The seven-piece band is led by composer Shante Bekwa (vocals, guitar) and includes Dan Msomi on guitar and vocals, Bunny Nathi Mkhize on drums, Barret Thabani Hlela on bass guitar, Albert Chemane on percussion, Sfiso Mpanza on keyboards and Simphiwe Mtembu Sikhakane playing the trombone.
The Meditators have been the resident band at uShaka Marine World since it opened in 2004. Their weekly Sunday set has garnered them an avid following, and includes a mix of original music from their four albums as well as popular covers, ranging from Bob Marley to Lucky Dube.
This year they are celebrating their 21st birthday (or “earth day”, as they like to call it), having started life in 1991 as a four-piece in Joburg. The Meditators recorded their first album, Tacklin’ Beast by the Horns, the same year. In 2000 they moved to KwaZulu-Natal, and have since evolved into their current form. As songwriter Bekwa’s spirituality has deepened over the years, so too has the music.
Bekwa has been registered with SAMRO as composer and publisher for several years, having notified his first composition, Break Down Chains, in 1999. The band’s albums include Break Down Chains (1999), Jah Kingdom (2009) and Special Reques’ (2011), and they are currently working on their fifth album, under their own production company Big Up Productions, which they hope to release in time to be considered for next year’s SA Music Awards.
Over the years the band has faced the usual battles of working as full-time musicians, as well as some not-so-usual hurdles – like a fire that destroyed all their equipment in 2007. However, one of their biggest challenges has been the lack of support South African reggae bands receive from local radio stations and production companies. They maintain that limited airplay means a limited audience and fewer album sales, and the title track of Special Reques’ is a musical plea to radio stations to play more South African music.
Their style appeals to a crossover audience and it isn’t surprising to see everyone from the very young to the very old getting up and dancing to their music. Earlier this year, the band partnered with uShaka Marine World to host the successful Bob Marley Earthday Reggae Music Festival and Rasta Fair.
Visit www.themeditators.com or follow them on Facebook.