Ndilimani going strong at 35

06 February 2015

Growing up in pre-independence Namibia, the Ndilimani Cultural Group became very recognisable with its catchy tunes and kwasa-kwasa dance moves.

Thirty-five years down the line, the group is still as popular as it was during the liberation struggle, making it the perfect poster child for what it takes to be a successful musical act in Namibia.

The group, named after the late Plan commander Peter Nanyemba whose combat name means dynamite, was established in 1980 in Lubango with the purpose of mobilising people to rally behind Swapo and boost the morale of the fighters.

During this time and the years leading up to independence, the group toured around the world telling stories about the plight of the Namibian people through their song and dance.

Although things have changed as none of the founding members remain in the group anymore, it still has the same aim. The only difference is that they have cast a wider net to incorporate current socio-economic problems.

“After independence we had to change our message. We now focus on creating awareness about social issues such as drugs, HIV/Aids and unemployment, but we also have historical songs that talk of the liberation struggle.

It is important to have songs about the struggle to remind people that the lives they live now did not come on a silver platter, but that people shed blood for it,” operational manager for the group Jessy Nambanza explained.

The cultural group consists of 12 people from all over Namibia. Every couple of years the group has auditions for younger members to take over the reins.

The group, which is still a subsidiary of Swapo-owned Kalahari Holdings, released three albums, before moving over to volumes in 2003.

To date, the group has released 11 volumes, with the best-selling being the one released last year in honour of President-elect Hage Geingob.

“The secret behind our success is perseverance… When we came back to Namibia right before independence some of our group members went their separate ways in search of greener pastures.

“At the time there were only a few bands in Namibia, one led by the late Virimuje (Willie) Mbuende and others by the late Jackson Kaujeua and Ras Sheehama (to name a few). Mostly South African bands that came once a month saturated the market,” Nambanza said.

He added that through perseverance, they proved that local music was just as good as South African music, thereby reducing the frequency of visits by these foreign bands to Namibia.

However, that is only the music aspect of it. Financially, the group operates as any normal company would.

Instead of splitting their profits after a gig like other artists, they collect their earnings, which every member of the team receives as a salary at the end of the month.

Apart from their performances, they also invest in various ventures to ensure that they make a profit, no matter how small it is.

“Focusing on music alone is tough, especially for upcoming artists. They need to engage in extra activities that will help them generate an income, and that way they will not have to struggle when looking for funding for their albums. They also need a lot of discipline and focus,” Nambanza advised.

He concluded by thanking fans for their loyalty and support, and promised to bring them even better entertainment in the years to come.

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The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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