Words by Martin Sinnock
Musical bow-man takes a bow
In 1979 Dizu Plaatjies created the South African percussion ensemble Amampondo in Cape Town. Initially they were a street-busking group and eventually they toured internationally, climaxing at the 1988 Mandela birthday celebration at Wembley. For many years, Plaatjies has been working with different fusions of African and Western music – always with an emphasis on percussion and the presence of his Xhosa roots. He currently leads a cultural group called Ibuyambo Ensemble and here they are joined by several friends from different musical disciplines.
Plaatjies is a specialist of the musical bow and this instrument combines discretely with guitars, percussion and horn section on six of the 11 tracks. Ubuntu: The Common String is a very varied and enjoyable mixture of styles encompassing traditional, pop, rock, reggae and jazz – all with a South African flavour. Included are excellent tributes to Nelson Mandela and Stephen Biko, and a rocked-up remake of ‘Inkomo’, an old Amampondo song. As a bonus there is an exceptional and beautifully arranged version of Miriam Makeba’s Swahili classic ‘Malaika’ sung by Ibuyambo lead dancer Thabisa Dinga.