Mabi Gabriel Thobejane

Master Drummer Mabi Gabriel Thobejane - from the roots of MALOMBO to MATRIX!

The Story

Veteran Malombo drummer Mabi Gabriel Thobejane (2.1.1948 – 2.6.2021) was born in Mamelodi (Pretoria, South Africa) and at an early stage watched and learned the drumming of the Balobedu tribe gathering in his neighborhood – he learned not only how to hit the drum, but more importantly where. Mabi’s mum tried to stop him from drumming by beating him constantly, as she believed he was destined to be a priest. Meanwhile Mabi fetched skins from the tannery and started making his own drums risking another beating from his mother when playing in front of the Kguludi’s shebeen (local tavern).

When his Uncle Dr. Phillip Tabane – one of the great African guitarists, discovered the talent in the family he asked Mabi to join him as the drummer to form what became one of the top bands in South Africa in the 70’s – the Malombo Jazzmen. Tabene took Mabi on tour in the USA as his drummer where they both decamped to Harlem. It was here that Mabi experienced the sounds of Miles Davies, an influence that has remained with him throughout his life. He returned to South Africa but found the oppressive regime obstructed what few chances he had to work. Even though he worked with many musicians and groups it was not until the 90’s that Mabi started to find an outlet for the sounds that had stayed with him from the Bronx. Since then Mabi was involved in some of the most exiting collaborations with Sipho Gumede, Sakhile, Madala Kunene, Amampondo and for a decade touring with Juno Reactor. “Possibly the best sonic cocktail on this Juno Reactor CD (Bible Of Dreams) is Conga Fury, where Watkins unleashes percussionist Mabi Thobejane to propel a breakneck conga beat beneath some deranged sampling and angelic female vocals. The electronics play something of a backseat until the last couple of minutes, when Thobejane locks horns with Watkins modulating sequencer, and it’s a little hard to tell who’s following whom. Electronics with sweat. Who would have thought?
“I love the way that one came out, but it was a nightmare to put together. Needless to say, Mabi wasn’t playing in the same room or even at the same time. We had to fit the whole thing together afterward. It took hours and hours, but this is where this music has got to go – the conflict between acoustic and electronic instruments. There are sounds and textures that live playing produces that a machine just can’t get. That’s when it starts getting interesting for me.”
David Kirby, Colorado Unity, 27.11.97

During the 1995 recordings of Mabi Thobejane’s debut album MADIBA he met the man behind Juno Reactor, Ben Watkins. Fascinated by this amamzing master drummer Ben asked Mabi to put down a Conga track which formed the basis of a long collaboration, the release of the epic trance track CONGA FURY which found its way onto the album BIBLE OF DREAM , Hollywood film MORTAL KOMBAT (Annihilation), MATRIX and ANIMATRIX Short film “THE FINAL FLIGHT OF THE OSIRIS”.


Released in October 2000, Shango carries the painted face of Mabi Thobejane and features a number of artists from South Africa who appeared on MELT 2000 at the time of release. These are Deepak Ram, Mabi Thobejane, Dizu Plaatjies,Mandla Lande, Michael Ludonga, Simpiwe Matole, the late Busi Mhlongo and Tuvan overtone singer Boris Salchack.

The Original SAKHILE band which reformed in 2004 for a few gigis months before Sipho Gumede sadly passed away.




View VIMEO Documentary on Mabi Thobejane by Dick Jewell

Features On



Mabi Thobejane Madiba recording MOB

Animatrix Final flight of Osiris Part 1

Juno Reactor - The Forest + Conga Fury (Live in Tokyo)

Madala Kunene & Mabi Thobejane live


Juno Reactor live with Mabi Thobejane performing Zwara A must to watch for Mabi and Juno Reactor fans !

Mabi Gabriel Thobejane - Gae-mo Re Tswang (Home Where We Belong)(Live at The Village Mamelodi)

Mabi Thobejane

Mabi Gabriel Thobejane overdubs for Sa Roy debut album on Forest Jam Southern Africa

Mabi Gabriel Thobejane - Chill Lilo (Chililo) & Sidudla by Mabi Gabriel Thobejane

Mantombi Sakhile

Mabi Gabriel Thobejane - Batsumi Le Di Piri (Live at The Village Mamelodi 2018)

Madala & Mabi Thobejane at Sipho's Farm pt 2

JUNO REACTOR - Pistolero (Live in Athens, April 19 2008)

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