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: