WATCH | Beat roots and gardens: Aspiring artist swaps spade for mic to drop kwaito tunes

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  • Vusi Mqenya is a familiar face in the small coastal village of Jacobsbaai, where he helps keep residents' lush gardens pristine.
  • But gardening is not his first love – kwaito is. He developed an interest in music as a child growing up in Zimbabwe.
  • Although his music has not left the borders of Vredenburg, where he lives, the residents are his biggest fans.

It's easy to spot the fruits of 30-year-old Vusi Mqenya's labour in Jacobsbaai in the Western Cape, where he works as a gardener. When News24 met up with him in the small coastal town, the smell of freshly cut lawn filled the air.

"When I didn't have this job, I used to just stay at home, but now I come to Jacobsbaai to do gardening," he told News24.

Annemarie van der Merwe's corner house boasts beautifully arranged flower beds beneath fruit-bearing trees.

Mqenya tends to a few gardens in the area. He got his first gardening gig here.

Van der Merwe told News24:

Vusi does a lot of things. He is very handy and has helped us with painting jobs and other things as well, but mainly he is our gardener.

Skilled as he might be at his job, Mqenya has another deep-rooted passion – kwaito music.

And his beats have turned a few heads.

When Mqenya asked to take a day off in March this year to record some music, Van der Merwe and her husband, Wim, were intrigued. Wim also loves music.

"Wim asked him to send us some of the music that he does. And that's how we became aware of Vusi's talent," Van der Merwe said.

Mqenya's love for music started at an early age.

He told News24:

When I was growing up in Zimbabwe, my uncle was making music. He taught me about music, and then he taught me how to play music. Then I started making my own music, using downloaded beats.

After moving to Vredenburg in his early twenties, he couldn't resist approaching a group of young musicians performing in the community.

"I used to see the guys doing small shows, and I asked if I could join them. One of them was my cousin, and he said it would be cool if I joined."

Since then, Mqenya, also known as Man Vee, has been writing music and recording original kwaito songs in his friend's home studio.

Vusi Mqenya spends his days mowing lawns, trimming hedges and potting plants in the beautiful private gardens of Jacobsbaai.
Vusi Mqenya performing at a local gig.
Vusi Mqenya's uncle first taught him about music.

And when the time came to make a music video, he approached the Van der Merwes with his idea.

"I have a very silly little Canon camera, and Vusi asked us if he could borrow it to make a music video," she said.

"He takes every opportunity that he gets. Something like a camera that I don't even regard as great. It's just a camera for snapping family photos, and they made such a great video with it.

Vusi Mqenya followed by a crowd of fans in the str
His music has not left the borders of Vredenburg, where he lives, and the residents are his biggest fans.
Vusi Mqenya in a clip from a music video
Vusi Mqenya and his friends recently created their first music video.

"To me, it was just such a symbol of him grasping every single opportunity he has and making something so fantastic out of it," she said.

Mqenya wears his headphones while working, and music seemingly gives him the boost he needs to get through his daily work.

And, inspiration has struck him in the garden too.

He said: 

While I was working in the garden of Annemarie, I thought of the music for a song. When I went home, I wrote my first chorus. When I came to work the next day, I was still listening to the same beat of that song. This time, while listening to the beat, I wrote the whole song. It was nice for me because this song came from the garden.

"So, that song is good for me, and it's my number one song. I love it," he said.

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