Pops brings his indigenous sounds to Artscape

Road Trip with Dizu Plaatjies formed part of the Artscape Heritage Festival.

Audiences were treated to a spectacular musical journey with indigenous instruments on Heritage Day at the Artscape theatre.

The production, Road Trip with Dizu Plaatjies, was put together by Mr Plaatjies and headlined by Dave Reynolds, while Pops Mohamed was also the musical director of the show. Mr Mohamed said he and Mr Plaatjies went back a long way and he had jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the show.

“We’ve been friends for more than 35 years and have supported each other’s music. Through the years, we’ve travelled the world together.”

The show also coincided with an announcement from Artscape CEO Marlene Le Roux, that there would be an indigenous instrument programme at the theatre.

This was significant for Mr Mohamed, who had studied guitar and classical piano when he was younger but later decided to leave that behind to learn about indigenous music. “Since June 1976 with the Soweto uprisings, I saw that this could change the fate of South Africa forever.

“I didn’t know what that was but knew I wanted to be a part of that. The only way I could do that was in a musical way but definitely not with the music I was playing at the time.”

Mr Mohamed said he used to play cover versions of music by artists like Jimi Hendrix and Van Halen. “I threw all that out of the window and looked at indigenous instruments.

“It was painfully dying a slow death, even on the radio stations.”

He has travelled to villages and places like the Kalahari desert, where he asked people to teach him about their instruments.

He said it was also important for him to learn what indigenous instruments meant to people in modern society and what it meant 50 years ago.

“There is a lot of history there on how people communicate with indigenous instruments to attract the ancestors. That’s a very deep thing, and it’s always been my journey to protect and to preserve indigenous instruments.”

For the past 20 years, Mr Mohamed has been teaching young children and passing on the knowledge. “I’m still learning. This journey never stops. Whatever knowledge I get out of it I pass on to the young kids. I’d like to see in the next 10 years that we have more people doing this kind of work.”

Mr Mohamed said that in the past five years more university graduates had been focusing on the history of indigenous instruments. “The only way you can make a difference in the world of performing arts is to give people something which they don’t know.”

Mr Mohamed said music was a vital part of our identity. “It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what colour you are. If you’re born in Africa, you’re an African. And you’ve got that responsibility to carry the African flag. It’s nice to be modern, but we must never ever forget where we’re coming from.

“There is still hope for us as South Africans to make a difference in the world. It’s high time we start producing music and exporting the music.

“We’ve got to work hard at it so that people from abroad buy the music from Africa with the same passion as what we do with their music.”

He said his message to communities on Heritage Day was to be true to yourself. “Love and generosity start at home. Learn to love yourself and you will be able to love other people.”