Cape Town - Multi-instrumentalist, Afro-fusion group Abavuki began its 20-year-anniversary celebrations with its first official performance for the year.
On Saturday, Gallery 44 & Theatre on Long Street was filled with supporters of the eight-member marimba band, who hail from Langa and Philippi. The event was a precursor to a 2022 World Tour and a new album being released.
The event was also live-streamed to reach a global audience.
The group has toured 13 countries including China, Poland, Algeria, Germany and the Netherlands, performing for crowds of up to 40 000 people.
Band member Siyabulela Jiyana, 33, from KwaLanga, said the group had originally come together when they were teenagers and would play at the V&A Waterfront to earn money.
The groups first booked performance was at the switching on of the lights festival on December 2, 2001.
“That was our first gig and the first time we played brass with marimbas. We never rehearsed the drums and brass before so… we took the instruments out of the car, went into the toilets of the Cape Town Station and had a rehearsal. We blew everyone away to the point that we actually got a seven day contract to perform at the festival of Lights.”
Collectively, the group create and arrange the musical pieces, writing their own songs in isiXhosa.
A special tribute was made to band members who had since died.
Jiyana said the past year had been difficult. “Covid-19 hit us hard. We were planning big things. Performances (bookings) were flocking in. 2020 was looking hopeful and then, boom - Covid-19. Our gigs were being cancelled. It has affected us mentally and emotionally, of course, because of the band members that we lost, and obviously financially. We lost a lot of gigs, a lot of revenue.”
Abavuki manager Nikki Froneman of Arte Viva Management said, “This was an opportunity to showcase where Abavuki is at now, and our main focus was to have local and international programmers watching, with a view to opening conversations around the 2022 show.
“I am very happy that we achieved that, and because we now have this excellent-quality video, anyone who was not able to watch live can still do so after the fact. I am thrilled with the success of the show!”
Venue owner and theatre director Esra Overberg said, “If we don't have people in the theatre paying for tickets and we don't have organisations doing the grants for us to make this possible, then these places will close.
“It's tough and it's difficult but we have to push on… Gallery 44 & Theatre is going to be here to stay. There's lots more shows coming.”