A Conversation with Mantombi Matotiyana 9 April 2019
Please Note: The conversation was planned to be in isiXhosa (as announced in the intro) but what will one hear and see in the transcription is not the standard isiXhosa language. The musician does not speak IsiXhosa as she is a Mpondomise, her language has Mpondo and Mpondomise dialects and as such the interview had to be switched to her language. English introduction and greeting the audience with brief introduction by Prof. Stephanus Muller. Pakama Ncume then takes a seat.
Pakama Ncume: Ngwanya (The musician’s clan name is used as a greeting).
Mantombi Matotiyana: Ewe (response).
PN: Unjani ma?
PN: How are you ma?
MM: Ndiphilile unjani wena?
MM: I am well and how are you?
PN: Ndiphilile nam ma.
PN: I am well ma.
PN: Ibe nde lendlela. Ndifundile, ndivile abantu babhalile ngawe, kodwa namhlanje ndirhalela usixelele into yokokuba njengemvumi ebhalayo, eculayo, edlala zonke ezi zixhobo zomculo; ukuba zithetha ukuthini kuwe ezi zixhobo?
PN: This has been a long musical journey for you. I have read what some scholars have written about you but today I would like you to tell us, as a composer, singer and instrumentalist (player), how do you feel when playing these various instruments?
MM: Ziyandonwabisa ezi zixhobo. Ndaziqala ndisemncinci, ndakhula ngazo. Ngoku ndithi noba bendicinga, ndiyeke ukucinga ndakuphatha ezi zixhobo. Ziphuma kum entliziyweni.
MM: These instruments make me happy. I started playing them when I was young and grew up playing. Even when something is bothering me, I play and they uplift my spirit. I am very passionate about them, they come from my heart.
PN: Ukhule ngezi zixhobo, ndinomdla wokwazi into yokokuba ngezantsuku zakho zokukhula zazidlalwa ngoobani, xa kutheni?
PN: As someone who grew up playing these instruments, my interest is to know who played them then and why?
MM: Zazidlalwa ezi zinto ngoomama. Uhadi lukhaliswa xa kuza kulalwa, kuqale kube mnyama, aniyeke nilale, nothuke kengoku. Ngoku le (ekhomba umrhumbe) sasithunywa ngayo le, ubeke aph’emlonyeni kuthiwe yiya evenkileni. Wawubuya ngokukhawuleza okudibene nokungxama, uvela kuyothenga iswekile namagqabi, ufuna ukuphunga umama ngelo xesha.
MM: These instruments were played by women. Uhadi was played at night. Players would wait for people to sleep before playing but we were woken up by those sounds. This one (pointing to umrhubhe) was played even by us children. In order to come back from shops immediately when we were sent to buy sugar and tea, we would be asked to play it on the way. It was important to come back quickly as our mothers would be waiting for tea.
PN: Kweli cwecwe lakho, Songs of Greeting, Healing and Heritage, elisesona sizathu sokuba sibe lapha, ndilimamele njengo Professor Ndebele, ndafumanisa into yokuba lineengoma ezilishumi elinambini. Ndinomdla wokwazi ukuba yeyiphi okanye zeziphi ezona zithetha ncakasana nawe, zeziphi ezona othi ukuba uzicule uzive kamnandi?
PN: In this CD, Songs of Greeting, Healing and Heritage, which is the reason for this celebration today and which I have listened to like Professor Ndebele did, which song or songs speak more to you, song/s that make you feel good?
MM: Yile ithi umnke ngayo, emzini ndashiya abantwana bam nombona no Wachitheka
MM: It’s ‘umnke ngayo’ (refererring to track 2 in the CD – Xel’into omnke ngayo) and Wachitheka (track one in the CD – Wachitheka umzi wendoda)
PN: Yintoni eyona nto uyithanda kakhulu ngazo, ngumyalezo, sisingqi?
PN: What do you like most about these songs? Is it the message in the lyrics or the rhythm?
MM: Sisingqi nomyalezo.
MM: It is the rhythm and the message.
PN: Usebenze neli qela lootat’uDizu, lineezimvumi (ezi ntombi ezintle nomama abakukhaphayo); ooNcebakazi (no Michael) ukushicilela eli cwecwe. Ungathi gqaba-gqaba usixelele into yokuba belunjani olu hambo lokuba sibe namhlanje sithetha ngoba simisa into abantu abayibonayo. Bekunjani ukusebenza nabo?
PN: You have worked with this team of Dizu, these beautiful lady singers and dancers, Ncebakazi, Michael (she interposes) in releasing the CD; can you please briefly tell us how it was to work with all of them?
MM: Sisebenze kakuhle kuba kaloku mna ndandisuke ndisiz’apha kweli leentlanzi ndisuka kwelakuTsolo, kwilali ekuthiwa kukuJence, ndazotshwapha kweli lizwe, ndafik’apha ndasil’umqombothi, andaphatha ezi zixhobo. Kwaya kengoku sendilapha emqombothini, kwaphuma uDizu weza kum. Ezi zixhobo sendizilibele kaloku mna ngoku, andisazazi, ndandizikhalisa ngoko ndandisakhula. Kwafik’uDizu Plaatjies wandicela, ndala ndathi ndikholiseka ngulo mqombothi wam ndiwusilayo. Ndoneliseka yile ngoku, le undifaka kuyo yile ndingayithandiyo. Wandicela ndatsho ndangena, ndatsho ndawuyeka umqombothi.
