our first event was a huge success, we had over 1000 attendees. Don't miss the opportunity to meet them all. 100 entrepreneurs from all around the world exhibit and we would like you to be one of them. Exhibit at the show if you run a small business and if you would like to meet more clients, suppliers and maybe your future partner. Over 1500 entrepreneurs are expected to attend to the event!

About mi-HUB

mi-HUB is a social enterprise that helps migrant entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses in London by providing them mentoring, business coaching, offices and a real community to grow and develop their own successful businesses.

ABOUT CHIMOIO

CHIMOIO is a London based southern-African fusion band with cultural roots primarily in Botswana and Zimbabwe. Using the marimba and mbira at the core of our music, we link our cultural past with the present, and project our hopes and aspirations for a greater world. The band is available for hire for corporate and private bookings, including business conferences, private parties, festivals and weddings.

African marimba music by Duduetsa at Fego Caffe

Marimba duo, Duduetsa, was invited to provide some southern African marimba entertainment at Fego Caffe in aid of a Save The Rhino fundraising initiative. We put together a repertoire of South African songs to cover with vocals and drumming.

Our set list ended up including songs by the late Miriam Makeba (Pata Pata / Click Song), the late Brenda Fassie (Weekend Special), Mahotella Queens (Thoko) and Solomon Linda (Mbube / The Lion Sleeps Tonight), as well as some of the more traditional Xhosa, Ndebele and Zulu repertoire, including the wedding song uMakoti Ngowethu, a song celebrating the new bride and announcing her acceptance into the family; Mancube, a song about a woman who is using witchcraft; and Majola, a song used in traditional rituals imploring the ancestors to reveal themselves to help resolve matters within the family.

Here's a little showreel from the evening at Fego Caffe:


ABOUT DUDUETSA

Duduetsa is a fun and upbeat London-based marimba group playing traditional and contemporary music from Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana. The group is available for corporate and private bookings, including weddings, festivals, business conferences, private parties and restaurant entertainment.

+44(0)7515508934
duduetsamusic@gmail.com
www.ottogumaelius.com/duduetsa

Duduetsa entertains at South Africa Freedom Day celebrations

The 27th of April, 1994, was the day the first democratic election was held in South Africa. Ever since, it's been a day of celebration, as South Africans mark the liberation of their country and its people from a long period of colonialism and apartheid. 

Duduetsa was really pleased to have been invited to perform at Acklam Village Market to commemorate Freedom Day with the South African community in London.

Duduetsa_African_Marimba_Music_South_Africa_Day_Acklam_Village_London

We gave the audience two sets of music. The first was a more traditional, drumming set, with singing and dancing, and included songs like Shosholoza and liberation struggle song, Oliver Tambo Theta NoBotha.

Duduetsa_African_Marimba_Music_South_Africa_Day_Acklam_Village_London

We then brought in the marimbas for our second set, which really got the crowd going. We covered Miriam Makeba, Brenda Fassie, Mahotella Queens and Beatenberg to name a few. The tunes went down a huge treat!

Duduetsa_African_Marimba_Music_South_Africa_Day_Acklam_Village_London

Here are some videos from the night.

South African Liberation song Oliver Tambo Tetha noBotha

Our marimba cover of Brenda Fassie's Weekend Special

Xhosa wedding song, Qongqothwane, made famous by Miriam Makeba and commonly known as Click Song

If you wish to read more on South Africa Freedom Day and what it's all about, you can find some more information here.

Growing Up With The Marimba: The Maru A Pula Years. Part 2/3

This second post is dedicated to my years playing marimba at Maru-a-Pula Secondary School, from 2000 to 2003. 

I went through three groups whilst in high school, all led by Alport Mhlanga, who was one of the key pioneers of the Zimbabwean marimba as we know it today. You can read more about that here

In 2000, we started off as a small group of 4 that had joined Maru-a-Pula from Thornhill Primary School. We would often sneak into the marimba practice room behind the assembly hall during break time to play our favorite songs from primary school. It wasn't long before Mr Mhlanga picked up on our "tinkering", as he called it, and gave us the opportunity to piggy back on some of the senior band's performances, doing a few numbers at their shows.

After a while, my friend Tshepiso Tebogo-Maruping and I were the only two who wanted to keep up with marimba, so we joined one of the afternoon groups, comprised mainly of Form 2 (9th grade) students. However, their lack of enthusiasm soon led to the group falling apart, and the following year Tshepiso and I moved on and banded up with a larger group. I played in this group until I left Maru-a-Pula in May 2003. At the time of my departure, the band was made up of 8 people - Tshepiso Tebogo-Maruping, Lesego Letsapa, Lebo Letsie, Bonolo Moletsane, Liliana Saplontai, Goroma Mazonde, Sharon Sibanda and me. I was the only boy, and this was typical of marimba bands at Maru-a-Pula. We started off as two boys, but Kealeboga soon left due to family commitments. 

We pretty much spent every break time, lunch time, and all free afternoons practicing, practicing, practicing! We never grew bored or tired, and would only head home because we had to! I have many, many fond memories in the marimba rehearsal room. We performed frequently, both in and out of school. 

