3 Oct 2018

Maskandi music, filled with Zulu praise poetry, called “izibongo”, is described as ‘‘The music played by the man on the move, the modern minstrel, today’s troubadour.”  The content is not always praise, though and with pop, house and other influences colouring maskandi, it has become more about the story telling ethic and the modern migrant culture, than simply about the musical style.

What started as the vibey folk songs of a passionate people who cherish music as a way of life, has evolved into a culture and an industry that is ever growing. Trendy and relevant to young and old, maskandi is enjoyed by all, everywhere from the backyard to the streets to the club. Maskandi music retells the tales of society, about one’s view of life and personal experiences.

But where did it all start? The word “maskandi” is derived from the Afrikaans word “musikant”, meaning musician and can be traced back to the emergence of the South African migrant labour system. Migrant workers would sing and perform maskandi while remembering their distant homes back in the villages, their lost love and to cure boredom while at the mines and factories. The music combines the use of local dialect lyrics with Western musical instruments such as guitar, concertina, violin, and piano accordion. What makes this music so unique and recognisable is the distinct guitar and concertina played in such a way as to produce a certain pitch and the self praises that the musicians say when introducing the song.

Maskandi is predominantly a male dominated music, although in the past few years this trend has slowly changed to include more and more women as front-singers. A typical maskandi band consists of the musicians, the backup dancers and the front-singer, who also plays the lead guitar. Characteristically, the songs start with skilled guitar playing, accompanied by call-and-response pattern with the ‘ingoma’ dancers in the background and somewhere in the song is found a rap passage called ‘izibongo’.

Although maskandi has popularly been known as a typically “Zulu” type of music performed by Zulu men, contemporary maskandi is not limited to the Zulu culture, but is found in isiXhosa, isiNdebele, Sesotho and Setswana culture. The songs deal with ancestors, love, death, lobola, HIV/AIDS and other socially critical issues. While the heart of maskandi music lies in Durban, KwaZulu Natal, today most of the famous artists live and perform in and around Johannesburg.

At GA Creative Brands, we celebrate our ambassadors and maskandi legends, Shwi, Khuzani and Mthandeni. These incredibly talented and hugely popular artists are blazing the maskandi trail in their respective careers. It is such a pleasure being associated with these singers, who are both so passionate about their music. Dressing them has been an honour and as their clothing brands, Jonathan D and Cutty are looking forward to growing alongside this vibrant culture.