MM: We worked very well. When I came here (Cape Town – she calls it the fish city as it is popularly known/called in our province) from Jence, my village in Tsolo, I started brewing mqombothi (traditional beer) for a living. I was not playing the instruments anymore and I had forgotten about them. Dizu approached me and asked me to play, something I flatly refused because I enjoyed and was satisfied with brewing the beer. He persuaded me, and I finally agreed and stopped brewing the beer (…to audience laughter)
PN: Awaphinde uwuthengise umqombothi?
PN: So you never sold the beer again?
MM: Andaphinde ndiwuthengise umqombothi. Ndavukuz’amazwe, ndakhwel’i-olopleyini ndatshakaza ndenjenje (ebonisa ngezandla)
MM: I stopped selling the beer. I started travelling the world on an airplane, an exciting adventure (she lifts her hand as if flying) … the audience gives an applauding laughter …
PN: Siphila kwixesha apho sithetha ngebuyambo kodwa izenzo zethu (MM .. azitsho..) ezisisa kwibuyambo azinamabakala abonakalayo kakhulu, asenza sibe nexhala into yokuba ingaba kanene siza kuba nalo na ikamva lalomculo wethu. Ucinga into yokuba yintoni enokusincedisa ukuwugcina umculo oyinkcubeko yethu uphila? Unowuphi umbono, yintoni orhalela ukuyibona isenzeka nanjengomama omdala ukugcina lomculo wethu uphila?
PN: We live at a time where there are talks on ibuyambo (back to our roots) but the strides may not be that big/visible to achieve this (MM says they do not show). This leaves one worried about the effects of these in preserving the music which forms part of our heritage. What would you suggest, as an elder, can be done to ensure that this music does not perish?
MM: Ey, ndiyathandabuza andazi noba ndingathini na ngoba kaloku abantwana bethu abayifuni lento. Bathi, ‘Yho makhulu, wena uthetha eza zinto zakudala. Zayekwa, sifun’iTV thina’. Kodwa ke ndiyanqwena ukuba bangene apha kulomculo, lo siwenzayo thina bantu badala. Sasisenza ezi zinto thina, singazazi ezi zinto zeeTV. Ndirhalela ingase nabo bawufunde abantwana bethu ngoba thina sesibadala, bafunde ezi zinto mhlazimbe ikhona indawo bafunde, kodwa babuye ke beze kwezi zinto bazifunde, kodwa baqale kulaa ndawo inemfundo.
MM: I am hesitant/have doubts, not sure what can be really done because our children don’t like this music that much. They will say, “Grandmother, this is outdated. We want to watch TV”. It is my wish though that they learn this music, that there be places to teach them because we are aging now, learn it without abandoning their studies as well.
PN: Xa sijonga iminyaka yakho nethuba elithathileyo into yoba namhlanje ube necwecwe elilelakho, sijonge ukuba kwilizwe esiphila kulo baninzi abantu abanesakhono netalente abakhange balifumane ithuba lokuba babe nemini njengawe, babe necwecwe. Ungathanda ukuthini, ungathanda ukubapha awaphi amazwi okubakhuthaza?
PN: Looking at your age and the time it has taken for you to release a solo album and also looking at the skill and talent of the musicians in the country who have not yet managed to be released, what words of encouragement would you like to give them?
MM: Ey andazi, ndiqale emqombothini ke mna ndeza kulento yam. Kodwa ndiqale emqombothini. Ngokuna le, ngokunake ndibulela ukude ndinyamezele. Dizu Plaatjies kunye no Michael abandibeke kule ndawo ndikuyo namhlanje, ndingazi ukuba ndingaze ndizofika kule ndawo, bangcambaza nam kodwa ndisithi andifuni.
MM: I really don’t know what to say because I was surviving by brewing the traditional beer at first. That’s where I started, making traditional beer. I am grateful that Dizu Plaatjies and Michael [Blake] discovered me and that after much persuasion, I finally agreed and persevered. I have achieved this because of them. I never thought that one day this will be a reality.
PN: Yayiyintoni isizathu esibangela ukuba ungafuni?
PN: What was the reason for refusing?
MM: Ndikholwa ngulo mqombothi ndifumana imali namhlanje. Ndithengisa namhlanje, ndifuman’imali namhlanje apha, ndilale ndityile.
MM: I was happy with my beer sales because I was earning daily. I got money immediately with every purchase and the daily earnings enabled me to put food on the table.
PN: Le ingathi ingakucothozela?
PN: Did you feel like music was going to be slow for you (referring to making money out of it)?
MM: Le, ndayibona ukuba undifak’embambezeleni ke ngoku, undibek’embambezeleni. Oh! Lotsho’ilanga, kanti belitshona ndiyazi ukuba ndizodla ntoni.
MM: I had a feeling that this was not going to give me quick returns, it was going to be a long process and yet with my beer, I knew I had food every day.
PN: Bukhona ubunconwana oza kubunika abantwana.
PN: You have something to provide for your children.
MM: Ngoku le, yho yimbambezela
MM: And now this (referring to the music) was going to be a major financial delay
PN: Siyabulela kakhulu Jola, Qengeba, Mthwakazi, Ngwanya, ngethuba lakho. Andifuni kuyenza nde le ngxoxo ngoba namhlanje sirhalela nokuva umculo osiphathele wona.
PN: Thank you very much Jola, Qengeba, Mthwakazi, Ngwanya (her clan names) for the time. I don’t want to drag this conversation because we are eagerly waiting to hear your music rendition for the evening.