A Google search for Shekhinah Donnell and “Back to the Beach” brings up no less than 1 410 000 search results. Not bad for someone who auditioned, not once, but twice for Idols South Africa, but never made it to top position. She’s definitely a winner now. “Back to the Beach”, Shekhinah’s song with Kyle Deutsch has been playlisted on many national radio stations and is on the phones of music lovers all over the country and, dare we say, the world?
And she recently killed a performance at the Metro FM Awards, which took place in her hometown, Durban, where her song was nominated under the Best Single category.
The making of a hit song
The 22-year-old, who is doing her final year as a music student at AFDA in Jo’burg, says the song came from just being frustrated. “I like to cater to people’s emotions as well as our frustrations. So when I went home for the holidays all I wanted to do was chill and stay at the beach,” she says. She and Kyle worked on the song before heading to the studio to record it with producer, Sketchy Bongo.
She says that once she wrote the hook, the music started to come together, and after a few hours, the hit was born. She says she and Kyle were also involved in conceptualising the video. “It was Kyle’s idea to have the video where the characters are switching between adulthood and childhood.”
From being on Idols to the Metros
Shekhinah first auditioned for Idols when she was 16, back in 2011. She sang “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse, which really impressed SA Idols judge Randall Abrahams, but not enough to keep her in the competition. She auditioned again the following year, this time singing Lauryn Hill’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”. She made it all the way to the top six, but still didn’t make the cut.
She says she decided to take a gap year after that before registering for school full-time to do her music degree. I quiz her about the prospect of becoming just a one-hit wonder. She says that although it would be nice, she is not too concerned about making radio hits; she just wants to write music that the youth can relate to.
Nonku Phiri, selfies and staying in school
Since the success of her hit song, campus life has been a bit strange. “It’s just awkward being on campus and having people ask about my music or asking to take selfies with me,” she says with a laugh.
Balancing her schoolwork with her music career has not been easy. In the same week she had to rehearse for the Metro FM Awards, she had an important school project to hand in.
Shekhinah rates Lorde as her favourite musician. Cape Town singer Nonku Phiri is the local artist she would like to collaborate with. “I like that she’s different. She is not a conventional South African black girl in the type of music she makes. She is not flashy. She does not collaborate with the usual South African house music DJs for example, she does her own thing.”
So does Shekhinah.
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