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Archive for June 9th, 2010

• Wednesday, June 09th, 2010

Photo Courtesy of Manding Kan's Facebook page

Local band Manding Kan gives South Africa a taste of West African music

By Aaron Lancaster

If you find yourself on Longstreet in Cape Town, there is a diverse, energetic atmosphere that will greet you. Restaurants, electronics stores and clothing shops peddle their various wares and soccer fans eager to support their teams roam the streets blowing loud vuvuzelas, a local instrument commonly found at soccer matches.

On certain days, if you are passing by the Pan-African Market Shops, a certain sound will rise above the symphony of chatter and traffic. It is the strong, frenzied beat of a jemba drum.

On the second-floor balcony of a storefront, a young woman leaps and stomps as drummers seated around her hammer out a feverish beat. The sound reaches to nearby Greenmarket Square and passers-by on the street below stop to watch and listen. They witness Manding Kan, translated as “Voice of the Manding,” a band of musicians inspired by traditional West African music. Yet the band also takes cues from the music of Mozambique and South Africa.

Peter Schaupp, a 36-year-old percussionist, said the band’s mission is “to honor and preserve the African tradition of rhythm and dance.”

Manding Kan also makes the music contemporary and accessible by attracting people of all sorts to join together and celebrate African music and African percussion.

The band members themselves are a living example of this idea. They play West African music, but none of them are originally from West Africa.

Xixel “Xisseve” Langa, a dancer, is from Mozambique. Percussionists Michael de Wit and Mark Dodsworth, call Cape Town home. Schaupp hails from Germany and has spent a whopping 13 years in Africa.

Schaupp said West African music is superior to music from other regions.

“There’s drums all over Africa,” Schaupp said, “but none are played as strongly as in West Africa.”

De Wit, 44, tried rock ’n’ roll and jazz before discovering the jemba 10 years ago. He said there is something special about West African percussions.

“Playing with hands on a drum and just the expression you can get with your hands is amazing,” he said, “As a drummer this is heaven, absolute heaven.”

Manding Kan was formed two years ago after the band members met one another in Cape Town. The members were drawn together by their common passion.

De Wit said the group gets inspiration from fellow West African artists.

“There’s a couple of guys who have actually come through from Mali, and shown us some stuff,” de Wit said.

Ladji Kante, one of the two drums teachers, was the driving force behind the formation of the band.

“We came to him for lessons and he formed the group, Manding Kan,” de Wit said.

Kante, 26, began learning music at the age of 3, and he performs with South African musician Jimmy Dludlu, a contemporary Mozambican jazz muscian who has played with Miriam Makeba and Herb Ellis.

Manding Kan has been selected to perform during FIFA’s fan fests in Cape Town. This should help the group achieve a wider following.

They were chosen from a series of auditions held by PANSA, the Performing Arts Network of South Africa. Out of roughly 3,000 acts that auditioned, Manding Kan is one of 164 artists chosen to perform.

Dodsworth said the auditions were opportune for groups with little exposure.

Manding Kan will perform on June 25 as part of a showcase produced by Vibrations Studios, Cape Town’s first black-owned music label, at the city’s convention center.

Like the majority of South Africans, the members of Manding Kan are looking forward to the World Cup. With the influx of fans from around the world, this West African act hopes to find exposure with a whole new audience.

“I’m very happy to be giving a little bit of input and inspiration to the FIFA World Cup,” de Wit said, smiling, “hopefully the whole month is going to be a great party here.”

For more information on Manding Kan, visit the following link to their Facebook page:
Manding Kan!

Category: Features  | One Comment
• Wednesday, June 09th, 2010

Photograph by Rachel Gadson

District 6 Museum is a significant landmark for former residents of the District 6 community

By Clarece Polke

CAPE TOWN — As a young girl, she was walking through her neighborhood one morning when Thurah Jenkins heard singing. She saw a man strumming his guitar at one end of the block, and by the time she reached the other, the street was filled with people singing together in harmony. Tears streamed down the 63-year-old woman’s face and she raised a trembling hand to her mouth as she summoned the “most beautiful memory” she had of her former home in District Six, Cape Town. The picture she painted of her childhood home was one of a peaceful, hardworking and unified community.

“That was the nature of the place at that time, before [the government] threw people out,” Jenkins said. “It was all races who lived together [and] was a completely multi-cultural place. Everybody looked after everyone else; everyone’s child was everyone else’s child.”

The District Six Museum was opened on Dec. 10, 1994, to honor the community of immigrants, laborers and artisans that was destroyed in the late 1970s and early 1980s after the passage of the Group Areas Act in 1950.

The land on which District Six was built was declared a white area in 1966, and, block by block, the citizens were forcibly removed and the houses demolished. Citizens were relocated to various townships based on racial classification.

According to Noor Ebrahim, an education officer for  the District Six Museum, the facility is not funded  by the South African government, so it relies on donations from patrons and private charities, including the Ford Foundation in the United States, to fund its upkeep.

Ebrahim’s passion captivated a small group of visitors who crowded around a “whites only” bench. They hung on to his every word as he gave accounts of what happened in District Six and his family’s strong ties to the area.

“I believe if I retire I will die,” the 66-year-old former inhabitant of District Six said with a chuckle. “The museum keeps me alive.”

Lucie Leduc, a 33-year-old visiting from Montreal, said while she was already knowledgeable about the history of District Six, Ebrahim’s ardor and sense of humor gave her a different, more positive perspective of the community.

“His personality stood out, as well as his enthusiasm to make sure everything was known and transmitted to the future generation,” Leduc said. “He represents the more lively version of what we had read.”

Philip Gilman, 22, a study abroad student from the University of Texas, visited the museum with hopes of better understanding the community’s history. Unlike Leduc, he wasn’t very knowledgeable about District Six, but he wanted a more accurate depiction of South Africa’s history of apartheid before returning to the States.

“You go around Cape Town and you see buildings the way they are now and just assume that’s the way it has always been,” Gilman said. “Then you come here and realize it’s only in the past 20 or 30 years that they were built. I’ve been learning a lot about South Africa in class, but I actually wanted to come and read and look for myself.”

Within the last decade, the government announced that it has started reconstruction of District Six and promised to restore the community. So far, 12 houses have been built.

Ebrahim said many former residents have invested a lot of hope in a rebuilt District Six, despite the stagnant progress. So far the government has set a limit to the number  of houses to be constructed, but every house already has an owner, he added. Future residents will not have to pay for the construction of the homes or the land, only the amenities.

Even with the revitalization of the District Six community, Ebrahim is concerned that future generations will forget about pivotal events in South African history like that of the community’s original destruction. His big, open smile disappeared, and his eyes focused on a place unseen. Perhaps he was hearing echoes of singing and laughter from the streets of his former home as he nodded and said almost as much to himself as to his guests, “We must continue to tell the story.”

Category: Features  | One Comment