1600 performers for Joburg’s Marimba and Steelpan Festival

The fifth annual International Marimba and Steelpan Festival is set to take place in Johannesburg, South Africa on the weekend of 30 and 31 July.

Scenes from a previous edition of the International Marimba and Steelpan Festival. Photo: Facebook
Scenes from a previous edition of the International Marimba and Steelpan Festival. Photo: Facebook

More than 1600 performers from all over South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Nigeria will descend on Tom Newby School in Benoni, where festival-goers will hear some of the world’s best marimba and steel bands perform at what is regarded as the largest festival of its kind in the world.

Over 80 schools and institutions from across the continent will be descending on Benoni for a weekend of music, marimbas and merriment as they battle it out for the coveted trophies and prizes to be won.

In addition to the 250 marimba and steelpan performances, which take the form of competitions in various categories, there will also be over 65 workshops on offer to everyone. These include djembe, marimba, steelpan, mbira, Khoisan dance, flamenco dance, Indian dance and gumboot dance.

The organisers recently announced their six adjudicators for the festival: steelpan specialists Andy Narell and Hallie Blejewski from USA, marimba specialists Gerard van de Geer (Australia) and Bongani Sotshononda, as well as Dr Andile Khumalo and Pops Mohamed from South Africa.

One of the many highlights of the festival is the massed marimba and steelpan event, where over 1000 performers will learn a new piece specifically composed for this event by the event organizer, Joan Lithgow. This piece, entitled ‘Africa’, will be learnt from scratch within 40 minutes and then will be performed with all the adjudicators!

There are a number of concerts throughout the two days, including two solo performances by Andy Narell and two duo performances by Dave Reynolds and Pops Mohamed – all concerts that are not to be missed.

In addition, the SAMRO Foundation sponsors a composition competition, which is judged prior to the festival and the compositions performed at the festival.  The foundation also commissions a new composition each year. This year the composition, ‘Nala’, for steelpan, chromatic marimba and chromatic bass marimba was written by Bongani Sotshononda and will be performed by the composer as well as Dave Reynolds on steelpan and Bradley Lithgow on bass marimba.

Besides the hotly contested marimba and steelpan competitions which provides non-stop performances for two days, the numerous workshops on offer, and the massed djembe, steelpan and marimba items, there will also be a large craft market to keep people busy.

The festival is hosted by Education Africa in partnership with Tom Newby School. The event’s major sponsor is the Department of Arts and Culture with their special theme: ‘building a better Africa and a better world’.
Ticket info

This is a family outing with prices geared towards bringing the whole family for a fun-filled weekend. Adults and children will pay R120 for a full weekend pass  or R60 per day for ALL entertainment including attendance at workshops. If you’re not wanting to attend the workshops, tickets cost R30 per day for adults and R20 per day for children.

Get your tickets at the gate on the day or book online via the festival website. For block bookings or more information contact Thami at (+27)11 6857300 or thami@educationafrica.org

The festival takes place between 8am and 8pm on Saturday and 8am and 5pm on Sunday at Tom Newby School, 10 Master Street, Airfield, Benoni, Gauteng. 


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