|Johannesburg is a city with great buzz - and one in which racial integration has happened very quickly. So says Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse, a giant of South African music for the past three decades.|
Whereas in Cape Town you can "feel the gulf and it is difficult to mix", in Johannesburg, says Sipho, "people seldom worry about race". He cites as an example the Concert in the Park at Ellis Park in the early 1980s, where people came together for the music: "There were no inhibitions."
Born in Soweto in 1951, he grew up in the township and sees it as an integral part of Johannesburg. "I still live in Soweto."
Sipho started playing drums at the age of eight, and by 15 was a professional musician. He has performed in almost every southern African country, and has toured the US, the UK, France, Germany and Italy. He is comfortable on the drums, sax and flute, the flute being his favourite - "I love wind instruments."
In his leisure time he goes to the theatre, nightclubs, and shopping malls, to soak up the city. "There's an array of things to do," he says.
Has he ever lived elsewhere? "I tried, many years ago. I lived in the US and the UK for two years, but I missed the South Africanness, and came back," he says with a smile playing around his grey-tinged moustache and beard.
Sipho's most recent CD is Township Child (1996). It has 14 tracks that showcase a variety of musical styles like dance, reggae, jazz, mbaqanga, kwela and gospel. Tracks such as Nelson Mandela, Rainbow Nation, African Sunset and Enchanted Garden reflect his enthusiasm for South Africa.
Of his broad range of musical styles he told www.tmusicman.co.za: "I've tried to give as much of my talent as possible. I do not want to pigeon-hole myself. I want to be a total musician in the mould of Phil Collins, Sting, or Al Jarreau."
Are his children going to follow in his footsteps? His eldest daughter, Mpho Skeef, who lives in London, is a songwriter and singer, and he has played with her in London. Another daughter, of 15, also sings.
Sipho is proud that he has contributed to the "cultural development" of a range of young musicians, who came to him for advice, and with whom he has worked. Among his collaborators are Gloria Bosman, Jimmy Dludlu, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba. He has learned from the encounters - "I gained from a different understanding of different styles."
In case you're wondering about the "Hotstix", the explanation is simple and charming. Playing a gig years back in a hall, the lights suddenly went out, but Sipho, on the drums, was the only musician able to continue playing, which he did for the next 20 minutes. One of his fellow band members approached him afterwards and said: "Hey, hot sticks", and it stuck.
With the attitude of "in music you don't retire you mature", Sipho says that God is a big element in his life. "Nothing would have been possible without him, and family and friends."