marimba gem beats his last drum

UMOJA co-founder and drummer Bonginkosi Daniel Mthembu, who died at the tender age of 31 after a short illness, will be buried tomorrow.

Born in Mndeni, Soweto, in 1978, Mthembu, pictured, died on Saturday at the Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital.

According to his bandmate and friend Lucky Thobela, Mthembu's health problems started in July while they were touring France.

He said Mthembu had a mild stroke and was admitted to hospital for two weeks in France.

Last week, Mthembu was rushed to Baragwanath after complaining of short breath. He died on Saturday, an hour before he was to be discharged.

Mthembu was known in theatre circles as one of the most creative performers.

In addition to being a reputable drummer, he was also an established choreographer and marimba player.

He was one of the brains behind Umoja, where he teamed up with Thembi Nyandeni and Todd Twala in 1998 to unleash the musical which toured the world.

He designed the drumming and choreographed some of Umoja's dancers.

He worked with the group until 2002 when he felt he needed to grow. He and Thobela founded 6Mabone, a marimba project.

In 2003, they both founded another marimba project called Township Rimba. In Township Rimba, the two tried to fuse western instruments with indigenous ones.

Township Rimba released its debut album last year.

With both Marimba projects, the drummer toured the world extensively. They recently returned from a long tour of France.

Mthembu was supposed to fly to Munich, Germany, on October 27 with the group for two performances.

T he service will be held at house 8267, Extension 3, Orange Farm.