Wajipha Chongwe

wajipha chongwe - artist and performer

Wajipha Chongwe was born in Lusaka in Zambia into a family with several cultural, tribal and national identities. Her Australian mother, an artist and designer, set up a business with a family friend specializing in regional and Zambian handicrafts, both modern and traditional.

The business called Zintu, which had started out of a small room in a back street  eventually made the pages of the New York Times, promoted the work of the artists and craftspeople holding many specialist exhibitions. Wajipha's home was full of Zambian art and craft  and many family friends were engaged in the arts. Her brother went on to have a flourishing pottery business in Australia and her cousin Marta Zulu, brought up with Wajipha has had a long career as a full time weaver in Zambia. Wajipha attended the International School of Lusaka and practiced street dancing and singing including taking part in public performances.

As a teenager Wajipha worked in the family business including modelling in fashion shows that featured the work of small scale producers of African print, tie and dye and batik garments as well as other projects run by overseas volunteers which were aimed at training and providing skills to young people. This was when Wajipha developed a life long love of the textiles and crafts of Africa and she had her first taste of retail. Wajipha has worked in WA retail since and is now delighted to be involved again now with partner Freddy Poncin, with the work of African crafts people.

Wajipha came to WA in 1989 where her grandmother Molly Eaton a water colorist was well known in the then small Mandurah art circle after retiring there in the early 1980's. Molly's involvement in art kept the family interested in the local art scene so Wajipha  found that art was a household topic within her Australian family. Wajipha has taken a short course in textile design and she has also produced a number of graphic works which are a form of self expression. She has a holistic view of artistic expression and believes that her music and her art are merged in origin and made to be shared. From this her range of colourful printed works have appeared. Part way through a degree in counselling at Notre Dame University Wajipha has also developed a program of performances (mainly but not only for schools) on cultural identity that arises from her own experiences. She is available for performances through Tasila culture. At present Wajipha and her partner, musician Freddy Poncin are engaged in developing a new musical program.


Freddy Poncin

freddy poncinBorn in Amsterdam the Netherlands, Freddy’s talent was recognised at a young age and he started learning congas at the age of 12. Freddy was honoured to study with Raoul Burnet who was regarded as the best conga player and teacher in Western Europe.

Raoul was a master percussionist (one of the first musicians endorsed by LP – Latin Percussion in the Netherlands) and an expert in Afro Cuban rhythms. Raoul Burnet played with music legends such as Patato Valdez, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Wilson Picket, Art Blakey and many more.

After Raoul’s sudden death, Freddy started to play kit drums as well to reggae music, ska music and funk. In the 80’s he joined the band Revelation Time that quickly grew into the best afro reggae band in the Netherlands and one of the finest in Europe . Revelation Time had a top 40 hit in Europe with a song called South Africa . Freddy played drums and percussion with this band for over 12 years and toured Germany, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, France, Sweden, Malta and Italy.

Revelation Time backed up Jamaican artists such as Lee Perry and Eek a Mouse, and supported well-known bands such as Ziggy Marley, Steel Pulse, Aswad, Alpha Blondy, UB40, Inner Circle , Ossibisa, Saleif Keita, Toure Kounda, Senemali, Kumbi Saleh and Fela Kuti.

During this period throughout the 90’s Freddy found a passion for West African rhythms and in particularly djembe drumming from Guinea West Africa.

Since being in Australia, Freddy has made an impact on the WA Music Scene. He is currently playing and has played with Latin Jazz group Descarga (featuring Chris Tarr, Tom O’hallaran, Troy Roberts, Dane Anderson, Des White, Jeremy Grieg, Matt Jodrell), LC Salsa, Los Chasquis, Latin Fusion, was the founding member of WAADA (now Akwaaba) , Mike Pigneguy, Glynn MacDonald, with Russell Borrows in Odai Nmai’s group, WAAPA’s award winning Defying Gravity, WAAPA Latin Music Ensemble, Lamine Sonko, Brenda Lee, Mohamed Bangoura, Ziggy Bey Diagne, Glenn Shorrock (Little River Band) in the Perth Concert Hall, Percussion Group Wongai, Barney McAll, Paul Tanner, Funkalleros, John Trotter,  Lafaya (Mauritian Community band), Jason Heerah (Australia's top drummer from Electric Empire), Thierryno Gangou (One of Mauritius most versatile keyboard players), Nuevo Salsa Orchestra with Marty Purvan, Mutima Band, Dilip and The Davs and Freddy is a 4xWAMi winner with Grace Barbe as best World Music Act in Western Australia.

Freddy has been described in DrumScene Magazine as one of Australia's finest hand percussionists in December 2005/06 in a special edition on hand percussion in Australia.

With the Grace Barbe Afro Kreol band Freddy has performed as a drummer and percussionist at SAKIFO Reunion Island 2010, Iomma 2011 Reunion Island, Reggae Donsa Mauritius 2011, WOMADELAIDE 2012, Byron Bay Blues and Roots in 2010 and 2011, Blue Mountains Festival 2010,  Queenscliff Festival 2009 and Woodford Folk Festival in 2009 and 2009, Nannup Music Festival 2010 and Fairbridge Folk Festival in 2010 and 2011.

Because of his travels to Mauritius and Reunion Island, Freddy has emerged himself into the music styles like the Sega and the Seggae. In 2010 the Mauritian Perth based group Lafaya  (with Freddy as drummer) were the backing band for the famous Mauritian vocal duo Nancy Derougere and Mario Justin and in 2011 Freddy was the percussionist for a Mauritian Allstar band called Tamtam Nostalzi with Jason Heerah, Thierryno Gangou, Damien Binzagou and Gerard G backing up Mauritian sega pioneers Serge Lebrasse (81), Jean-Claude Gaspard (65), and Roger Clency (80). Special mention to the pianist Thierryno Gangou who guided me into the Mauritian Music styles of Seggae and Sega.

As a hand percussionist Freddy conducts hand drumming workshops, teaches at the Drum Shop in Perth, he works with organisations such as CanTeen, Telethon, UWA WAAPA, Perth Jazz Society, Camp Quality and Drumbeat's The Art of Hitting Things program that has been touring WA schools .

Freddy is a casual lecturer and performer at ECU WAAPA (West Australian Academy of Performing Arts) where he has been working over the last years with WAAPA’s award winning percussion group Defying Gravity and it's director  Tim White, lecturer in percussion at the WA Academy of Performing Arts and Principal Percussion with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.

Over the last year Freddy has joined Human Rhythms Pty Ltd in their newly formed WA office where he plays the role of co-facilitator on corporate team building workshops.

Since 2005 Freddy has organised 7 successful Drum Camps called “Back to the Roots” in Jarrahdale WA . Together with Guinean Master Drummer Mohamed Bangoura from Sydney workshops are being held in traditional Djembe drumming, Dance and Afro Cuban drumming. Mohamed Bangoura recognised Freddy’s talent and passion and has acknowledged him as a Djembe instructor.

Freddy is also the Australian agent for the world famous Mamady Keita, the grand master of djembe. Mamady has done 2 workshop tours through Australia in 2008 and 2009.

Freddy is currently (semi) endorsed by LP (Latin Percussion) and is available for workshops/private tuition at the Drumshop’s Academy of Drums . Freddy  has produced 3 interactive DVDs and a CD with Mohamed Bangoura on traditional Guinean Rhythms and Chants. Check www.djembekan.net.

Some clips