Looking back, I think some of my fondest memories are of the stories that Baba (Mr Mhlanga, as we fondly referred to him as) had to share. We didn't always understand them straight away, but there was always a profound meaning to everything he shared. I think this is why it was so hard accepting his passing in June 2012. All I can do is be grateful for the three fantastic years I got to play in his bands, and all the incredible learning I got to do under his wing.

Below are a few pictures taken from my very last performance with the band, on May 20th 2013, the day I moved from Botswana to Sweden! "Till the bitter end", as they say! 

Performing at Main Mall in Gaborone, 2003.  (Left to right - Front row: Goroma, Otto, Lesego. Middle row: Tshepiso, Liliana, Sharon. Back row: Bonolo, Mr Mhlanga, Moipone.)  

Performing at Main Mall in Gaborone, 2003. (Left to right - Front row: Goroma, Otto, Lesego. Middle row: Tshepiso, Liliana, Sharon. Back row: Bonolo, Mr Mhlanga, Moipone.)  

MaP Marimba Band
MaP Marimba Band

Growing Up With The Marimba: The Thornhill Primary School Years. Part 1/3

This is going to be a three-part post, dedicated to the three bands I played in during my school years.

In this first post, I'd like to share some pictures and memories from 1998 and 1999, where it all began - playing in Michael Sibanda's marimba band in Thornhill Primary School, in Gaborone, Botswana. 

I still remember as if it were yesterday, how Mr Sibanda would come to my Standard 5A class looking for some of the students he had selected for the junior band who were not attending band practise. Each time he'd come, I'd enegeticlly raise my hand and say "Mr Sibanda, if you pick me to be in the band I promise I'll always show up!". I don't know if that's what did the trick, but I certainly made it into the band the following year, and continued to play till the end of the following, and final, year of primary school. 

Initially, having always been a very shy child growing up, I was quite intimidated by the Standard 7 kids in the group, who were in the year above me, so I mainly stuck to the tenor, the safe instrument in any junior marimba band, where I nonetheless have fond memories of playing popular southern African songs like Thoko (originally written by Mahotella Queens I believe) next to Moabi Garebamono, and Pata Pata (by Miriam Makeba) next to Jaanki Dullabhai.

There would be the random occasion when I'd venture out to the other instruments in the band, and to my surprise, the one time I tried the soprano, the lead instrument in a marimba band, I was actually cheered on by the Standard 7s, which really encouraged me to be more confident. 

That year we did a wide variety of shows in school and at various events in and around the capital city. We even got to travel to South Africa to perform at the 23rd World International Society of Music Eduction conference in Pretoria.

In my final year of primary school I really came out of my shell, and ventured very confidently onto other instruments in the band. Towards the end of the year, we got to travel once again to South Africa, this time to record the school's debut marimba album - Thornhill Marimba Magic, which comprised of 8 songs including Botsotsi, Sibanda's graduation piece from Kwanongoma College of Music - today played by many marimba bands around the world.

I will remain eternally grateful to Michael Sibanda for whatever it was he saw in me that led him to put me, and keep me, in the Thornhill Marimba Band!

Here are some of the few pictures I have from those years.

Thornhill Marimba Band, 1998.  (From left to right: Nuru, Tebatso, Meegan, Tshegofatso, Tumisang, Jaanki, Kealeboga, Setso, Otto, Waitse, Michael Sibanda, Lame, Tshegofatso, Neo, Tapiwa, Andrea, Mana, Tshepiso, Thandeka, Tlamelo, Obakeng, Moabi, Masego).

Thornhill Marimba Band, 1998. (From left to right: Nuru, Tebatso, Meegan, Tshegofatso, Tumisang, Jaanki, Kealeboga, Setso, Otto, Waitse, Michael Sibanda, Lame, Tshegofatso, Neo, Tapiwa, Andrea, Mana, Tshepiso, Thandeka, Tlamelo, Obakeng, Moabi, Masego).

Thornhill Marimba Band, 1999.  (From top left to bottom right, vertically: Yvette, Lame, Michael Sibanda, Lilliana, Otto, Setso, Tshepiso, Amy, Among, Sharon, Seele, Boikanyo, Charlotte, Kealeboga, Careen, Keletso, Jaanki, Mogi, Karabo, Thamani, Amber, Lenitame, Sara, Sakhile)

Thornhill Marimba Band, 1999. (From top left to bottom right, vertically: Yvette, Lame, Michael Sibanda, Lilliana, Otto, Setso, Tshepiso, Amy, Among, Sharon, Seele, Boikanyo, Charlotte, Kealeboga, Careen, Keletso, Jaanki, Mogi, Karabo, Thamani, Amber, Lenitame, Sara, Sakhile)

Thornhill Marimba Magic, 1999.

Thornhill Marimba Magic, 1999.

Final assembly, 1999.

Final assembly, 1999.

Afro-Marimba Season's Greetings!

With Christmas carols playing all round, I decided I would join in and have a go at one too! Here's an African inspired version of my all-time favorite Christmas song, O Holy Night.

The clip is recorded in my room in London using three marimbas - a soprano, tenor and baritone marimba - with Zimbabwean hosho shakers and a hand drum I bought in Marrakech a few years back.

©2019 Otto Gumaelius - Marimba & Mbira Music From Southern Africa. All Rights Reserved.