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Reasons to be Proud - #R2bP: The newly established Nelson Mandela University Steelpan Ensemble, conducted by Siyamthanda Xotyeni, recently won several awards at the 10th world-renowned International Marimba & Steelpan Festival, with 1615 participants this year.

The ensemble forming part of the University’s Music and Performing Arts Department won ‘The Trinidad and Tobago High Commission Award for the Best South African Open Steelpan Performance’ in the Special Award category. They were placed first in the ‘’In The Mix’’ category and second in both the ‘Proudly South African’ and ‘Battle of the Bands’ categories.

The festival is organised by the non-profit organisation Education Africa and directed by marimba specialist Joan Lithgow. The festival has been successfully run live for eight years before 2020, with 2000 young musicians playing marimbas, steelpans, singing, clapping, playing percussion and joyfully dancing. Since the Covid 19 pandemic the festival has been virtual, which grew participation from across the globe as bands, composers and solo participants were entered via video submissions. See more at

Countries that participated in the 2021 Education Africa’s Virtual International Marimba and Steelpan Festival were Australia, Antigua & Barbuda, South Africa, Botswana, New Zealand, Uganda, United Kingdom, Nigeria, Saint Lucia, Trinidad & Tobago and the USA. The festival has grown from having 667 participants in 2020 to 1615 this year and continues to grow and expand.

The Steelpan Ensemble actively participated in all the Music Departments’ recorded performance classes beginning last year with a solo rendition by Siyamthanda Xotyeni playing Andy Narell. The Ensemble also participated in the ‘’Sounding South African’’ musical exhibition conducted by Music lecturer Dr Glenn Holtzman. In October 2021 the ensemble was invited to perform at the Virtual Algoa FM Big Walk for Cancer.

The Steelpan Ensemble has four voices, namely Tenors (Lead), Double Seconds (Alto), Double Guitars (Tenor) and Bass.

The members are: Jade Jack (Tenor), Victor Magura (Tenor), Joshua De Paula e Silva (Tenor, Triple Guitars and Piano), Cassidy Dennis (Tenor and Double Second), Siyamthanda Xotyeni (Tenor, Double Second and Bass), Mathew Perry (Double Tenor and Saxophone), Nande Mzaidume (Double Tenor), Gabrielle Da Rocha (Double Guitars), Hannah Swanepoel (Bass and Electric Bass), Zach Pretorius (Percussion), Godwin Dhliwayo (Percussion) and Nathan Titus (Electric Guitar)

The band is open to both experienced and non-experienced players, all ages and with or without academic musical background. Playing more than one voice is highly encouraged within the band.

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160