Spirit of the drum made people happy: Drumstruck on Dolly Parton show
South African drumming group Drumstruck have shared the stage with some of the biggest names in the industry, but it is their performance with pint-sized country music legend Dolly Parton, 73, that has them buzzing.
The Johannesburg-based group on Wednesday returned from a five-week stint at Parton's theme park, Dollywood, in Tennessee.
For Mpho Rasenyalo, 38, Patrick Pobee, 39, Emmanuel Quaye, 35, and Joshua Zacheus, 33, their encounter with the "teeny-weeny star" was one of the highlights of their careers. The rest of the group is Richard Carter, Sabelo Mgaga and Bafana Mahlangu.
That is quite a statement for a group who performed at the 2010 Soccer World cup in SA, formed part of the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and performed on Broadway.
They met while playing at the Drum Café in Johannesburg, and started the group in 2002.
They were invited to Dollywood by the park's organisers, who had seen them perform in Hong Kong. On opening night, while they were drumming to her famous song 9 to 5, Parton surprised them on stage, belting out the tunes with them.
Zacheus said the country star was "amazing" to work with. "She truly is the epitome of Southern charm. She treats everyone in the theme park the same - from the CEO to the caretakers."
Their performance showcased South African music and culture, drawing on gumboot rhythms and Zulu dancing, and weaving in West African influences.
The group took 1,000 bongo drums on the trip, so that each audience member in the 900-seat venue for every show could share in the experience. "We performed 75 shows in five weeks," an exhausted Quaye said.
They have previously shared a stage with Shakira, will.i.am, K'naan, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Alicia Keys and Linkin Park. They have toured Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Scotland.
But, Pobee said, of all the shows they had done together as Drumstruck, performing at Dollywood was by far the most challenging and the most fun.
Rasenyalo agreed: "It's that spirit of the drum that made people so happy. We even had people come back. One guy was there for 18 shows - he even sat in the same seat."
After all that excitement, the group say they will continue to play at Drum Café - catching a breather till the next big call-up comes.