Durban - Taking reggae and Bob Marley into the next generation is Durban’s Zeng (Zengakhona) Bekwa, 13, who plays keys with The Meditators alongside his father Shante, who is the band’s front man.
Having pioneered the spirit of reggae in the city since the early 1990s, Shante and his band are familiar faces on the music scene when it comes to all things rasta.
Zeng told the Independent on Saturday that he loves performing with the band, saying reggae was “inspirational”.
With physics and maths being his favourite subjects at school, Zeng said he would like to go to university and be “an astronaut and a musician.”
Shante said teaching music to Zeng has already rippled out to Cato Manor with local kids wanting to learn reggae.
“I started teaching Zeng how to play the keys.
“He was a quick learner and got to know all the songs.
“He also started to learn all the other instruments and also plays drums and bass.
“All the neighbouring kids wanted to come and learn as well, so it just extended. Zeng now plays with The Meditators and he also helps teaching the kids to play keys,” said Shante.
“It’s school holidays now, but the kids are not running around as they come here. Children need to have an awareness of the arts and it’s not always possible to provide that in the schools,” he said, with Zeng adding that he “enjoys helping the other kids”.
Shante made his first guitar from an old orange tin, a piece of wood and the strings made from bicycle brake cable while growing up in Osizweni, outside Newcastle.
He lived with his mother and her sisters, who were all singers.
“When I was a teenager, our reverend’s son gave me my first guitar. I was overwhelmed with joy, I could not believe I had a real guitar,” he said.
When Shante was 24 he met his father who, as it turned out, was in a band.
“Growing up I was introduced to reggae music by my uncle. I think I fell in love with reggae in 1976 with Eric Donaldon’s Cherry Oh Baby (later released by UB40) and Johnny Nash’s Guava Jelly (later released by Marley).
“I didn’t know anything about genres but I loved those tunes and then came Bob Marley with Uprising and Peter Tosh with Wanted.
“Bob Marley has been my main inspiration,” said Shante.
In January, The Meditators released Explosion.
Shante said: “Reggae involves a message and my music is about my experiences in life and things happening around us, social issues such as inequality.”
He said rasta culture fought for freedom, particularly to be able to “be who you are” without fear of condemnation or criticism.
“When I was young and getting into reggae we used to watch videos about Jamaica. I wanted to be next to the sea and moved to Durban in 1993.
“When it comes to reggae, Durban is unique and really is the place to be for live reggae events.”
Zeng could not agree more, adding: “My favourite place is the beach.”
The Meditators will be playing at Wahooz on South Beach April 6 from 10am to 6pm.
Tickets are R60 through Computicket.
They will also be performing at this year’s Splashy Fen Festival from April 18 to 22.