Reinventing a tradition


CAPE TOWN, South Africa —Longstreet in Cape Town greets visitors with a diverse, energetic atmosphere that unlike anywhere else in the world. Restaurants, electronics stores and clothing shops peddle their various wares, and soccer fans eager to support their teams roam the streets blowing loud vuvuzelas, a local instrument commonly found at soccer matches.

On certain days, near the Pan-African Market Shops, the symphony of a strong, frenzied beat of a jemba drum rises over the chatter and traffic. On the second-floor balcony of a storefront, a young woman leaps and stomps as drummers seated around her hammer out a feverish beat. The sound reaches to nearby Greenmarket Square, and people on the street below stop to watch and listen.

They witness Manding Kan, translated as “Voice of the Manding,” a band of musicians inspired by traditional West African music. The band also takes cues from the music of Mozambique and South Africa. Peter Schaupp, a 36-year-old percussionist, said the band’s mission is “to honor and preserve the African tradition of rhythm and dance.” Manding Kan also makes the music contemporary and accessible by attracting people to join together and celebrate African music and African percussion.

The band members themselves are living examples of this idea. They play West African music, but none of them are originally from West Africa. Xixel “Xisseve” Langa, a dancer, is from Mozambique. Percussionists Michael de Wit and Mark Dodsworth, call Cape Town home. Schaupp hails from Germany and has spent a grand total of 13 years in Africa. Schaupp said West African music is superior to music from other regions.

“There’s drums all over Africa,” Schaupp said, “but none are played as strongly as in West Africa.”

De Wit, 44, tried rock ‘n’ roll and jazz before discovering the jemba 10 years ago. He said there is something special about West African percussions.

“Playing with hands on a drum and just the expression you can get with your hands is amazing,” he said, “As a drummer this is heaven, absolute heaven.”

Manding Kan was formed two years ago after the band members met in Cape Town. De Wit said the group gets inspiration from fellow West African artists.

“There’s a couple of guys who have actually come through from Mali, and shown us some stuff,” de Wit said.

Ladji Kante, one of the two drums teachers, was the driving force behind the formation of the band.

“We came to him for lessons, and he formed the group, Manding Kan,” de Wit said.

Kante, 26, began learning music at the age of 3, and he performs with South African musician Jimmy Dludlu, a contemporary Mozambique-born jazz muscian who has played with Miriam Makeba and Herb Ellis. Manding Kan was selected to perform during FIFA’s fan fests in Cape Town. The publicity should help the group achieve a wider following. They were chosen from a series of auditions held by PANSA, the Performing Arts Network of South Africa. Out of roughly 3,000 acts that auditioned, Manding Kan is one of 164 artists chosen to perform.

Dodsworth said the auditions were opportune for groups with little exposure. Manding Kan performed during the World Cup as part of a showcase produced by Vibrations Studios, Cape Town’s first black-owned music label, at the city’s convention center.

Members of Manding Kan were happy that South Africa was able to host the World Cup. With the influx of fans from around the world, the West African act expected to find exposure with a whole new audience.

“I’m very happy to be giving a little bit of input and inspiration to the FIFA World Cup,” de Wit said smiling as the tournament was getting ready to open. “Hopefully the whole month is going to be a great party here.”

For more information on Manding Kan, visit the following link to their Facebook page:

Manding Kan!