KATRINE ANKER-NILSSEN MEETS THE TALENTED QADASI AND HIS FUSION OF TRADITIONAL ZULU AND WESTERN FOLK MUSIC
Born in Pietermaritzburg, David Jenkins grew up in Empangeni and became fascinated by Zulu culture and history at a young age while travelling through Zululand with his late father Chris Jenkins – a highly respected journalist. “We had a great relationship and shared many interests. Some of my fondest memories of our time together include sailing yachts in Richards Bay, as well as our many trips through the beautiful province of KZN,” says David.
Over the years his interest developed significantly, and through this David found a love for traditional Maskandi music. “Thanks to the support I received from my parents, my sister Amy and our beloved housekeeper, the late Thembani ‘Tee’ Dlamini, I was encouraged to follow my dream.”
“I taught myself how to play the Zulu guitar and concertina, and my passion and skills grew from strength to strength,” says David, whose first gigs took place at Felixton College during his high school career. “Understandably, these were nerve-wracking initial performances – especially due to my shy nature. But they were also incredibly important as they paved the way for my passion for performing live.”
After matriculating, David decided to pursue his dream of becoming a professional musician. This was made possible in 2010, after meeting Maqhinga Radebe when enquiring about a concertina tuner. “Soon thereafter I was offered my first record deal by Sibongiseni Shabalala – a member of five-time Grammy Award winning group Ladysmith Black Mambazo,” he says.
David released his debut album in 2011, and has since been working incessantly at making a name for himself in a competitive industry. His second album, released in 2014, was nominated for a SAMA (South African Music Award) and SATMA (South African Traditional Music Award). “Music has taken me to the USA, UK, Europe, Asia and throughout South Africa. Travelling is a great passion of mine, and fortunately music is giving me the opportunity to see the world and meet incredibly interesting people from all walks of life,” says David – who lives in Kloof.
“I’m so fortunate to share these experiences with my dear friend and co-musician Maqhinga,” he continues. “He has played such a huge role in my career as a professional musician. Through our music and travels, we have been exposed to the world of wildlife conservation and are honoured to be working alongside the Kingsley Holgate Foundation and Project Rhino as rhino conservation ambassadors.”
Qadasi is an old Zulu word for white person. “In my praise poem I refer to myself as being iqadasi elidl’ uphuthu neklabishi, meaning ‘the white guy who eats traditional Zulu food’,” explains David. “Maqhinga picked up on this after I first met him and thought it was quite amusing. He never called me David again, and the name stuck.”
Although a number of people have inspired David over the years, two who stand out are his mother and grandfather. “After my father passed away in 2008, my mother had to take on the role as head of the family – and yet she continued to be a constant pillar of strength for my sister and I while supporting our dreams,” he says. “My 92-year-old grandfather has had an incredibly interesting life travelling around South Africa and Zimbabwe as a missionary. He spent much of his time helping those in need while also being a loving and supportive member of our family.”
Performing live is what makes David tick. “It is an amazing feeling being given a platform to share your passion with a public audience,” he says.
“Building your brand as a musician doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a huge amount of patience, research and dedication,” says David. “But going forward I see myself performing internationally on a regular basis and continuing to promote the country and traditional South African roots music.”
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