Monthly Archives: December 2019

My Journey to Playing Indigenous African Instruments

Category : Creators

By Sibahle ‘Sky’ Dladla

I was born and raised in the township of Gugulethu, Cape Town, South Africa. I am an African instrumentalist, a percussionist, marimba maker, a songwriter, singer, bow instrument maker and performer. I would like to tell you about the instruments I play and where they are from.


The first African instrument I played was the Marimba Xylophone which I learned in high school. The marimba in South African is traced to arriving with some Catholic Churches who brought them from Zimbabwe. The origins of the Marimba are still not completely known. In SA, Marimbas are played in bands/ ensembles and in Cape Town alone, there are over 100 Marimba bands.


I then went on to learn to play the Uhadi bow, a traditional Xhosa musical instrument from the Eastern Cape, South Africa. It is an unbraced musical bow which is attached to a calabash that serves as a resonator and played using a thin 30-40cm meter stick to strike it. It was often played by Xhosa women at traditional ceremonies.

Mbira dza Vadzimu

The Mbira dza Vadzimu which translates to “Mbira of the Ancestors” from the Zezuru Shona people of Zimbabwe. It is closely associated with traditional spirit possession ceremonies. It has 2 rows of metal strips, made by flattened nails, each tuned individually and attached to an open-ended wooden block that acts as a resonator. This is my favorite and most challenging indigenous instrument so far.

Nyunga Nyunga

Similar to the Mbira instrument, I play the Nyunga Nyunga from the Nyungwe people of Mozambique. It is built similar to the Mbira but with only 17 keys and has a much smaller frame.


One of the percussive instruments that I play is the Kayamba from the Mascarene Islands, which is a flat shaker made into a rectangle with reeds and filled in with seeds. When played it makes ocean and rain sounds.


 I visited Mozambique a few years agoand was taught the Chitende and Timbila by a maestro percussionist Matchume Zango.

The Chitende is a braced bow with a calabash resonator as well. It is played by striking the string with a small stick whilst placing the calabash on and off your chest. I also went on to learn to play the Timbila, which is a Mozambican xylophone played with a lot of speed and agility. It is one of the loudest xylophones in Africa with 18 to 24 keys.

My dream and goal is to learn ALL of the indigenous instruments from Africa and to preserve them for generations to come.

Tips to Managing Holiday Stress

Category : Creators

By Nokwanda Nkomo B.A., B.S.W.

The holidays can be a time full of great cheer, joy and glee. They  can also cause stress, tension and isolation.  This a challenging time as  we are try to fit in a number of tasks and activities, while altering our usual routine and possibly repeating this for a number of days. It is always a  great time to reconnect with loved ones near and far and is meant to be a time of leisure. This is also a time where we are challenged by the differences, tensions and gaps in our relationships. Sometimes we are faced with grief and the recognition of those who are not there to enjoy the festivities with us.  What is particularly important during this time of the year is how we take care of ourselves and continue to be mindful of what is good for you and what will harm you. I encourage you all to remain optimistic yet realistic. Welcome letting go of expectations, be it traditions, budgets or the interactions that do not go according to plan and avoid paying the emotional tax later. Check out some tips on managing holiday stress below.


1. PHYSICAL EXERCISE: Arm yourself with some practical coping techniques and strategies for the season.  A quick one that can be used at the dinner table without anyone even noticing is the “hoku spot”. By pressing the area in the middle of your thumb and index finger for 30 seconds. This allows firm pressure in the area which can reduce tension in the upper body. Trusted breathing exercises and slowing your breathing can also help to restore your inner calm.

2. REACH OUT: if you are feeling lonely or isolated during the holiday season, browse the internet for local social events in your community that you can attend. Many Organizations that offer free meals, holiday events that are available to all. This is also a great way to find ways to give back to the community.

3. DON’T OVER SCHEDULE: The holidays tend to be the busiest time of the year. Despite our best efforts, it often is not realistic to visit each single family member and friends during such a short and busy period. Find alternative ways to celebrate with those loved ones near and far via text, phone calls, and emails. A great time to create that group text and share all the holiday memories with everyone in just one click!

4.  STICK TO YOUR BUDGET: Before you go gift shopping, plan and commit to a budget that will allow you to still be comfortable after the holiday adrenaline wears off. Try alternatives to store bought gifts like handmade gifts as well as starting new gift exchange traditions that won’t break the bank.  

5. MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF: Don’t abandon those healthy habits you practiced throughout the year. Stick to your routines the best you can. Incorporate  physical activity into your holiday schedule. No time for your usual hour work out? Take a walk around the neighborhood. That 15 minutes of alone time could help you to remain refreshed and ready to tackle on the holiday adventures.

6. SLEEP: Get plenty of sleep!  It is hard to keep up with the hussle and bustle of the holiday season while fighting exhaustion. Adequate sleep promotes brain function and plays a vital role in one’s mental health. Nap if you can! 

7. SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP IF YOU NEED IT: Many folks find themselves  experiencing depression, stress and persistent sadness during the holiday season. Reach out to Suicide prevention helplines, Counsellors, online supports like Big White Wall. If you find yourself unable to cope and manage any of the emotions and stress. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.