The Rockskandi Kings

ROCK (‘n roll) + (Ma) SKANDI = As yet non-existent genre of music mixing roots rock ‘n roll with a Southern African form of music called Maskandi stemming from the Nguni tribes. (zulu/xhosa/ndebele/swazi/etc)

Maskandi, or maskande, derives from the Afrikaans word musikant which means musician. In the tradition of the wandering troubadour the musician would wander and sing the stories of his life, now her life too.

The guitar is tuned differently, sometimes secretly, and played with thumb and forefinger, a picking and riff style. The bass has the treble turned up on the amp and the player uses a pick and plays quite aggressive lines. This electric style of music was made from the 60’s through to the 90’s by migrant labourers, men coming from Natal to Johannesburg to work on the goldmines and living in cramped hostels keeping their traditions alive. For years maskandi was the second biggest music in South Africa after Gospel. You still hear it coming out of taxis in Jo’burg and Cape Town but mostly in Kwazulu-Natal and rural areas in the Eastern Cape.

Josh Hawks was exposed to maskandi as a child through a sangoma, a medicine man, who lived in the back of his house. His name was Swan. Lumanyano Mzi has grown up surrounded by musicians and been exposed to many traditional forms of Southern African music. His understanding of the art has been embibed with his mother’s milk.

Guy Collins grew up to the sounds of Miriam Makeba in his house and through a journey which drew him to the music of the deep south of the USA, through West Africa and back to the sounds of rural South Africa. He considers Maskandi to be an important part of the “blues” tradition of Southern Africa.

We use the spirit and the feel of this uniquely South African music and fuse it with Rock and Blues influences. Of course, Rock ‘n Roll was originally a black art form, needing a white face for it to go mainstream in segregated America and Elvis did open the door for all to follow. South African music is a big melting pot of sounds and even in the 50’s one could hear the influence of jazz and blues on the township musicians of the day. The RockSkandi Kings are continuing this tradition.