Arrived on Friday 6th December and launched straight into frantic activity. Apart from a rescheduled train in the UK, and plane on this, all went smoothly. It was very poignant to hear the news of Nelson Mandela’s passing as we touched down in Johannesburg. It was
an ambition of Simon’s to write a Mandela Mass – seemed inconceivable that Madiba would outlive him.
It was a huge relief to be reunited with Charlie at Bulawayo airport and to drive back to New Magwegwe to be greeted by Charlie’s mum, his sister Amanda and brother Tonny. After a meal of chicken and sadza, Zimbabwe’s staple food, I was settled into the bedroom which Simon and I shared and despite the inevitable mix of emotions fell into a deep sleep.
On Saturday we spent a full day rehearsing with Sunduza. They re-formed in January, soon after Simon’s death. There are few of the original members but all are very keen to carry on Simon’s legacy and seem committed to my project. Besides Charlie, Simon’s firstborn, there are his nephews Bekithemba (an original member)and Leroy Sibanda, brothers of Mandla who also sadly passed away last year. Leroy does much of the administration side of the company. Tonny, Charlie’s brother, is not a full member as yet, but attends rehearsals and is a great dancer. The others are original members Fafaz and Peter, Mkhux, Leon who plays percussion, Simba and Khali. I also met the children who are going to work with us on Simon’s song Woza Ngena – they all took turns shaking my hand and telling me their names. Some are Charlie’s neighbours while others are the children of members of the group.
Rehearsals take place in Pumula at an open air theatre called the Es’phakeni Centre, housing the Amasiko Lemvelo project of which Sunduza is a part. This is where Simon’s funeral took place and it was hard not to think about that difficult day, although good to replace those sad memories with lively singing.
I was impressed with the way Charlie and Fafaz worked with the children and with the flow of creative ideas as we worked through the songs. We stopped for lunch prepared at a nearby house and worked on late into the afternoon, mindful of the two recording days ahead.