Two artists, arguably the finest of this generation, walk into a bar.
They don’t do it at once, however.
One, Langa Mavuso, is first to arrive. He’s flanked by the Red Bull film crew. They’ve been following him around since the A.M, peering in while the Soulistic Music-signed artist walked them through memories made while attending the National School of the Arts a few blocks away from Kitchener’s, the bar/club in question.
The NSA gave him courage to open himself up. We wouldn’t have him, soul-musician-to-watch, one on the cusp of a major breakthrough, without it.
“I loved high school. I didn’t want it to end,” he’d shared in the school’s theatre while getting camera-ready.
When Langa speaks, his words glide. He exudes a level of charm about him. Frequently, he’ll share a gasp-inducing detail about his love life, or his thoughts on current topics, and do it as though these were minor details to be glossed over and not paid attention to.
And perhaps they are minor. Perhaps this disregard for what is and isn’t appropriate to say is how he declares what it is that matters to him – escaping through music, writing anew, and discovering new things.
He also enjoys it when people share memories attached to the songs he’s written; songs like “Libalele (Pray)”, “Heartstrings” (with Bongeziwe Mabandla), and “Sunday Blues”.
The latter made its Internet debut almost a year ago, on a YouTube channel that was run by his former UCT schoolmates (he has mixed feelings about the time he spent at the university’s school of music).
It trended on Twitter upon its release. It’s what got him noticed, and subsequently signed, to the Black Coffee-owned Soulistic.
Shekhinah arrives – no, she makes an entrance – nearer to mid-day. If “Power to She”, the Rouge-featuring badgyal tune from her Gold-certified debut album, fittingly entitled Rose Gold, were to have a video, her gold-tinged hair wouldn’t need touching up. The light in Kitchener’s would augment the glimmer
The two kick it at the bar, recalling earlier days when no one outside of their circle was really checking for the music they made.
Langa had grown frustrated with doing corporate gigs and singing covers while at university down in Cape Town. Moving up to Jozi allowed him to recollect; to re-member and connect with the things that mattered. He started uploading music onto his Soundcloud around this period. Coincidentally, the jazz standard “Ntyilo Ntyilo”, an Alan Silinga composition written for Miriam Makeba, was was one of the first to get uploaded.
He asks Shekhinah about her Jozi experience.
“I wrote ‘Back to the beach’ because Joburg wasn’t giving me what I needed,” is part of her answer. That song turned summer ’16 all over East and Southern Africa into one long hard-chill session. By the beach, of course.
The Sketchy Bongo-produced Kyle Deutsch collabo was written while she was home in Durban. “I was in second year at varsity, 2015. The song got licensed to a label, and we just started hearing it on the radio. And then people started attaching emotion to it. I think that was the big pull of the song, that people could think of a memory and they could relate to being at the beach and what it symbolized – youth, happiness, relaxation,” she says.
Shekinah didn’t feel warm in a city infamous for being cold, not only to outsiders, but to its own as well. “I thought that I’d get here, get a gig a Kitchener’s, and the ball starts rolling.”
(Later on our way to Bassline in Newtown, the third and final location, Jozi-born Langa shares that his car was recently broken into. His laptop containing the music he’d been working on, stolen.)
Shekhinah continues: “What was crazy, I was always making music. I think that worked in my favour, that nobody liked me. It gave me the space that I needed to just be by myself.”
Her perceptions toward the city eventually shifted, owing in part to the reception she got at her first gig in Kong. “It was really dope because I didn’t know what to expect because I’m not club-like; I didn’t have the club gear. Everyone sang [“Let you know”] back to me, and I was really taken.”
“The thing about Joburg,” she says in conclusion, “is that I would’ve never gotten that experience at home in Durban. It’s just something more inspiring about being in Joburg. Everyone is intrigued by everyone.”
- First published here.