Music is a spiritual experience and in African culture, being able to play an instrument is seen as a gift from the ancestors. These are the words of Ntate Albert Sekiba, the only person left in the community of Ga-Kobe who can still make this particular version of the Dipela instrument. This instrument was played and enjoyed for centuries dating back to the 1800’s. “Our family is known for being musicians and I was taught how to play this instrument by the elders in my family. Now that I’m an elder myself, it saddens me that younger people don’t want to learn how to make or play this instrument,” mentions Ntate Albert.
Ntate Albert uses a combination of mahogany wood and metal strings to make Dipela and learnt to do so by observing his elders make and play the instrument which has a six-note scale and is played by plucking metal wire.
He is a very patient man and you can easily tell in the way he speaks that he is quite passionate about passing on this knowledge. He then gives us a brief history about this instrument. It has other variations that are made from steel and strings but although the sound it makes sounds similar to his, a learned ear can clearly draw the distinction between the two. “At my age, I’m still willing to teach the younger generation to play this instrument. I want them to learn how to make it as well, so that one day when I’m gone, Dipela can still be played at celebrations and events. I have arthritis so making the instrument is becoming a challenge. I need young people I can direct to make the instrument. Young people who are passionate about keeping this part of our tradition for generations to come,” concludes Ntate Sekiba.
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