A GROUP of teenage prodigies from Durban and the North Coast is making waves on the South African music scene, writes ESTELLE SINKINS.
Kwini Kuza, which is made up of singers and musicians aged between 13 and 14, formed in February 2016 and have performed around KwaZulu-Natal, including at the Ballito Pro, White Mountain Festival, KZN Music Imbizo, Awesome Ilembe Music Festival, Shisa Nyama Festival, Zini Music Festival and Tongaat Charity Fair.
In December last year they played at Durban Jazz Festival in front of an audience of 15 000 people.
The band members are:
- lead vocalist, Lasandra Majola, who started singing in public at the tender age of four and has since performed at the ICC in Durban, uShaka Marine World and shared billing with Mi Casa, Naima Kay, Zahara, Hugh Masekela and Unati Msengana;
- lead guitarist, Saiyan Naidoo, who was playing songs by Carlos Santana by the time he was six, and has performed with American jazz artist, Ronny Jordan;
- Sabian Lee Singh, who has been playing the drums since he was five and has shared stages with Prince Bulo, Shemual Mahabeer, Philani Ngidi and Kerry Cherry. The grade eight Stanger Manor Secondary School pupil has also opened for the Melvin Peters tribute concert at the Bat Centre in Durban with fellow Kwini Kuza member, Saiyan; and
- bass guitarist, Neo Mooi Neo , who started learning to play the guitar at the age of nine. He has since performed at the DMS Street Music Festival and Durban City Youth Beach Festival, and in 2015 played bass for S’celo Gowane’s band at the Durban Jazz Festival.
Rounding out the band are keyboardists, Entle Mdletshe and Siphokazi Gebashe, who are both in Grade nine at Menzi High School. They both began playing piano and keyboards aged 10 and have gone on to play at the DMS Street Music Festival and Durban City Youth Beach Festival, as well as at various events in Umlazi Township.
Kwini Kuzu takes its name from Durban (eTheKwini) and Stanger (KwaDuKuza), where the teenage musicians grew up. Asked how the band got together, Lasandra, who is in Grade 9 at Northlands Girls High School, said: “Our manager and our drummer’s dad, Neil Singh, had put together a band of some amazing young musicians here in Durban – Saiyan on guitar, Sabian on drums, Neo on bass and my two girls, Entle and Sipokazi, on keyboards.
“They saw me performing at Durban Jazz Festival in 2015 as a solo performer and asked if I would join the group. I said yes and the rest is history!”
The band performs both originals and covers, using a style which encompasses African, pop, house and rock. Their second single, Speed of Light, was released in April this year.
Saiyan, a Grade 8 pupil at Stanger Manor Secondary School, said the catchy tune, which was produced by Britain’s Marc JB, was co-written with their manager.
“The song is about love,” he added. “It’s about meeting someone for the first time and falling for them immediately, something a lot of people experience, whether you are young or old.”
The band was also thrilled to work with Marc JB, who has produced songs for Cyndi Lauper, remixed tunes for Rihanna and Britney Spears and has been behind numerous Billboard dance hits.
“Marc JB is based in London, so we recorded at a studio in Durban and everything was sent to him,” said Saiban. “The sound Marc produced for the song is amazing, even better than we expected! He has worked with some big international names and we are very happy with the results!”
Asked who they were influenced by musically, Neo, a grade eight pupil at Umlazi Comtech High School, said Kwini Kuza loved listening to everyone from Bruno Mars and The Weeknd to Rihanna, Whitney Houston, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Carlos Santana.
As for who they would like to collaborate with, Mafikizolo, Nathi, Kelly Khumalo, Kwesta, Rihanna and Bruno Mars are among those at the top of a long list, according to Sipokazii.
The video for Speed of Light, which clocked up 30 000 views in its first week, was filmed at 8 Morrison Street in Durban and at Moyo on the pier at uShaka Marine World. “We got to choose our clothes for the video, which was great, and the girls got to pick some jewellery too!,” said Entle.
As for what the future holds, Saiyan says: “We hope the band can become a household name … we are working hard to make that happen.”
- To keep up to date with Kwini Kuza like the Facebook page, kwinikuza, or follow them on Instagram. The video for Speed of Light can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYQtEH-W45o