All she saw was four-year-old toddler pummel her pots as though they were a musical drum set. None of it made sense at that point. But as the boy grew, it became clear that Jesse Nyakudya was a drummer-in-the-making.
“He used to play with my pots, and I didn’t understand why he did that,” Jesse’s businesswoman mother, Carole, says.
What started off with pots is fast developing into something Carole is proud of, especially when the teenager earns plaudits from established gospel musicians like Keke Phofoolo, Mkhululi Bhebhe, Takesure Zamar Ncube and Thembalami Tagwire, one of the founding members of Zimpraise gospel music group.
His story though is testament to the maxim that says, ‘an apple does not fall far from the tree’. His mother is an award-winning gospel musician.
“He’s always been passionate about music,” says the Birmingham-based entrepreneur. Her son, born in the United Kingdom, is determined to sharpen his drumming skills and reach the levels of former Joyous Celebration’s Sabu Satsha.
“Sabu inspires me, I don’t know anyone who plays drums like that man,” the 16-year-old says. Interestingly, his story, so far, reads like Satsha’s, who honed his skills in church. Satsha started off at the Grace Bible Church in Soweto, just the same way Jesse’s budding career started at the Family of God Church in Birmingham.
Of course, Satsha has gone on to play for secular musicians like Zahara, a route Jesse insists he will eschew. His talent, he boldly says, is a preserve for the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, the prudent teen knows the influences of music on his peers and stresses he sticks to gospel.
“There’s always a spirit behind music, it can influence behaviour, so I guard myself against music that is contrary to biblical teachings,” says the ardent Christian.
His most memorable moment thus far was a session with Keke. The South African musician was on tour in the United Kingdom and needed somebody to play the drums.
Up-stepped a 12-year-old, armed with raw talent and boldness. Keke was not ready. His temporary recruit played with the aplomb of a veteran. He describes that 2016 experience as ‘dreamlike’.
“I was playing drums, he gave me a solo, shouting my name, I felt like it was upon me to seize the moment. I’d been listening to his albums repeatedly. It was amazing. It was surreal. Learning from him was too amazing.” He has gone on to jam for the ex-Joyous Celebration duo of Bhebhe and Ncube, who both speak highly of his abilities.
Bhebhe says: “I remember playing with Jesse, what a talented young man. He will certainly excel as he continues to play drums. But my advice to him is that he must strike a balance between music and his studies.” Bhebhe adds that a musical career can be rewarding, but unpredictable at times. He, therefore, believes it is important to have a skill to fall back on in dry seasons.
A big fan of America’s multiple award-winning gospel muso, Travis Greene, he is convinced drumming is the ‘engine room’ of music.
With the world’s most beautiful game – football – another of his talents, Jesse knows he will soon have to choose between the two.
And, with the help of his supportive parents and God’s guidance, he knows his future is secure.