I started playing guitar in the army. My first gig was in 1984 at my own 21st birthday party, with a group called Nirvana (seriously!) At Rhodes University I played bass for Vader Jakob, a ‘protest’ band that did several anti-apartheid End Conscription Campaign gigs. In my Honours year I began playing on a drumkit for Manhole, and when the band members moved up to Johannesburg in 1990 we formed Live Jimi Presley. This was an ‘industrial’ band that used angle grinders onstage along with scrap metal, masks and backing tracks. The Presleys did a collaboration called The Moscow Circus with Vusi Mahlasela and Lesego Rampolokeng at the Grahamstown Festival in 1992.
In 1996 I played saxophone, didgeridoo, djembe and electronic drums for Sparky’s Magic Piano, a glam outfit with ‘doowah’ girls and pop backtracks. In the late 90s I played djembe for the Philemon Zulu band, a traditional maskande outfit. In the early 2000s I started busking on the streets with Chapungu marimba band, which later became Achimota. I then helped to set up the NGO Achimota Community Arts Project, which trained children from Orange Farm to play marimbas. Achimota performed as part of The Magical Marimba Tree, a play that did several performances at Aardklop Festival in the townships of Potchefstroom.
In 2003 I started playing drums with avant garde artist Aryan Kaganof and composer Dax Butler; we went on to do some performances at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. I started playing with Dax’s group Them Particles in 2009, which featured at the Maun Festival in Botswana and the FORR festival in Mozambique. Dax and I also began playing with Achimota at corporate gigs, obtained through agencies like The Drum Café. In 2018 I played for an Afrikaans band called Damdykers, headed up by Guillaume Rossouw who used to run the The Harbour Café in Yeoville in the 80s and 90s. I helped Rumanian DJ Coco Lupu to create soundtracks for some SABC series; in 2018 Coco and I did three gigs with Sotho musican Morena Leraba. I’m playing drums for the pirate band Dub Loons at the moment.
On occasion I do sound journeys at esoteric events, with a variety of acoustic instruments. In 2016 myself and Tilo von Brandis collected old tracks from Live Jimi Presley and together we produced a CD of the 90s band, along with a DVD documentary from old footage. I also produced CDs for Chapungu and for Achimota; the Achikids still sell them at gigs. The musical journey continues!
1992: Bass and drums for The Moscow Circus, a Live Jimi Presley collaboration with Vusi Mahlasela and Lesego Rampolokeng, at The Grahamstown Festival
1997: Djembe and didj for Planet, a visual/musical performance in the Wits Planeterium, with Jiggs Thorne doing poetry. Also did many of the images
2004: Played a priest in the musical play The Magic Marimba Tree at Aardklop Festival in Potchefstroom
2005: Played drums for Freedom Fighter at the National Arts Festival
2005: Played djembe and drums for Achimota Marimba Band at The Great Dance Bushman Festival in the Cradle of Humankind
2006: Helped to create the NGO Achimota Community Arts Project, to train kids from Orange Farm to play and build marimbas, dance and sing
2007: Recorded drums and helped to produce Ukuxolelana CD for Achimota with Brendan Jury
2009: Played drums for Them Particles at Maun Festival in Botswana
2010, 2012: Played drums for Them Particles at FORR Festival in Mozambique
2014-2016: Collected archives of Live Jimi Presley songs with Tilo von Brandis, and made a CD, DVD (directed by Juliet Hofmeyr), and T-shirts. Read poems at launch.
2017: Played percussion for Sotho shepherd Morena Leraba in Lesotho.
2019: Played with Dub Loons and took Achikids marimba band up to play at Okavango Music Delta Festival
CDs and DVDs I helped to produce:
2003: Sons of the Sun, by Chapungu
2007: Ukuxolelana, by Achimota marimba band
2016: Live Jimi Presley, by Live Jimi Presley
2017: Further, by Live Jimi Presley
Please visit: https://www.youtube.com/user/derekdavey for a taste of my musical past