‘Camagu Dosini’: Honouring Dizu Plaatjies

28 May 2024 | Story Niémah Davids. Photos Lerato Maduna. Video Production Team Ruairi Abrahams, Boikhutso Ntsoko and Nomfundo Xolo. Read time 4 min.
After more than three decades at UCT’s South African College of Music, Prof Dizu Plaatjies will retire at the end of the year.

A spectacular African music performance in honour of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) very own Professor Zungula Mzikantu Plaatjies, better known as Dizu, brought the Baxter Theatre’s concert hall alive, as dozens gathered during a two-night performance to honour and celebrate a man of monumental stature ahead of his retirement.

Professor Plaatjies is one of South Africa’s leading traditional artists and cultural historians. He founded the music group Ibuyambo in the 2000s and is the former leader of the internationally acclaimed traditional percussion group AmaMpondo. Plaatjies has been lecturing African dance and music at UCT’s South African College of Music (SACM) for more than three decades. At the end of the year, this one-of-a-kind scholar, mentor and friend will retire from UCT – drawing the curtain on years of doing what he loves in an official capacity. But his teaching methodology will be intricately woven into the fabric of UCT’s teaching and learning project long after his retirement.

“UCT has been singularly blessed to have had Dizu Plaatjies as one of its distinguished staff members. His achievements are truly outstanding: first as a musician and band leader of AmaMpondo and later Ibuyambo – names that bear heritage in their meaning. Dizu’s brilliance in African traditional music is locally rooted, while internationally flying. He is truly an ambassador, a treasure and a torch bearer for future generations,” said Professor Shose Kessi, the dean of UCT’s Faculty of Humanities.

A dedication 

In honour of this extraordinary son of the African soil, UCT’s Ibuyambo Orchestra brought a lively, energetic atmosphere to the concert hall with an outstanding performance of Camagu (be honoured) Dizu Plaatjies – a special concert dedicated to Plaatjies and produced in celebration of his career and his distinguished contribution to the field of African dance and music.

A concert in honour of Prof Dizu Plaatjies was organised by UCT’s South African College of Music and was held on Friday, 17 May, and Saturday, 18 May.

During the event, which had the audience on the edge of their seats as they reveled in the music, students of African music at UCT performed alongside Plaatjies – representing hundreds of local and international students who have studied with him over the years. Special guest artists on stage also included the Dizu Plaatjies Ibuyambo Ensemble who performed music from their award-winning albums, Ubuntu – the Common String (2015) and African Kings (2008).

The concert was held on Friday, 17 May, and Saturday, 18 May. The event was organised by the SACM, directed by Mhlanguli George and codirected by Dr Bronwen Clacherty, an African music lecturer at the SACM.

‘Let people know your story’

For Plaatjies, the many years as a teacher have been a joy because he has followed in his late mother’s footsteps, and it’s given him the opportunity to share his knowledge with his students.

“I enjoy teaching because I can share all [that] I’ve got, all [that] I’ve known, all [that] I’ve experienced with other people. As a musician…don’t keep all the information to yourself, you’ve got to share it with other people,” Plaatjies said.

“For you to be able to be respected by the world, let people know your story. So, that is why I’m a teacher… I hope that all [that] I have started here at UCT must never end.”

A ‘musical sage and cultural historian’

In a special tribute, Professor Kessi said Plaatjies’ ability to craft the instruments he plays and perfectly tune them to bring back the sound of the ancestors, while simultaneously taking it forward to future generations, is remarkable. And UCT students who’ve been taught by him continue to benefit richly from his unique teaching style and invaluable expertise.

Special guest artists on stage during the concert included the Dizu Plaatjies’ Ibuyambo Ensemble who performed music from their award-winning albums, “Ubuntu – the Common String” (2015) and “African Kings” (2008).

“The students at UCT have benefitted tremendously in learning directly at the feet of this musical sage and cultural historian. As dean, I could not be prouder of his achievements,” Kessi said.

“I say this with a smile: that this official retirement is only that – official. We know that Dizu will keep working because this is a calling for him, and his reach is transcendental. We thank you, Dizu, and we thank your ancestors for sharing you with us for this long while – UCT will always be your home.”

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