Video: Marimbas the heart of this Western Cape town


In the afternoons, after the last bell has rung at local schools in and around Botrivier, the sound of marimbas echoes through the streets of this small Western Cape community.

Led by Ilene Olivier and Florence de Louw, these instruments are played daily by nearly 30 eager learners in Florence’s garage. It is precisely in this garage where the community’s love for marimbas grows by the day.

Botrivier’s marimba groups, which today are a well-known part of the town’s culture and cohesion, were set up in 2012 by Ilene, then still a local teacher, and Anne-Marie Kotze.

Since then, Ilene has retired, although she confesses that she will never truly say goodbye to the children or marimba music.

“This is my heart’s point. I can say today that I will not easily retire from this group – it is the greatest pleasure in my life,” Ilene told RNews.

Dozens of Borivier children have walked a path with music and marimbas in the past 11 years. The children start playing in the junior group in primary school before eventually becoming part of the senior group during their high school years. For many of them, it is precisely behind the marimba where they are at ease, where there is finally a feeling of coming home.

When the members of the marimba groups make music together, the room is filled with a feeling of friendship and togetherness. Many of the children admit that they no longer see these groups as mere friends.

“The music group is like family to me. They are there for me when no one else is, even when I was lying in the hospital, they were there for me,” says 21-year-old Lenancia Swartz, who has been part of the marimba groups since her primary school days.

These groups boast three performances at international events that were presented on site: a youth meeting in Hermanus to celebrate the then platinum jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, the Walkerbay Pro International ITC Body Boarding competition, also in Hermanus, and the international volleyball tournament on the Cape Parade. Moreover, they have been guests on various TV shows such as Fiesta, Knock and Espresso Morning Live. Earlier this month they performed at the Symphonia National Schools Band Festival and Competition, held in George. It was an experience that none of the players will soon forget, says Florence.

To be part of these groups is a childhood dream for many children of the community. Katrina Williams, mother of one of the group’s senior members, Hercelle, remembers how her son waited patiently to finally get a chance to play.

“From then on it was just marimba, marimba and marimba,” this proud mother tells RNews. She was one of the audience members when the community gathered in their village hall earlier this week to support the groups. This celebration not only offered another opportunity to perform in front of an audience, but was the town’s gathering to wish the Springboks good luck for today’s final against New Zealand in the World Cup tournament.

The senior marimba group even prepared a special song for the Springboks. Check out RNews’s visit to the Borivier marimba groups, and their special message to the Springboks here: