Performance Saturday, November 1, 2014 | 9 PM

Dizu Plaatjies and Ibuyambo

Zankel Hall
Traditional-instrument maker and master Dizu Plaatjies and his group Ibuyambo perform stunningly beautiful music of the Xhosa people and of other Southern African traditions. Plaatjies and Ibuyambo make music that is pure, proud, fascinating, and unforgettable.

Part of Late Nights at Zankel Hall.


  • Dizu Plaatjies and Ibuyambo

Event Duration

The program will last approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.


  • Dizu Plaatjies and Ibuyambo

    Dizu Plaatjies, the son of a Xhosa traditional healer, grew up in the Cape Town township of Langa in South Africa. Behind his warm smile is a serious and spiritual person. He is the founder and former leader of South Africa's internationally celebrated marimba group Amampondo.

    After 15 years of touring with Amampondo, Plaatjies recorded his first solo album in 2005, titled Ibuyambo. The CD was released together with a stage show that featured Plaatjies and most of the players with whom he recorded (now known as the Ibuyambo ensemble). Together, they performed in Plaatjies's hallmark body paint and costumes inspired by traditional outfits from the Southern African region. With Ibuyambo, Plaatjies liberally mixed traditional African instruments and songs with his own original lyrics and melodies. On the title track, he arranged a melody from Zimbabwe for marimbas associated with Mozambique and added a Congolese choir. On another song, he applied elements of hip-hop music and the tongue clicks of the San people to the rural chant from a children's game to create a neo-traditional blend of sounds.

    Plaatjies and Ibuyambo's second release, African Kings, featured traditional instruments (mbira, uhadi, umhube, and akadinda, to name a few) and the maskandi style acoustic guitar. The production had a more contemporary approach than Plaatjies's previous neo-traditional recordings. In 2009, the record went on to win a prestigious South African Music Award for Best Alternative African Album.

    The multi-instrumentalists of Ibuyambo cover repertoire from Plaatjies work of more than 25 years while always offering something fresh, incorporating singing, dancing, and the use of many rare and wonderful African instruments Plaatjies has collected throughout his career. They have been showcased at the World Music Expo (WOMEX) in Seville, in addition to performing in Canada, France, Germany, Algeria, Morocco, Oman, and a three-week tour in Holland. More recently, they played the prestigious Rainforest World Music Festival in Malaysia, WOMAD in the UK, and Sauti za Busara in Zanzibar.

    As a teacher, Plaatjies has visited the US, Australia, and Scandinavia to lead workshops. He has also performed in the Czech Republic, where his collaboration with local folk artist Jiří Pavlica earned the duo a gold record.

    When not touring, Dizu Plaatjies spends his time teaching at the University of Cape Town's College of Music.

    More Info


"Imihla Yakudala"
Dizu Plaatjes | Ibuyambo Ensemble

Sihle Mthembu on Dizu Plaatjies and Ibuyambo

Ibuyambo has become a landmark music group, exploding onto the South African music scene with its traditional and neo-traditional sounds, all of which are channeled through bandleader Dizu Plaatjies’s distinct idiomatic sensibility. Often associated with the African traditional roots movement, the concept band and its refined melodic offerings are the end product of a man who has dedicated his life to music.

Born in 1960 in Lusikisiki on the rural outskirts of the Eastern Cape, Plaatjies was the son of a healer, from whom he received his first rites of passage into the customs, sounds, and traditions of the Xhosa people, an ethnic group of which he is a descendant. It’s this understanding of music as a functional art and a medium of telling stories and maintaining traditions that has informed Plaatjies’s mode of music making as a professional performer.

Plaatjies graduated from the University of Cape Town, where he now teaches enthnomusicology in an attempt to pass down the diverse and intricate musical traditions of South Africa’s Nguni cultures to the next generation of music scholars and practitioners. He is also the founder and former leader of the South African group Amampondo. Under his tutelage for more than 15 years, the marimba group performed to packed houses in countries such as Canada and China and many lands in between. They also graced the prestigious Edinburgh Festival stage twice.

Ibuyambo, formed in 2005, is a collective that came out of recording sessions from Plaatjies’s debut album of the same name. The group is primarily focused on the use of African percussion instruments, pushing and manipulating the limits of these musical tools to create different, new, and interesting sounds. Most of the instruments are made from wood and found objects and materials; the process and knowledge of the instrument’s craftsmanship is also seen as a key element in the musical arsenal of an Ibuyambo artist.

The work of Ibuyambo is informed by the oral traditions of Southern African. The group’s music becomes a soundtrack for working-class concerns in South Africa—a music whose power is both in its words and delivery as it tackles issues that range from love to social disillusionment and the role of culture in the modern world.

Ibuyambo’s performances also include an element of theatricality that is part and parcel of the region from which the members hail. Their use of dance, play, and onstage call-and-response bridges the gap between audience and performer.

Plaatjies’s interest in African musical traditions has led the band into exploring rhythms from countries like Zimbabwe, Congo, and Mozambique. These rhythms infuse Plaatjies’s own compositions and lyrics to create a signature acoustic sound. The resulting music is both meditative and full of gusto, continuing African folk music’s tradition of bringing people together.

—Sihle Mthembu is a South African–born essayist and cultural critic. His work has appeared inRolling Stone South Africa,The Sunday Independent, City Press, and dozens of other publications. He has served on the short-film jury of the Durban International Film Festival and is one of the founders of the Cosi-Cosi Pop-Up Cinema festival.

Program Notes


UBUNTU: Music and Arts of South Africa

Lead funding for UBUNTU: Music and Arts of South Africa is provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, The Howard Gilman Foundation, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Additional support is provided by the Mai Family Foundation, South African Tourism, and South African Airways.

UBUNTU is held in collaboration with the Department of Arts and Culture of the Republic of South Africa and the South African Consulate General in New York in celebration of 20 years of freedom and democracy.
This performance is part of World Views, and UBUNTU: Traditional Music.

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