INTRODUCING… SHAMROCK GUITOR:
MARCHING TO HIS OWN “URBAN AFROBEAT”
Shamrock Guitor is a South-African Independent Artist, Multi-Instrumentalist, Singer, Producer, and Performer. He is known for his collaborations– performing live guitar over House Music DJ sets and working on productions with the prolific Andy Compton of the Rurals, as well as renowned flutist Han Litz. Shamrock has a lot to say musically and he’s just getting started on his self-proclaimed “Urban Afrobeat” journey. Enjoy!!
Interview by Amanda Frontany
Shamrock Guitor!!! Let’s begin with your name, which is very unusual. Let our readers know the origins of this unique name.
Let me start by mentioning that my birth name is Thembinkosi Shamrock Ndala. So Shamrock is my second name that was given to me by my late uncle. I love both my names, but I chose to go with Shamrock since it’s a rare name, especially in South Africa. Then I chose to add Guitor since I play guitar, just to make it easy to Google me or find me online. [laughter]
Tell us please which instruments you play and how you first got involved with music.
I’ve always loved guitars and violins, but I chose to play guitar including bass because I was told the guitar is one of the most difficult instruments to learn. I also needed to improve my music production and add some live instruments. My first experience with music was at Zithembeni Primary School where I sang as a soloist for the boy’s choir.
And how old were you when you started singing and playing guitar?
I started singing when I was seven years old during Standard 1 (which I believe is Grade 2 or 3 in American schools) and I started playing guitar in 2008.
Wow! So you’ve only been playing guitar for ten years! That’s very impressive Shamrock!
Who are some iconic guitarists that you’ve looked up to over the years as you have developed your own guitar playing?
A very, very tall Shamrock reveals: “My personal favorite [guitarist] has got to be George Benson. His style is unique, bold and rich.”
There are many legendary guitarists that I enjoy listening to, such as Salif Keita, B.B. King, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Peter Tosh, and so many more. But my personal favorite has got to be George Benson. His style is unique, bold and rich. You can tell he is a very dedicated guitarist when you listen to his songs.
Oooh yes, I am a huge George Benson fan, too. I can hear his influence on your own playing. And who are some of your other musical influences?
Again I will mention Salif Keita, and of course Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Both of these artists have influenced my current style, which is a fusion of various African sounds.
Yes, they are both amazing artists: Salif Keita, the “Golden Voice of Africa” and Fela Kuti, the “Father of Afrobeat.” Do you have particular songs by each artist that you return to over and over again as a fan or for musical inspiration?
From Salif Keita, it’s got to be his track “Tekere” from his album Folon. The track has everything– from the horns to a great vocalist and backing vocals. It’s got the groove and I love it. From Fela Kuti’s side I have always loved “Open and Close” from his album of the same name. There are so many tracks that I like from these two great artists, but these two tracks really stand out for me. Both of these artists have each been a huge part of my quest to discover my signature sound, which I call “Urban Afrobeat.”
I love that: Urban Afrobeat! Your signature sound is a fusion of sorts, but yet completely your own, completely Shamrock. How would you describe your song-writing process?
Usually I start by jamming on my guitar until I get something I like, and then I record it. Next I get some shakers and congas in, add more guitars, riffs, and so on. Then I go to the bass guitar. While composing I’m also thinking of the right vocals that might fit. Usually I end up going for the instrumental version since it’s difficult for me to find African sounding vocalists. Then I call a friend who plays horns (saxophone, etc.). I explain to him or her what kind of sound I want to achieve. After recording the horns, the song should tell me what to do next or what more to add.
”I start by jamming on my guitar until I get something I like, and then I record it. Next I get some shakers and congas in, add more guitars, riffs…”
So you take a layered, sonic approach to your song-writing. I know you often collaborate with the very talented UK-based producer and musician Andy Compton of the Rurals and CEO of Peng Records. How did this partnership come about?
I met Andy in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was 2015 and he was booked at a session called City Soul Addict at Banister Hotel in Braamfontein to perform. Luckily I was also performing at the same event. We met, jammed together and had fun. After the session we had a long chat, exchanged numbers. Then on his next visit to SA he came to my place where I had a small basic studio set up and we started making music. We have been working and creating together ever since.
Andy Compton and Shamrock met in 2015–
“We have been working and creating together ever since.”
So it sounds like you and Andy Compton had immediate musical chemistry. We can hear it in the music you make together. Please talk about a few of these productions.
