Entertainment

Meet Kloof’s Maskandi warrior

Meet Kloof’s Maskandi warrior

While some kids are fixated on cowboys and Indians or flying to the moon or marching to orders as a soldier in the army, David Jenkins (in his younger years) had his heart set on becoming a Zulu warrior. Today, at the age of 26, he’s pretty much living that dream.

Popularly known in the music industry as ‘Qadasi’ – an old, uncommon word that refers to a ‘white person’, David is on an incredible quest to revive the powerful sounds of traditional Maskandi music. As a Kloof local, he’s a regular at our Shongweni Farmer’s Market, and an act not to be missed at this year’s Splashy Fen Music Festival.

If you had to close your eyes and listen to David – typically dressed in jeans and a t-shirt – strumming his guitar and churning out the clicks of isiZulu, it would probably flaw you. The 26-year-old is so fluent in language that it effortlessly rolls off of his tongue. He attributes his passion and respect for the Zulu culture and its music to his upbringing in Empangeni, right in the heart of Zululand.

“That’s where it all started. I was about eight. My dad was a journalist and often took me along on his trips around the town. I started picking up the words, listening to traditional Zulu music and even collecting skins and shields and other Zulu gear. As a kid, all my friends were into cowboys, soldiers and astronauts, hip-hop, rap and Eminem. Not me! I fell in love with the Shaka Zulu series on TV, I was inspired by a man I’m proud to now call my friend, Johnny Clegg, and I was engrossed in Maskandi. I wanted to be a warrior, from a culture that wasn’t my own, but meant something special to me.”

“When I was 12, my parents got me my first guitar. They thought it was just a phase I was going through. LOL! I don’t think they anticipated me spending the next decade or more of my life kitted out in Umblaselo (patch pants) and traditional skins and dedicated to pursuing a career as a professional Maskandi artist.”

Clearly a man who owns the word ‘perseverance’, David picked up his first concertina eight years ago simply because he felt the urge. He wanted to learn to play it because of its unique connection to the sound of Maskandi music.

“Concertinas might come from Europe, but they are taken by the Zulu concertina tuners who change the reeds and make them ‘talk’ in the Zulu language. That’s how I met my mentor, co-musician and long-standing friend Maqhinga Radebe. One of the most highly respected maskandi guitarists in the country, he took what I already taught myself and helped me to polish up my skills. We’ve been jamming together ever since.”

Photo by Amy Jenkins

Sharing the same vision, the duo brings to life a fusion of traditional Zulu and western folk music that represents the heart and soul of South African roots music. With a host of noteworthy performances, and achievements including a SAMA (South African Music Awards) and SATMA (South African Traditional Music Achievement) nominations, they are making waves locally and across the globe.

“We’ve travelled a lot together – to Asia, Italy, Ireland, the UK and you’d be surprise by how well our music is received. There’s nothing like the African Beat, the people genuinely love it! Our travels also play a huge part in our constant flow of musical inspiration – it’s about life, love, our environment and beautiful things.”

It’s also no surprise that there’s a healthy demand for Qadasi and Maqhinga in KZN and Cape Town – festivals, markets and live music venues, wherever they are wanted, they go.

“Intimate shows are what we love the most because we connect so well with our audiences and our music, as a result, takes the shape of storytelling. We’re often at the Shongweni Farmers Market – it’s a classic farmers market on an epic scale. We love the people, the vibe and we can sell up to 70 CDs during the morning. Nowhere else in South Africa can you stand in the rolling hills, setting the atmosphere for crowds with tunes so catchy that people want to take our music home with them. This is such a humbling feeling for us!”

As for Splashy Fen, David’s not shy to admit that aside from performing, he goes there annually for that stuffed feeling of artisan street food, amazing acoustic performers and headline artists, and of course the great atmosphere.

“It’s such a family festival. It’s warm and welcoming. The setting plays a huge role… getting wet in the river on a hot day, the rows of trees lining the border. It’s so awesome to play there, and I’m always joined by family and we usually camp by the river. I love nothing more than sitting on the riverbank with my guitar jamming with the guy who taught me my first three chords – my uncle. He’s had an integral part to play in the musician I am today.”

Plans in the pipeline for David include a European Tour in May this year for him and Maqhinga, and perhaps even a little sailing.

“Family is number one, so spending time with my mom, girlfriend and family is always part of my weekly routine. In my spare time, I do a lot of admin – no joke! I was big into sailing growing up, and I would love to get back into it. Technology is also a big interest of mine, so I often get involved in the production side of our music making. And who can say no to more travel? My dream is to be seen as a prominent Maskandi artist and continue to tour locally and abroad promoting unity and diversity, but I will always be based in KZN. We live in such a beautiful country and I’ve got no desire to move.”

 

Catch Qadasi and Maqhinga at Shongweni Farmer’s Market on Saturday, 10 March.

David will be performing a solo acoustic set at Splashy Fen on Saturday, 31 March.

 

 

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