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Zulu fingers create music for Indian ears

Blaring from the loudspeakers, the Bollywood chartbusters might keep fans on their feet at Kingsmead, but if you are from India and at the ground, the overdose isn't always appealing, Atreyo Mukhopadhyay explores.

cricket Updated: May 01, 2009 02:25 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

Blaring from the loudspeakers, the Bollywood chartbusters might keep fans on their feet at Kingsmead, but if you are from India and at the ground, the overdose isn't always appealing.

To hear local stuff, one has to go towards the main entrance. Playing on their drums, Richard Ellis and Zinhle Mthembu churn out a rhythm which is hard to come across in India. They don't have loudspeakers but draw attention because of the different effect they have on the ears.

Contracted by the local organisers for the IPL matches in Durban, the two are part of the local band 'Mlilo', which means fire in Zulu. Ellis specialises in an Egyptian drum called doumbers, which is also known as the Egyptian tabla, and Mthembu prefers Djembe, which has originated from western Africa.

"The crowd is more interested in what's being played on the loudspeakers. Doesn't matter, we are happy that the odd spectator stops by and listens to what we are doing," Ellis said. He was being modest because they were attracting more than just the odd spectator. As they played, a group of schoolboys did an impromptu jig to go with the beat.

Ellis said their rhythm was influenced by the music of Africa. "We have incorporated elements from Mozambique, Ghana, Senegal, Egypt and other countries. There is a dash of traditional Zulu rhythm as well to give it a pan-African character."

There is a dash of Indian influence too, which he came across during a show in the US. "I got some CDs from friends after that and understood that the tabla is a very difficult art to practice seriously. But we have tried to blend a little bit of everything in our music.”

For the uninitiated, it's difficult to ascertain how successful the experiment has been, but for ears deafened by the bombardment of Hindi film music, the duo's beats are a welcome change.