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An Interview with Kefilwe ‘Sweets’ Morutimang

Soweto Steelpan Woman Rising

Women and the Steelpan Art Form

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Brigitte Fischer
Kefilwe ‘Sweets’ Morutimang

South Africa - Meet Kefilwe ‘Sweets’ Morutimang, musician, steelpan player and scholar from Soweto, South Africa.

Kefilwe ‘Sweets’ Morutimang is a charismatic, bright and multi-talented young lady who has bonded with the steelpan music instrument.  Moreover, the instrument  has propelled her forward and created opportunities.

In this exclusive 2010 When Steel Talks (WST) interview, Kefilwe talks about the steelpan in Soweto, the Soweto Marimba Youth League (SMYLe) project and her remarkable journey.

  • WST - How did you first become introduced to the steelpan instrument?

    Kefilwe - It was through a friend called Dimakatso, she was a dancer in the same organization that had a steelpan band.

  • WST  - What pan do you play?

    Kefilwe 'Sweets' Morutimang performing at TV recording in Soweto
    Kefilwe ‘Sweets’ Morutimang performing at TV recording in Soweto
    Kefilwe - I play tenors, and double tenors.

  • WST - What does your family think about your involvement in pan playing, and do any others play?

    Kefilwe - To this day my mum only knows that I play music but still can’t figure out these tins (pans) that have sound when banged with sticks, I am the only one playing pans or doing music.

  • WST - Tell us about the Soweto Marimba Kidz Band.

    Kefilwe - I started playing with Soweto Marimba Kids for 4 years and I moved to The Soweto Marimba youth League (SMYLe). The Soweto Marimba Youth League (SMYLe) project is a musical outreach programme that seeks to offer under-privileged children living in the Dobsonville area of Soweto an opportunity to overcome adversity, work towards a common goal, and to reach the pinnacle of the success they choose for themselves.

    The initial intention of the project was to create a music programme in an area where schools are either ill-equipped or technically unable to provide learners with an opportunity to study music as part of their academic growth. Even today, the SMYLe project is one of very few music programmes for school learners in Dobsonville, with the SMYLe team representing 5 of the 7 area high schools, of which only P.J. Simelane has a music programme.

     Brigitte Fischer in Phase II Pan Groove
    Kefilwe teaches students about the steelpan in Soweto

    Without a formal music teacher in the area, the job of teaching the learners how to play their music fell onto the shoulders of the multi-talented Johnny Hlaba: the gardener of a primary school. Johnny works with the band on a daily basis, teaching the learners how to play each of the instruments using his ability to translate the songs he hears into his own ‘African’ versions. More importantly, Johnny has taught ‘how to teach’ to many of the older members of our band, such that he can now call on many of the senior members of the project to help teach new learners.

    The hope has always been that the youth of Dobsonville to avoid the daily hazards of drugs, crime and teenage pregnancy, while acting as an assertive reminder that ‘Education is the Only Solution.’

  • WST - Are there many steelbands in South Africa?

    Kefilwe - Yes there are bands that play pans but you normally find that it’s a marimba band featuring steel pans [playing] a few songs - unlike us; we are a steel pan band we feature marimbas and other instruments.

  • WST - You’ve made a remarkable journey from Soweto - what role did the steelpan instrument play, if any, in you entering University?

    Kefilwe - We went on a tour form Soweto to Canada in 2006 and I was in my matric year (last year of high school).  I worked hard in school but I had no means to study further.  While on our tour I had to study for my mid-term exams so every day after a performance I would study while everyone on tour had fun. A lady called Joanne Jones in Canada from Mind Recreations, noticed. I went back home and after some few weeks they wrote me a letter asking if they sponsored me to study further would I like to, and I said yes “I would love to go to University.”  Steel pans have been my way of life, I have learned that if you work hard and most importantly doing what you love and just loving and enjoying music, you will reach you goals.

  • WST - And what University are you attending, and what is your field of study?

    Kefilwe - University of South Africa, I am doing third year BCom Accounting with a dream of becoming a CA one day.

  • WST - Are there many female pan players in Johannesburg?

    Kefilwe - Yes, there are, particularly in my band.  We have had our numbers increase from the original four who started with me, to twelve females now playing pans.

  • WST - And what is next for Kefilwe ‘Sweets’ Morutimang?

    Kefilwe - Playing more pan and teaching as many as possible, and qualifying as a CA four years from now.  We are going to play in the UK and Germany - departing on the 17th of April 2010.  We plan and hope to be doing something for the World Cup as it’s in our country.  We just recorded 2 CDs, and we have a tour to Canada in September this year.

    contact Kefilwe ‘Sweets’ Morutimang -

  • Their Story, Their Voice, Their Life, Their Dreams - click for more stories

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