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Thursday, October 24, 2019


This week on Inside Africa, CNN International (Channel 401) meets the South African artists putting traditional instruments centre stage. It’s a modern take on an ancient sound that’s making a new musical impact.

In Langa, Cape Town’s oldest township, the programme meets one of South Africa’s most celebrated musicians, Dizu Plaatjies. Plaatjies is a maker and player of indigenous African instruments and he explains why he uses them, “There was just a call, you know, which says to me just be a part of this traditional music. Otherwise, if you are not, this means it’s going to die completely.”

Plaatjies has travelled widely, learning how to make and play African instruments of all shapes, sounds and sizes. He is best known for being the founder and former leader of the South African group Amampondo. Nceba Gongxeka, a member of Plaatjies’ current music group, talks about Amampondo’s positive impact, “They used to tour the world, they were kind of, actually they are still, our ambassadors because at the time they were very much in the limelight it was still the time of apartheid.”

Inside Africa follows Plaatjies to a concert at Cape Town’s Artscape Theatre. Another musician playing at the event is Mandisi Dyantyis. He describes how indigenous instruments evoke strong feelings, “When you hear that drum, that skin, the cowhide drum. I always feel that it sounds like the rhythm of my heart. And all of these instruments, they speak to these things. When they’re being played, especially when they’re being played with sincerity, you see yourself in them as an African.”

The depth of Plaatjies’ knowledge has earned him a teaching position at one of Africa’s top universities. Here, he shares his expertise in African music and indigenous instruments with a new generation. Rebekka Sandmeier, the Director of the South African College of Music at the University of Cape Town, tells CNN about Plaatjies’ teaching career, “Dizu is a massively important person, he is the practical professor for African music. So he runs all the practical courses and he also draws into the department a lot of other musicians that come to teach the students.”

Driven by his own passion for indigenous music, Plaatjies opens the door for others, linking one generation of musicians with the next. One young musician, Zinzi Nogavu, tells the programme about why this intergenerational transfer is so important, “There’s a huge network in the Eastern Cape of women and men who are doing so much with African indigenous instruments and African music at large. And I think it's good that we still have them and that they are active and they're getting exposed to the new way of doing things, recording and working with a new generation like us and also passing it on.”

This musical renaissance is helping bring the past to life. Dyantyis speaks about how vital it is to uphold these traditions, “The moment that these instruments stop playing, a part of us dies. Our identity, our sound, our rhythm dies because we will be trying to manufacture our rhythm and the sound, the sound of our lives, through instruments that are foreign to us.”

Inside Africa airs tomorrow (Friday October 25) at 18h30 SAST on CNN International.

The show also airs at the following times:

October 26 at 09h30 SAST, 1400 SAST and 19h30 SAST

October 27 at 00h30 SAST, 05h30 SAST and 12h30 SAST

October 28 at 05h00 SAST

October 29 at 09h30 SAST