Curiosity is infectious, especially the kind that African musical great Dizu Plaatjies has for the sounds of our continent. It’s taken him and his band, Amampondo to stages as big as Wembley Stadium but most important is how he’s passing it on to his students.

This week, we joined Dizu and some of his students at The South African College of Music at the University of Cape Town to find out more about his journey.

“I started lecturing African music here at the College of Music, University of Cape Town. I’ve been working here for 33 years. I like to share my experience with young and old musicians and I teach African music,” he says. 

“I started playing my music because I was inspired by my father. My father was a traditional healer so I grew up in that environment where I would be playing drums and there’d be traditional healers dancing and singing.” Having met Steve Biko and played for Nelson Mandela, Dizu also passes on his lived history.

“I would like my students to take away from this class the way I teach because they will do the same thing to the others and also to take whatever I’ve taught them beyond what I’ve taught them,” he explains. When this future legend first arrived in Langa, Cape Town, it was as a child from Lusikisiki in Pondoland.

“Langa was the very first black township in Cape Town, and Langa means the sun because it was the first township, it gave the sun to all the other townships. I never wanted to move out of this township,I love Langa,” he exclaims. Dizu’s students come to Langa to learn everything from how to reskin a drum, to the ethics of being a musician.

“I learned so much in this township by listening and attending a lot of shows that were going on. One thing that I’ve learned in music is that whoever pays his money to come and watch you, you’ve got to respect that person because that person is the one who puts bread and butter on the table.” 

“I started a group Amampondo in 1979. When I started the band, it was only percussion, drums and percussion and dance. I never knew that this band is going to be a well-known band across the globe,” says Dizu. Touring here, or the United Kingdom, Europe or Asia. Mr. Plaatjies is ever conscious of being an ambassador of African culture.

“The dreams that I want for African music is to see my people next to their instruments. African music is me, I’m talking about the African continent, I’m talking about my people, I’m talking about all the surroundings in African. African music is music that must never let it die.”

Thanks to Dizu Plaatjies’s efforts, his students and their students, in turn, will still be showing the healthiest interest in our African music for many years to come.

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