Wahengo taps into Damara Punch

By Rosalia David

ONE of the most celebrated guitarists in Namibia, 41-year-old Jackson Wahengo is ageing like fine wine and adding more local flavour to his music with his newly released song, titled ‘Oshitufi’, featuring sensational female singers Adora and Beate Baumgartner.

He describes the much talked about song as a groove track, which speaks about the typical and common South African groove pattern. “I wrote the song over 10 years ago, basically a party song, as oshitufi means to party or feast, So, I am saying there is a party at Mandume’s place and it’s going to be lit and that all are invited. A good example of that is PJ Powers’ Jabulani,” he explained.

Wahengo is known for playing music that is deeply rooted in the African artistic tradition, blending with contemporary urban sounds and strong influences of jazz, zouk, reggae and Afro Pop, or folk in a new shape and form to create a musical fusion that has proven to be attractive to a wide audience.

‘When I played the song for my brother, Hans Gariseb, who is a brilliant keyboard player, he completely changed everything that I could barely sing to it, but I liked his revamped version of it that I had to go back home and learn how to sing it in its new form,” he said.

According to the talented musician, the birth of the song was inspired by keyboardist Gariseb after he rearranged a few instruments to an old beat, and added a Damara Punch feel to it. Gariseb is one of Namibia’s most renowned Damara Punch (Magaisa) musicians and a producer in his own right.

“I believe he gave the song that feel fell in love with, I liked it very much. So, he is the producer and arranger of the song. With additional arrangements by Elvo Diergaardt,” Jackson noted.

Wahengo spoke of his experience working with the two musicians on the song, saying it took him some time to get Adora in the studio for a feature as she was very busy working on her own music.

“It was a beautiful experience working with Adora, she is extremely busy so it took some time before getting her into the studio, but after sending the song to her she quickly called back and told me that she is ready to get in the studio and nail her part. That’s how quick and brilliant she is. Same applies to Beate Baumgartner, they all really just did their thing professionally,” he said.

‘Oshitufi’, which was released with a music video shot and directed by Eric Mule is currently making headlines on social media platforms with music lovers congratulating him for tapping into the Damara Punch genre.

A former member of Setson and the Mighty Dreads, Wahengo is no stranger to the local music scene. He is popular on the live music circuit and always brings his playful energy to the mix. Although he plays music rooted in African folk and tradition, he is able to fuse it with urban sounds influenced by jazz and reggae, with a hint of new-age Afro-pop.

He has also covered countless Shambo songs by the likes of the late Tate Kwela, giving them a more modern feel. Born in exile in Ndola, Zambia, Wahengo’s childhood was spent in Angola, Congo Brazzaville, and later Namibia.

He recounts being a curious child especially about music, carefully paying attention to the likes of Ras Sheehama, the Ndilimani band and the late Jackson Kaujeua, all of whom he was lucky enough to be around in exile.

He says he has always loved the sounds of traditional music, being particularly inspired by late Tate Kwela and other great singers who pioneered traditional Shambo music in the past.                                                                    

Wahengo began playing the guitar at age 12 and spent a great deal of time as a bassist in his older brother Setson’s band, where he further honed his skills.

He has since relocated and is now based in Scandinavia with his family, but he has travelled to and played in many countries around the world, sharing the stage with international music icons, but he still makes time to see his fans at home with the occasional performance and guitar lessons he offers.

As to what we can expect, Jackson revealed that he is preparing to release his sophomore album but will continue to tease us with more singles and collaborations with Namibian artists until the work is ready.