THE vibrant and youthful Wits Marimba Band, also known as the spunky “Cheez Puffz”, scooped a top award at the sixth National Marimba Festival recently.

“We were all shocked. When they announced our names, we were all frozen in place,” said band member, Nicole Damonse.

“I expected it. I was pretty confident that what we came and showed would make us win,” countered Felicity Mdhluli, however.

The five-member band entered in two categories at the festival in Boksburg two weeks ago –  within the small band ensemble, playing two songs in five minutes, as well as one song in three minutes.

It was the traditional Zimbabwean song, Nyokamsango (Snake in the grass), which lecturer and band member, Olaotse “Locx” Mmileng, arranged which landed them the top prize.

“I don’t set a limit to the levels of music. I listen to every sound out there and incorporate it,” he said.

The Cheez Puffz’s music is peppered with rock, hip hop, house and traditional influences, and they push the envelope to explore the limits the marimba can reach.

 “I want to bring a new sound to African music and take it to new levels,” said Poppie Ndesi.

Mdhluli said, “It [the marimba] can be mainstream; it doesn’t have to sit on the outskirts of the music industry.”

The taste of victory is still fresh for the 2nd year students, who have great ambitions for the future.

“Now that we’ve conquered nationally, we want to conquer internationally,” said Ndesi.

“[Our plan is] to take over the world one marimba at a time,” said Mdhluli.