Young artists make their voices heard

Branwyn Damons, Ryan Sackanary, Morgan Dennison, Jaydene Sheldon and Claudio Marinus at MD Records in Westlake.

A recording studio in Westlake is helping young artists to venture into the music industry.

Under the guidance of their mentor and founder of the studio, Morgan Dennison, artists are being given the technical resources to record their own music for free.

Some of the artists have started their own bands and have gone on to play with some of South Africa’s most famous musicians.

Mr Dennison, 38, from Tokai, is a South African musician, songwriter, producer and missionary. He opened MD Records in Westlake in 2013.

The studio is based in a cozy upstairs room at Westlake Worship Centre, where Mr Dennison is the praise and worship leader.

MD Records teaches young artists from Steenberg and Retreat music production, live performance, live recording, design and photography. These are all skills that Mr Dennison acquired himself as a qualified audio engineer. He obtained his qualification at the College of Audio Engineering in Bellville in 2005.

The young artists are drummers, vocalists and keyboard players. Mr Dennison says that he is looking for more raw talented young artists in Westlake who’ would be interested in recording at the studio.

One of the artists, Claudio Marinus, 21, from Steenberg, recently started a band called Lyric of
Praise and is in the process of recording their first album with Mr Dennison.

Mr Marinus is also a self-taught photographer and has started a photography business in his community where he takes pictures at various events such as weddings.

Another of the artists, Ryan Sackanary, 23, who joined the studio when he was 19 years old, has played the keyboard for established South African musicians such as Emo Adams and The Rockets.

The studio room was given to Mr Dennison by his father, founder and senior pastor of the 20-year-old church, Pastor Franklyn Dennison.

He says he met the young artists through various churches and gospel concerts.

Mr Dennison said he was inspired to open his studio in Westlake because he had first-hand experience with the difficulties of not being able to afford to book recording sessions at studios.

“They (music professionals) can sometimes charge you R4 000 for a recording session when there are people who don’t even have bread money. How can the normal person afford that? And the Department of Arts (and Culture) doesn’t pour enough into our communities so where can these artists go?” he said.

Mr Dennison said his first album He’s Alive, released in 2000, cost him R15 000 to produce.

“Thankfully, my father paid half of it but the rest I had to work two jobs to raise. The professionals in the industry are in it for the money, I don’t blame them, but I promised myself after that that if I ever have the money to open my own studio, I’ll create opportunities for those who can’t afford it.”

Mr Dennisson says he took out a loan of R60 000 in 2009 to buy recording equipment for the studio, which he is still paying off today.

“My goal one day is to open my own arts school so that young people can not only dream, but also live out their full potential. The school will be called YANA, short for you are not alone,” he said.

Mr Dennison emphasised the importance of mentorship and career guidance for youth wanting to pursue music as he himself has been mentored by former 7de Laan star, Zane Meas. Mr Meas even appointed Mr Dennison to work on the soundtrack of his 2012 film, Father.

“When I was younger people in my community would tell me that there’s no money in music, it’s not a career but they were wrong,” he said.

Mr Dennison has also gone around to schools such as Westlake Primary and Steenberg High spreading awareness about choices, especially career choices and venturing into the arts.

If community members want to join MD Records they can email Mr Dennison at morgandennisonministries@gmail.comorcontacthimon WhatsApp at 0724761998.