Long story short
You never know where life takes you.
Kate and David both work in the education sector. She is a primary school teacher, he teaches English to University students and professional footballers. Percussion music and dance is what they do in their spare time: a leisure activity.
2000. New Zealand.
Kate and David both work in the education sector. They perform in events and tour schools with several musical shows. He carves African-style drums and starts manufacturing children’s drums. He begins driving and guiding French tourists around New Zealand. She is a community worker, runs African dance classes and organizes balls.
Kate and David both work in the education sector. He manufactures more drums than ever for schools and pre-schools. He continuously works on improving the quality and durability of his drums. He adds new drums to the existing line. She is now more involved in the drum-making process. She is the instrument supervisor at Saturday Morning Classes in Dunedin and teaches historical dance from Europe.
Their “number eight wire” mentality, a few light-bulb moments, their evolving vision and tireless commitment allowed them to take Songbong from humble beginnings to a secure place in the New Zealand musical landscape.
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MEET THE Team
It is not about the pieces but it is how they work together.
David is a New Zealander from the Bay of Plenty. He has been living in Dunedin since 1986.
He spent many years travelling and working in Europe and lived for 10 years in Burgundy. There, he began his musical apprenticeship on African drums with Jalil Toukja and on Brazilian drums with Philippe Large in the street percussion ensemble “Sambala”. His BA (French) from Otago allowed him to have part-time work ESL teaching, mainly with engineering and commerce students at a branch of Dijon University. This left him plenty of time for music practice.
Back in Dunedin, he set up drumming lessons with a group of enthusiasts and put together a drumming ensemble that performed for 10 years in Kate’s African dance classes. He took part as a performer in numerous events in and around Dunedin and is known for his involvment in school projects, performances and drum-making residencies in schools.
From 2009, the drum making side took over leaving him less time to be involved with schools as a performer. The main part of the Songbong business is now manufacturing drums. David had started making drums in 1996 and has not really stopped since. This includes carving djembés and dununs, manufacturing a range of hand drums for adults and children, and repairing various kinds of drums. His workshop is attached to his home which lets him blend family life and work. Unexpected visitors will probably find David sweating over a drum or welding hoops, any day of the week.
In recent years, David sold his drums to schools and preschools around New Zealand. Even if his workshop now functions more as a production line, each drum is still unique and handcrafted.
David is known as the Dunedin drum-maker.
As for many French natives, Kate’s lineage is not a straightforward one. She takes her roots from a mother born in Morocco and a father from the mountainous regions of the East of France. She grew up in France where she studied traditional dance from West Africa.
She flew to New Zealand in 1995 hoping to settle in the Portugal of the Southern Seas, as Dunedin was described to her by kiwi husband David. Facing instead the Antarctic wind and the Dunedin sound, she had to choose between letting go of her passion or taking the bull by the horns: she threw herself into the task of becoming a teacher of African dance.
She taught African folk dance for 10 years in a lively and energetic manner supported by David’s live drumming ensemble: Songbong.
In 2005, David and Kate took their children for a three-year stay back in France. There, she reconnected with dancers and musicians interested in traditional forms of dance from France and Europe.
Back in New Zealand and adapting to her 50-year-old body, she started teaching traditional and historical dance in Dunedin, created a five-piece band playing European music for dance and organised dances and historical balls.
Kate spends half of her time on the admin/digital side of the Songbong business and the other half as Instrument Supervisor for Saturday Morning Music Classes. The third half is spent researching, rehearsing, teaching and performing dance. She uses the time left to badly play her beloved button accordion and flute, to lead constant friendly battles with her garden, to sew historical clothing, to create beautiful and useless pieces from recycled and natural materials in her chaotic workspace, and to dream of what could have been had she had more time.