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Phambili Marimba and Brass Ensemble (Phambili) (South Africa)  
Phambili Marimba & Brass Ensemble © Eugene Arries 2005

PHAMBILI is a seven-piece band from Cape Town, founded in 1988. The band features traditional African music combined with jazz, modern and classical.

Founder members, Jongi Monatsi, Themba Huna and Bongani Sotshononda were together at St Mary’s school in Nyanga when they formed Phambili. Originally their music was very traditional using marimbas, drums and a homemade flute, they played music which encompasses the songs and dances of their heritage.

Jongi, Themba, and Bongani have since been joined by Mzoxolo Mbula and Ronald Mvimbi - all five musicians alternate on the traditional instruments. The brass contribution is from Michael Mwahla on trumpet, and Mandisi Dyantyis on saxophone. Some of Phambili’s productions have included strings, brass, choir and dancers.

Their compositions continue to include African traditions but some are a fusion with jazz and contemporary music.

Phambili’s unique sound is produced using traditional (African) instruments to play all types of music ?for example well known jazz standards “Take Five" and “Summertime" are part of their repertoire. They perform many of their own compositions written mostly by Jongi and Bongani, as well as traditional songs arranged by Jongi. They are all dedicated and accomplished musicians some of whom have studied at UCT College of Music in the Jazz programme.

marimba, percussion, trumpet, Saxophone
Genre: traditional / indigenous, jazz, African
They performed at The Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC, to great acclaim, receiving rave reviews. Phambili’s debut CD has been recorded with BMG Africa and was released to record stores early in 2000.

The band has an impressive list of local and international performances and collaborations ?having shared the stage over the years with many famous South African music names such as the late Basil Coetzee, Abdullah Ibrahim, Winston Mankunku Ngozi, Bayete, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. They have performed on stages at Sun City, The Nico Malan (now renamed Artscape) and UCT, Grahamstown Festival 94, 95 & 96, Cape Town Gardens Festivals amongst others, and at St George’s Cathedral during the State Visit of Queen Elizabeth II.

Phambili was featured at two festivals in France in 1997 and played with the “Scheppingskraal" dance/theatre production from Holland at the 1998 Klein Karoo Festival and again in Gauteng in December 1999.

Since 1996 Phambili serves as part of the Intsholo project ?the exciting crossover band playing a fusion of African traditional and classical music. The other half is The Solid Brass Quintet, brass musicians from the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra.

Ronald Vimbi, Bongani Sotshononda and Mzoxolo Mbula © E.Arries 2005
Phambili's instruments are marimbas (bass, tenor and soprano), traditional bongo drums and congas, saxophone and trumpet.

The instrumental arrangement is such that the marimbas are not used simply as percussion as is normally the case - but take the place of the usual ensemble of piano, guitar etc. The addition of brass (saxophone and trumpet) contributes a further dimension to Phambili's performance, which is a totally new and multicultural experience.

In 2004, they toured Mexico, and visit Japan in 2006 as part of South Africa's cultural profile at the Aichi Exposition.

  Recordings : Phambili Marimba and Brass Ensemble(Phambili)


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