This past May, Andy and I released an EP called Bunny Chow on his Peng label. And the record “Bunny Chow” was selected as Tune of the Month for March 2018 by Mixmag.
Andy Compton and Shamrock’s Bunny Chow EP, recognized by Mixmag in March 2018
Congratulations on that achievement, Shamrock! Who else have your collaborated with? And who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
I’ve collaborated with several talented artists like flutist Han Litz, vocalist Celestine Walcott-Gordon, producer/remixer Jose Marquez, trumpeter/singer Kafele Bandele, drummer Tony Allen, and many more. In the future I would really love to collaborate with Josh Milan, Seun Kuti, and the group Antibalas. I really like each of their sounds.
Can you tell us about your own projects, African Music By African People , Dancing Nation , and your latest People Of The Rain, released this past July?
Yes, of course. African Music By African People is my first solo album. It took me four years to complete it. It is also my first ever project to be released on vinyl so it’s very special to me. I feature a few international artists on the album like Asali Msanii, Han Litz, and of course, Andy Compton.
Many musicians are remembered for their debut album so I wanted to make sure my debut album, African Music By African People, sounded fresh, yet timeless. After I released it I got a few messages asking me why I didn’t include any House tracks on it since I am known for improvising live guitar on top of House Music. So I decided to release Dancing Nation, which is like the bridge between the sound I want to explore and a more modern sound.
This past July, I released People Of The Rain which consists of three tracks. This EP is basically a follow-up to the Dancing Nation EP. My sound on People Of the Rain is more DJ-friendly, easier for DJ’s to mix since most DJ’s prefer uptempo tracks. With this project, I’m also inviting House Music lovers to my sound because if I keep my music all downtempo then I believe some might not be interested, even in my future projects. So since I’m still new to listeners’ ears I’m trying to be as versatile as I can so people get used to expecting different vibes from me.
Shamrock Guitor’s first three releases, available on Bandcamp: https://shamrockguitor.bandcamp.com/
I admire your dedication to produce different tempos and sounds, especially to grow your listeners and fans.
And speaking of House Music… Shamrock, I almost forgot to ask you about your own DJing. I have heard you spin a very impressive set on David Lyn’s “Music Without Labels” online radio show out of the U.K. Is DJing another one of your passions? Another talent of yours? And might you spin records again either live at a gig or for a radio show?
Before I focused on playing guitar, I was a DJ for a while and I still do it here and there if necessary. Being from South Africa, you realize that everyone is a DJ. [laughter] So I needed something that would make me unique from other DJ’s, to stand apart from the others, and that’s where the guitar came in. But I’m definitely planning to spin more records live and for any radio show who wants me to.
Any plans to tour outside of South Africa and share your talents at live performances around the world?
Most definitely, in fact that’s my main focus right now since I’m getting a lot of positive feedback from listeners in other countries compared to my own. I’m planning to grow and expose my music to new crowds, meet and share the stage with more musicians from other places, and even make music with them. So yeah, it’s something that I’m definitely looking at right now.
“I’m planning to grow and expose my music to new crowds, meet and share the stage with more musicians from other places…”
I have no doubt that you will have these experiences. What are some of the challenges you face as an independent artist in 2018 as well as looking forward?
My biggest challenge has to be touring because it’s easier for me to perform in South Africa than to travel outside. Meeting the financial requirements to get a visa is my biggest issue right now especially as an underground and unknown musician like myself. But I’m definitely working on it.
What have been some important lessons you’ve learned about the music business so far in your career?
I have learned a lot of things and one of them is to put as many songs as you can out there so people can recognize and understand your sound. I have also learned that it’s important to connect with as many people as you can because you’ll never know who might assist you one day to help you get closer to your dreams.
For someone just starting out as a professional musician/recording artist, what advice can you share?
I would say music is fun, but it has its own challenges like everything else in life. So if you are truly a passionate musician you should always make or find time to make music no matter the situation. Never give up.
Any final thoughts you want to leave us with, Shamrock?
Yes. A lot of people chase money in this world, but I don’t believe we were born for that. Find what you love and treasure it. After all, money is never enough anyway.
“Find what you love and treasure it.”
Very wise words!
Shamrock Guitor, thank you so very much for taking the time to chat with me! All of your international fans are waiting and excited for you to perform live in their respective cities one day very soon!!
I can’t wait Amanda!! BIG LOVE from Shamrock and thank you all very much for your support.
Brooklyn, New York & Johannesburg, South Africa
Special thanks to: Andy Compton, Dr. Bob Jones and David Lyn
Connect, support and listen to Shamrock Guitor here: