Amampondo, formed in 1980 were originally made up of seven young men from the same neighborhood in Langa location, outside Cape Town. Their goal has always been to carry traditional sounds into the future rather than see it washed away by the wave of westernization and the growing influence of American music among African youth.
Amampondo’s journey has been a long one. Starting out on the streets of Cape Town, they busked to raise cash for more instruments and at the same time worked with ethno musicologists to study the traditions found in Nigeria, The Ivory Coast, Uganda, Zimbabwe and their own Transkei. In 1983 they were sent to perform in Israel, Reunion and Taiwan.
In 1988 Amampondo were asked to play at Nelson Mandela’s seventieth birthday concert at Wembley. This spectacular performance established their international reputation as one of the world’s best marimba and percussion groups – seen by millions on television worldwide this was a huge success for the band. Madiba recommended them for work having seen one of their videos whilst in prison. He promoted them as ambassadors of South African music and it was he who nominated them to represent their country at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games held in Atlanta in ’96.
It wasn’t until 1996 when Amampondo, released from their contractual obligations, recorded their first album for MELT 2000 Drums for Tomorrow followed by Vuyani plus a couple of outtakes from live performances and 2 DVD’s. 4 members of Amampondo entered a collaboration with techno/trance outfit Juno Reactor whom they met in 95. Dizu Plaatjies, Simpiwe Matole, Mandla Lande, Michael Ludonga, and Mabi Thobejane toured with Juno Reactor first supporting Moby on a five week tour of the US bringing the music of their homeland into the realms of contemporary dance music. Clad in body paint and full costume Amampondo wowed the crowds with their acrobatics whilst beating out their percussive rhythms alongside Ben Watkins’ techno and guitar riffs. They have since collaborated on Shango (ELM8033) touring the album internationally.
It all begun during the Outernational Meltdown gathering in Cape Town 1994, when Amampondo appeared for the first time with a large gathering of friends. It was a legendary concert with everybody on one big stage. From the very first moment I worked with Amampondo I was convinced that I finally found the foundation of a project that had been in my head since the early 70’s. Much like members of Amampondo, I’m influenced by Miles Davis. So, when we had the opportunity at the end of this recording session to play live at Bagleys’ in London, there was the second stage of my future plan taking place. It was a great occasion and the crowd was so young I almost felt antique! The youth of jungle and techno raved to the acoustic music of Amampondo with Mabi Thobejane, Brice Wassy, Changuito, Byron Wallen and master percussionist Airto Moreira. So, if you see Amampondo advertised on a poster in your neighbourhood, make sure you get a ticket before the event is sold out because Amampondo and friends means live music, means dancing!
Robert Trunz, March 1999
AFRICA 2000 & Amampondo
The Pondos: Dizu Plaatjies, Simpiwe Matole, Michael Ludonga, Mzwandile Qotoyi, Mandla Lande, Zandisile Lei Mbizela aka Blackie, Xola Mlambo, Lungiswa Plaatjies, Nomfundo Mayekiso, Mandisa Menisi, Byron Wallen and the Risenga Makondo Band
AFRICA 2000 Bonus Features with:
Jose Luis Quintana aka CHANGUITO solo tracks
Location: Bagley’s/Canvas, King’s Cross, London 1991-2007
Like a legal rave, Bagley’s was a huge multi-room warehouse club that held some of London’s biggest Saturday night parties. House night Freedom ran at the club for years and Philip Sallon’s Mud Club also took place there, as well as the Pussy Posse Party, which included mud-wrestling. The club was renamed Canvas in 2003, when Billy Reilly took over the club, also opening the Key and the Cross next door, creating a golden triangle of clubbing in N1. Now the industrial area, which was once a high-density party hot spot, is the site of one of London’s biggest modern developments.
AMAMPONDO – 25 YEARS OF SKINS DVD (MZADV003)
In 2005 the group celebrated its 25th Anniversary with the release of this DVD. For a quarter of a century Amampondo had toured the globe representing the heritage and culture of Southern Africa. Their numerous collaborations with all genres of music from Jazz to Trance got their music on many advertisements and films including MATRIX where they recorded with Ben Watkins of Juno Reactor and Mabi Thobejane. Amampondo is best experienced live and this is the first opportunity for the group’s many fans across the world and especially back home to enjoy their stunning performances which were recorded in Italy, UK, France and South Africa. The Sub Menu of the DVD includes a feature on the many other MELT artists in our catalogue. Guest appearances by:
Airto Moreira – drums and percussion, Brice Wassy – Drums and percussion, Mabi Thobejane – Congas, African drums & percussion, Mangaliso Maxanjana – Concertina,Luyanda Nbete – Penny whistle, Duke Norman Penny whistle, Byron Wallen – trumpet and kudu horn, Changuito – timbale & congas
When Juno Reactor were invited to tour the USA as support to Moby at the end of 1997, Ben Watkins decided to invite four members of the ‘Pondos, plus Mabi Thobejane to accompany him. Over the course of seventeen dates in the ‘States, the Juno/Pondo collision – er, collaboration – developed a new concept, integrating organic percussion sounds into Juno’s distinctive sound.
This historic USA tour with Juno Reactor culminated in Cape Town early on New Year’s Day with a headlining performance at the largest rave Africa has ever seen. In 1998 they played a live set in Glastonbury.
The 4 Rhythm Runners Mandla Lande, Michael Judonga, Mabi Gabriel Thobejane and Simpiwe Matole went on to tour with Juno Recator for over 10 years.