The rising neo-soul singer talks the release of his debut album LANGA and the ever-growing South African music scene.
The South African music scene has birthed some of the most famed R&B artists over the years, with the likes of Bucie and Zonke dominating the scene for decades. Now ready to take centre stage with his honeyed vocals is Langa Mavuso with the release of his debut self-titled album. Having been propelled into the spotlight in the past 24 months for his vivid songwriting ability and heartwarming lyricism, the singer is taking his sound to the next level for his album. Filled with crooning vocals that are reminiscent of early noughties R&B and power ballads that’ll have you straight in your feels, Langa takes us through an album filled with tumultuous heartbreak and the pain of losing a loved one.
Speaking on the album, the singer said, “This is me taking a moment to look in the mirror and reflect on self, through the journey of this heartbreak, and you’ll see three different phases of this journey play out throughout the album, with every four songs; in the beginning, we reflect on the pain and upset caused by losing love, with this part of the album expressing the initial acceptance of a relationship ending. In the second part, we step into a more tumultuous part of the heartbreak; inspired by the sounds of nightclubs and a lifestyle that can be described as a distraction.”
Teaming up with Chloe x Halle producer Linden Jay and Beyoncé collaborator Noble for the album, the impressive body of work is a testament to his incredible artistry and firmly places him as a contender in the global R&B scene. We caught up with the rising star talking the process of creating the album, staying creative and what he has lined up next.
Check out the interview below…
How has the pandemic and the uncertainty of this year impacted your music and art?
The current state of the world began with great anxieties and lots of panic. In the beginning the fear of losing all assets due to a lack of income and direct connection with people, I thought to heed the call and simply become isolated in mind, body and spirit. I didn’t create a lot in the initial phase of lockdown because I had nothing to say but also lack access to many of my collaborators. As South Africa slowly relaxed it’s lockdown rules we began to put the final touches to the album which had been conceptualised prior to the COVID19 outbreak. We did however now have the advantage that music became my sole focus as most of my other work wasn’t happening yet. The beginning months were extremely stressful and uncertain but I feel that we’ve come out of this more appreciative of our work and opportunity to create and share art.
How did growing up in South Africa influence you sonically? Who were your musical heroes?
The energy and vibrancy in South African music and youth culture made it very exciting to grow up. Artists like Brenda Fassie and Boom Shaka dominated the radio airwaves around the 90’s and early 2000’s. My parents listened to a lot of soul and jazz. This influenced my interest in neo-soul as I grew up in the cosmopolitan city of Johannesburg. The interest opened up to the world and I began to explore the sounds of D’Angelo, Musiq Soulchild and Maxwell. My biggest heroes in music are those that played in the background of my childhood; Caiphus Semenya, Ringo Madlingozi, Miles Davis and Donny Hathaway.
How would you describe your genre?
I would describe my genre of music as urban soul music. It’s influenced by my personal life and draws inspiration from each experience that I aim to capture with each song. I don’t particularly like to be genre defined as an artist because I have collaborated and created across genre ideas and I think it’s important to open to different sonic journeys as a musician.
Congratulations on your debut album LANGA – how long has it been in the making?
Thank you! I began writing this album when I was 23 years old and it’s finally coming out at the age of 26 years old. I call it chapter 23 – 26 amongst my friends. This project was recorded between London, Cape Town and Johannesburg and it brought to life the three main themes of the album; pain, distraction and finally acceptance. It chronicles my journey through heartbreak as a young man riddled with pain and loss.
What were the biggest challenges in putting it together, especially at a time like this?
The biggest challenge initially was the financial support needed to create the kind of album I envisioned. Creating opportunities and leveraging off relationships was a huge part of the creative process for this piece. Lockdown was probably the easiest part of the process because we had already begun the mixing and mastering process. We now had the time and opportunity to become more detail-orientated as we had nothing but time on our hands.
You’ve said it is about the journey of heartbreak – how was it putting out something so vulnerable and personal to you?
The process of writing is perhaps the part of the vulnerability because I have to be honest with myself and bare my truth and hold it up like a mirror because that process requires healing. I seek to cultivate a healing space in my music and it’s found with honesty without regret. All of my music is quite personal and honest and seeing people embrace those songs and stories has helped find the courage to do it over and over again.
And is there one song or lyric in particular that gives you the most sadness or catharsis?
“You’ve got a new life. Your soul’s flown a new flight. I wish I could see you there. Love” from ‘Love Lost’. It’s a song about the moment of letting go – we finally hear a positive reflection on the love shared in the past and it, I recount the memories of a love I’d lost through death and finally accepts the loss of it through this song.
What do you hope listeners will take from it?
A cry, a smile and a dance.
What’s next for you and what are you excited about in 2020?
This album is what’s next for me! I’m excited to get to people and hopefully tour it once we’re in a post-COVID time. I’m excited to share all the work we created for LANGA.