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Maskandi music in South Africa



South Africa is well known for its cultural diversity and the vitality in musical prowess.
Music remains the inspiration and integral part of South African culture which deeply rooted in traditions that have transcended from townships to modern cities.
South Africa songs are renowned for the profound, social and political role they played within the struggle against Apartheid rule.

South African music influenced and fuelled the ‘World Music’ movement within the 1980s.
it has developed into many genres, one of them is Maskandi.

Maskandi is a type of South Africa Music which has its root from Zulu folk music. it is music that deeply connects to human social and political life. music of real-life experience, joy, sorrow, and pleasure.

According to Ethekwini Online, he describes it as “The music played by the man on the move, the modern minstrel, today’s troubadour. It is the music of the man walking the long miles to court a bride, or to meet with his Chief; a means of transport. It is the music of the man who sings of his real-life experiences, his daily joys, and sorrows, his observations of the world. It’s the music of the man who’s got the Zulu blues.”

Today, Maskandi has evolved and no longer just for the men but African women too. some of the notable women in this genre are the Busi Mhlongo, and in more recent times Dr. Buselaphi Gxowa, Osukasambe, Imithente, and Lungi Ngcobo, etc. are heavily into making Maskandi music.

The genre is most popular among the Zulu tribe, in Kwa Zulu province.
the influence of western culture and pop culture has continued to be a hindrance to the growth of the genre among young people, whos are focused on these modern genres such as Hip-Hop, Pop and RnB.

There are very few young Maskandi musicians due to lack of interference from the younger generation thereby making the genre to be endangered.

However, with recent, an effort by some stakeholders to ensure the preservation of the genre, many Maskandi acts have emerged including quite notably the likes of Mbuzeni Mkhize, The Bunny Chows Carrots, Igcokama Elisha, Imfezi Emnyama, Mjikjelwa Ngubane (Late) Amageza Amahle, Khuzani Mpungose, Mdumazi Mhlongo, Dlubheke, and many others.

Some consider Maskandi more of a lifestyle as it has other variations which include:

  • Umzansi also called Isikhomazi
  • Ushameni
  • Isigekle
  • Isitorotoro
  • Isibhaca

They all have their unique traits which can be easily be identified by the fans and Maskandi enthusiasts. There are a lot of adulterated Maskandi especially from those who lack the deep knowledge and understanding of traditional Maskandi music. Due to the modern method of music distribution, many modern artists would rather include Maskandi elements with a tag like “digital Maskandi” which includes American Hip-Hop/Rap elements.

Some South African artists who have a fusion of maskandi in their music include Zola, Zuluboy, Thandiswa Mazwai, and Ntando.

Element in Maskandi
A traditional Maskandi song is distinguished by an instrumental flourish known as (“izihlabo”), which has striking semblance as the acoustic guitar or the concertina that sets the tone at the beginning of each song. Izihlabo is also an introduction of sorts and serves the purpose of allowing the guitarist to showcase/show off his level of skill by capturing the listeners’ attention.

  • Given that traditional Maskandi guitarists tune their guitars differently, listening to izihlabo also provides a way for the listener to tell with certainty the identity of the guitarist/band.
  • Izihlabo is typically rapidly played notes, that do not necessarily make up a melody or explicit rhythm. Playing izihlabo can also be likened to an actor getting into character.
  • In a Maskandi song, there will typically be rapidly spoken sections of Zulu praise poetry, called “izibongo”. The content is not always praise, though, and with pop, house and other influences colouring Maskandi, it has become more about the storytelling ethic and the modern migrant culture, than simply about the musical style.
  • Another key element of Maskandi music is the lead singer or frontman’s natural personality. In Maskandi music, it is not uncommon for songs to “sound the same”, yet the music consumption does not necessarily decrease.
  • Fundamentally Maskandi is about telling stories and providing a window to the lead singer’s soul. It is largely about the message carried in the songs and music, and this is why it is considered the same as listening to soul or blues music.

Early 2000s there was a new artist known as Mtshengiseni Gcwensa (late) who started music with his friend Mgqumeni Khumalo (late). They both introduced many styles in this industry which made upcoming artists look up to them.
Composer Darius Brubeck explained: “The Maskanda referred to in the title of my work is a performer of neo-traditional Zulu instrumental music.

Etymologically the word derives from the Afrikaans musikante (musicians). Kwa-Zulu Natal, a province of South Africa where I have lived and worked for the past decade, is home to literally thousands of ‘Maskandis’, who have developed a rich musical repertoire employing a special style of guitar playing.”
Prominent Maskandi Musicians are as follows;
Abafana be mbongolo(Mpondozembongolo,Inkunz’emhlophe no Mavelas)
Abafana Bakwa Dladla
Abafana bakaMqgumeni
Abaka Mnyandu
Amabayeni Amahle
Amageza Amahle
Amashayina Amahle
Mthandeni “Igcokama elisha” Manqele
Amatshitshi Amhlophe
Bhekumuzi Luthuli
Bheki Khoza
Bhoja Bhoja
Busi Mhlongo
Count Drachma currently the only Maskandi band operating outside South Africa
David Jenkins (Qadasi)
Ichwane LeBhaca
Inkunzi Emdaka
Ithwas Lami
Izingane Zoma
Maqhinga Hadebe
Madlanduna Luthuli
Manqobizizwe “Nkomiyamlandela” Ncala
Mfaz’ Omnyama
Mfiliseni Magubane
Mgqashiyo Ndlovu
Mqondisi Ndlovu
Mtshengiseni Gcwensa
Njencane Ngubane
Nomkelemane Langa
Phumlani Mgobhozi
Sbongiseni Ntombela
S’gwebo Sentambo
Shabalala Rhythm
Shiyani Ngcobo
Shophi Ngidi
Shwi No Mtekhala
The Bunny Chows Carrots
Thokozani Langa
Tholakele Malunga
Uqhamuka Besabe
Zanefa Ngidi
Amaswazi Amahle
Ubuhle be Africa

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