POLOKWANE – He beats the drum softly, as though he’s afraid it will break. Yet he himself looks like he would break, this tiny youngster with a huge drum.
But once the trumpet and the trombone joins in, he smashes the drum so hard you really fear he’d break it.
And then suddenly, the cacophony of noise from the instruments is an audible song that gets the rest of the crowd adding the lyrics.
It is a song so common at South African stadiums, but the addition of the brass band makes the popular “Mbobo Buleka” – loosely translated ‘let there be an opening for a goal’ – so melodic it might as well lead to a goal being scored.
It didn’t on Tuesday at the Peter Mokaba Stadium, although Baroka FC did get the openings but just did not take them in their 1-1 draw against Kaizer Chiefs.
Backed by their partisan crowd that sang them encouragement throughout, Baroka will once again enjoy the advantage of their 12th man in this afternoon’s derby against Polokwane City.
One of a few clubs who have the backing of an official brass band, Baroka’s followers are excited at being involved in the first Premiership Woza Nazo game of the season and are hellbent on “bringing our voice” to the Peter Mokaba Stadium.
Coordinator of the Tembisa Branch Supporters Mogale Stephen Dichabe, easily recognisable with his distinguishing makarapa that has a Mogale GP number plate as well as the green horn he blows to encourage the team, says they are going to cheer their club to victory in song.
“The Polokwane fans know they will never outnumber us even if it is their home match. And with our brass band, they also know we will out-sing them,” he says, adding that he believes it was not by mistake that Absa made this the first Woza Nazo game.
“Only the Soweto derby is bigger than ours. In the past the Celtic and Stars match and to some extent Sundowns against Celtic used to be bigger. But now, the Polokwane derby is the second biggest and you will see why.”
From kick-off on Tuesday, Dichabe and Co, sitting right behind the team’s bench, sang their lungs out and the songs were not just random.
Brass Band leader Tshepo Phala from Zone R in Lebowakgomo explains the rationale behind their songs: “We play depending on the mood of the game. When it was goalless the songs we played were of encouragement. We urge the team on.”
Things changed when Baroka went ahead and the vibey “Baroka e tshela thupa” – ‘Baroka gives opponents a spanking’ – filled the cold Polokwane evening air.
A sombre mood enveloped the arena when Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the equaliser as the band played songs with a churchy feel.
“We need to lift their spirits up when they are down. And we all know just how uplifting church songs can be,” Phala explains.
With a band largely made up of teens and young boys still at primary school, he says that he formed the brass band with the idea of keeping them off the streets.
They perform mainly at weddings in the GaMphahlele area but when Baroka owner approached them to be the club’s official band they had no hesitation.
“It is our home club and we are honoured to play such a big role in helping them succeed. And we will be here again on Saturday to help them beat Polokwane. Sometimes when we are running late for matches, I get calls from the fans asking where we are because they really enjoy the vibe we bring. Even the players have told us that they appreciate what we do.”
That much was evident at the end of Tuesday’s match as the players came towards the stands and applauded the crowd and the band.
Their applause will be even greater should Baroka be the ones to produce the first win of the Polokwane derby this afternoon. For that to happen, the young boy will have to beat that drum just as hard and with little fear.