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Maskandi is a kind of Zulu folk music that is evolving with South African society. Ethekwini Online 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."
Nowadays this is untrue in as much as it is no longer just the domain of men. African women – notably the Busi Mhlongo, and in more recent times Dr. Buselaphi Gxowa, Osukasambe, Imithente, and Lungi Ngcobo, daughter of the late Shiyani Ngcobo – are also making Maskandi music. The style music is largely popular and mostly consumed in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province, given its rich Zulu heritage and significance to the Zulu tribe. Looking at the genre from a record sales point of view…Maskandi happens to be the 2nd top selling genre in South Africa, after Gospel music. Although Maskandi music can be heard in more urban cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town, it is important to note that it is largely the played by migrants who come to the big cities to seek a better quality of life and better employment opportunities. This music is typically considered backward and irrelevant by most city dwellers, given that the roots of the music are deeply entrenched in rural Kwa-Zulu Natal, and feature heavy elements of Zulu culture. Due to this, the music typically fails to connect with a wider audience and this is largely due to a lack of overall understanding of the genre, which subsequently leads to a lack of interest from listeners. These perceptions are beginning to change quite rapidly, as the world observes more people following African oriented trends.
Although the genre has been in existence for many years, after the 90's there seemed to be no real interest shown in the music by youths and young musicians. Due to the large influences by western and pop culture, these days most musicians choose to learn and perform western genres of music such as Hip-Hop, RnB and Turn up and the likes and this leads to the problem of having very few young Maskandi musicians to carry the genre forward, putting the future of the genre at risk.
In recent years more evolved Maskandi acts have emerged including quite notably the likes of Mbuzeni Mkhize, Imfezi Emnyama, Igcokama Elisha, Mjikjelwa Ngubane (Late) Amageza Amahle, The Bunny Chows Carrots, Khuzani Mpungose, Mdumazi Mhlongo, Dlubheke and many more, who have taken up the role of youth activists for the genre. Such "newer" acts have dedicated themselves to the preservation and appreciation of Maskandi music, as well as traditional forms of music as a whole. Many of these newer Maskandi musicians advocate for youth and future generations to learn from and co-innovate with their more experienced counterparts, in order to ensure the secrets and intricate nuances of Maskandi are properly and correctly preserved for future generations.
Surprisingly for most, Maskandi is well received and liked by the international community because of its originality, uniqueness and mostly its difficulty to replicate. Between the '60s and early '90s legendary Maskandi acts such as Johnston Zibokwakhe Mnyandu "Phuzekhemisi", Bhodloza Nzimande, Amatshitshi Amhlophe, Izingane Zoma Bhekumuzi Luthuli (late) and Mfaz'Omnyama (late) contributed largely to exposing Maskandi to the international market.