2013 South African FBF National Championships
This year’s FBF National Championships was held in the Sandton Sport Stadium. The venue was different from last year’s, but the intimacy of the stadium created a very warm atmosphere (literally and figuratively). Nine bands competed this year, 3 in First Division (starter bands) and 6 in Premier Division. Because of the increasing success of the Field Band activities in South Africa – 44 bands are now active reaching more than 4000 members – it was no longer possible to transport and host all the bands in one event. That is why the FBF has organized this year for the first time regional competitions of which the winning bands can then compete during the National Championships.
Three starter bands competed in First Division, starting with De Beers PPC Daniëlskuil Field Band. Being the first band of the competition, they broke the ice with an explosive drum solo as only Africans can do.
As in the previous editions, it is always interesting to see how starting bands are doing in a competition. We’ve seen some surprising good shows in the past and the Deben Field Band from the Northern Cape was no different in that. This band was founded only 6 weeks ago! Yet the result of that was spectacular. Their show ‘New Beginning’ was an excellent example of how a technical level can be adapted to the skills of the players and dancers and still bring an interesting show by adding small features to the show. We’ll see more of them in the future, that’s for sure!
Emalahleni Field Band from Dordrecht, Eastern Cape won this First Division with their show ‘For the First Time’. This was actually their second time at the championships and they confirmed the impression they left behind last time: a band that improves the quality of the show by good postures and marching and thus producing a solid sound. A job well done.
Last year’s winner in Premier division, De Beers PCC from Kimberley started with an almost completely new band. In their show ‘Homecoming’ they showed interesting uses of instrument and body moves to enhance musical effects, and even more interesting, they portrayed a very unique way of marching. These are small things that can make the Field Bands an original type of band and not a copy of.
Black like Me Field Band from Soweto won the Creative Excellence price for adding unique and interesting features to their show. This band was one of the few bands that used flags in their choreography. Honestly this was not really an added value to the very energetic performance of the dancers. The band from Soweto also had one of the strongest drum sections.
One of the strong players in the FBF competition is the Alexandra Field Band. Bringing ‘Twilight Gleaming’, nicely illustrated by the gleaming shirts – different colors for different sections – they set a very high tempo in the show, both in music and marching. This is a trend that we have seen growing during the years. This does not necessarily bring extra dynamics and movement in the show. On the other hand, Alex Field Band handled this well most of the time.
Black Like Me Real People Mdantsane Field Band from East London brought a nice composition ‘the Pirates of the Caribbean’. They had a decent music book, marched well and implemented original aspects as singing. However the audience was not always responding in excitement, which was surprising and contrary to what we expected.
‘The Journey of Spiderman’ was brought by the De Beers PPC Cullinan Field Band and started off with a cool snare solo. This is a band with strong individual players and especially the drum line has improved. We have seen cool body moves during the drum solo and this is surely the influence of the band leader Boy Boshiane whom has spent time in the US and Norway.
PFG Londulusha was by far this year’s Champion and the brass sections convinced in a very strong way. The energy level was high throughout the whole show and the band’s technical excellence did not suffer from that. The combination of those two made Londulusha, for their first time in the FBF history, a deserved winner.
Experiencing a Field Band Championship is always special. This competition is so flavored by the unique properties of the African bands like extended energy levels, great African dancing and good musicians. These being directly affected and indirectly influenced. We wish all marching bands, drum corps and other fans could experience this activity live, but (saving you a plane ticket) you can check out the internet for movies of this unique activity. Note that the goal is not musical excellence, yet musical excellence is a way to reach a lot more and keeping these kids away from crime, teach them about aids prevention and a whole lot more!
One more thing: Next year, we hope to see a very special Field Band at work. This Field Band is going to be set up in Parys in the Free State very soon and will focus on youth with disabilities. This reflects again the unique and pioneer role of the Field Band Foundation in a society like South Africa.
We would like to gratefully thank the Flemish Delegation in South Africa for sponsoring this assessment that was done in support of the exchange program between Vlamo and the Field Band Foundation.
Maarten Deschacht and Bart Tienpont