Guitar duo serenades Cape Town’s commuters


Thabani Dube from Durban and Jose Monteiro Nungidi from DRC met on a train and are now doing what they love for a living

Photo of two musicians
Thabani Dube (left) and Jose Monteiro Nungidi (right) are from different countries but they are working together to make ends meet. Photo: Bernard Chiguvare

Thabani Dube a South African and Jose Monteiro Nungidi from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have joined together to make a living playing music on Cape Town’s trains.

The two met three months ago on a train. Dube tells the story: “On my way to Wynberg busking in the train I met Nungidi carrying a guitar. I asked him whether he could play my favourite song, ‘Danca Ma Mi Criola’ by Tito Paris. He played it exactly as it is on You Tube. We exchanged contact details and later decided to practise playing music together.”

Dube is 29 years old and from KwaZulu-Natal. His family did not have enough money for him to complete his matric, so he joined friends in Orange Farm close to Johannesburg and worked in the construction industry.

“I realised the construction industry is hard for me. So I decided to come down to Cape Town and busk on trains. In Johannesburg there is too much competition in train busking,” he says. He now lives in Philippi.

Joining with Nungidi has given him hope of achieving his dream “to become a popular musician”. He grew up loving reggae music, especially by Bob Marley. “I played his music from YouTube,” says Dube. “Now when I met Nungidi I discovered he is able to play any form of music. We are entertaining train commuters and at the same time making a living from the donations we receive from them.”

Tito Paris plays Dança ma mi criola.

Music runs in Nungidi’s family. His father runs a band in the DRC. Nungidi started playing music in his teens.

“My father, now 80, taught me how to play guitar and sing at a very early stage. I discovered I needed to have some formal training in this industry so I had to leave DRC for Namibia and went for proper guitar training. Later I decided I should move down to South Africa in search of greener pastures,” says 40-year-old Nungidi, who lives in Wynberg.

Nungidi and Dube play a variety of music, including reggae, afrobeat and jazz. They have also composed songs of their own.

“We decided to play our music in trains to capture commuter attention. Since we started three months ago we have got a lot of support on all train lines in Cape Town. The only challenge we face is sweets and fruit vendors come shouting at the top of their voices, making it hard for our listeners to hear our beat,” says Nungidi.

Asked how he copes living in a foreign country, Nungidi says, “Music knows no boundary. I can play any song in any language though at times I am not sure of the meaning of the words. My friend Dube is teaching me isiXhosa.”

On Wednesday GroundUp joined the duo from Cape Town to Bellville and back. The two entertained commuters from one carriage to the next.

Grace Mbele, 19, from Eersteriver, after listening to their music donated R10. “These guys play very good music and I like the way they are earning a living. I am talented in singing. I think I have to talk to them some time so that can also join them and add a female voice to their music,” she says.

Nyasha Saruchera, a Zimbabwean, donated R30. “These guys are talented. I really love the way they sing and play guitars. They should keep entertaining commuters.”

Jeremie Kaamani was supposed to stop at Maitland train station but decided to go two further stations because he was so captured by their music.

On return from Bellville the two had pocketed about R100.

Dube and Nungidi play a Bob Marley number on a Metrorail carriage. Video: Bernard Chiguvare

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TOPICS:  Arts and culture

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Dear Editor

Hi there - Isn't it time commuters' right to peace and quiet in a secular state is respected? Manic street preachers on trains should be controlled. Yes -rather have live music - but at some point this should also be regulated. Imagine everybody started singing and preaching on trains.

In New York they have quiet wagons - even phones must be silent. School kids are often still reading/ doing homework on trains. Many people are also trying to have a last minute nap before or after a hard day's work. (Not that anybody should have a good reason to exercise their right to not be harassed in shared public spaces).

There is way too much tolerance of the Christian religion on public transport. When somebody starts invading your space with noise, it means they are stealing your liberty.