A young white man’s maskandi dream

2012-08-05 09:35

What started as an infatuation with Zulu culture – sparked by watching the famous Shaka Zulu miniseries – has burgeoned into a great career for a young white man from ­Empangeni.

David Jenkins’ (20) childhood dreams of being a Zulu warrior led him to a career as a recording maskandi (Zulu folk music) artist who wants to take the world by storm.

“I fuse maskandi with Western influence. I would say my sound is similar to that of Johnny Clegg’s when he first started with that true, traditional maskandi sound.

“At nine, I was obsessed with the Shaka Zulu series. I used to tape it and watch it over and over,” Jenkins said.

“From that, I became fascinated with the Zulu culture and started researching everything on it. Coming from Zululand, which for me is the heart of the province, I wanted to find out about people I lived among.”

Soon, Jenkins put aside his ­Shaka Zulu tapes in favour of ­recordings of his icons – artists like Phuzekhemisi, iHashi Elimhlophe and Mfaz’Omnyama.

“Through that I found Johnny Clegg. I thought it was so interesting that this white guy successfully fused Western music with maskandi. When I saw that, I knew that is what I wanted to do.”

Jenkins spent hours watching DVDs featuring maskandi artists, mirroring them on his first guitar, which he got when he was 12.

His uncle taught him to play ­guitar, but Jenkins says he’s a self-taught maskandi artist.

“The art of finger picking is quite complex, so I started mimicking Clegg, which was easier. Gradually, I was able to mimic the others.”

It wasn’t just the artistry he needed to learn. When Jenkins fell in love with maskandi, he didn’t speak a word of isiZulu.

He started studying the language in high school, dropping ­Afrikaans to do so.

He has signed with United Rhythms Records and released an album called Child of Africa.

For the past six months, he’s travelled across KwaZulu-Natal.

“Sihambe iKZN yonke (We’ve been all over the province) and the reception has been brilliant.”

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