Emonti Lifestyle caught up with rising star, soulful vocalist, reluctant instrumentalist, Asanda ‘Msaki’ Mvana. The first time we met the down to earth soulful songstress was at a Plan B Garden Session in Arcadia around 2011/12. We ask the ‘best kept secret talent and undeniably rising star’ a few questions;
Was the process to making music then any more different then now?
“Wow you have a good memory. It’s always been a bit of a mixture depending on who was around me and what skill set I was working on at the time.
Msaki explains; “The first forays into ‘writing’ music was giving a poem I had written, one with an unintimidating structure, a melody. Then I realised a lot of my friends were ‘beat-makers’ so just reacting to interesting soundscapes with vague ideas or just sentence shapes was also an approach.
About crafting her art Msaki says; “I’d sit with a song, knowing what a song looked like and felt like. Then the lyrics would come later so I put up with a lot of nonsensical sentences that felt right.
“I would also hear complete songs in my dreams, so before the days of voice notes, I’d wake up and sing them enough times to feel like they had stuck, then sleep. I lost a few songs this way,” she says in a near ‘mournful-ish’ tone
Without missing a beat though she continues; “Then I wrote within bands while other instrumentalists jammed and I would put down whatever came up first. The decision to pick up a guitar and mess around on the piano was mostly for more independence as a songwriter.
“That’s why I’m not really an instrumentalists, they are just tools to me,” the soulful songstress shyly admits in anyway only she can.
How much of a role does visual artistry play in that process? We ask because your lyrics have generally been visually descriptive in their arrangement. Take “Liwa lentliziyo” and “Catalyst” for instance.
“Yeah, I guess a great deal. I saw both those songs before I could hear them. I could see the different layers I needed for them to start becoming what they are, and I have always stayed true to the original shape of the songs. This shape has a lot more to do with rhythm than I thought. I discovered I could paint with rhythm and sound. The length and texture of lyrics help me access soft and hard sounds then a picture starts to form”.
As for the actual meaning, “the lyrics and their visual triggers are the most obvious part of how a song looks as the obvious scene setters, but the music has already situated you in space and time way before you hear the lyrics.
“As the listener you dig in your own visual rucksack and co-create a world with the triggers in the song. How cool is that?”
How has the battle to cultivate your sound been? We imagine one starts with a combination of influence from favourite artists. Was it like that with you?
“It’s all there. Everything I’ve heard, loathed and loved: totally part of me. The Bjork, the Mahotela, the Creed, that last verse in that hymn yaseRhabe, my father’s impromptu yard cleaning songs, the Fela and Ani De Franco the Badu, the Stimela… [she could go on]…
“At the moment I am getting ready to release my debut album after the music is all done, do I realise how difficult it is to coherently choose which part of me to juxtapose with which?” The songstress warns; “some combinations of approaches and genres will only ever make sense to me, I listened to that much bluegrass or read that many old native American poems or drenched myself in Mbaqanga while in Port St John’s.
“I am the only one who really knows what I have been dropping in my well. I guess it’s still early in my career to have a formula that becomes my sound, you know kinda like Johnny Clegg?” she says with a chuckle and adds; “maybe I’m secretly praying I never find a formula”.
What is your sound? For those who have never heard you.
“At the moment it’s very layered. Indie Afro Symponic Folk. I guess it’s at times lathered in soul”.
Rattling on; What predominantly inspires your work?
“Nothing in particular. My work is the filter through which I view the world and process it’s peculiar happenings.
What is this particular project about? Themes, messages and sonically. How have you gone about putting it together?
“I play around with ideas of healing and loss. These are explored quite personally with many references to water and gold. It’s really made to be listened to as a complete story. It’s called Zaneliza: How the water moves.
Msaki explains; “The cleansing power, life generating abilities of water intrigue me so I express that curiosity and that revelation in story. The same way one washes their hands at the gate after a visit to the cemetery at a funeral.
About the works; “The songs are vessels for messages and motifs and the chords and melodies are the colours and textures. The sound is old and new. Symphonic and folky. Soulful and simple. African and universal. I hope everyone can find their own unique thread through it”.
Let’s change the beat a little. Tell us about your favourite place to eat or “loiter” in East London and why?
“The harbour on an overcast day. It’s a beautiful place to take photos. For me it remains a bizarre concrete space full of childhood memories. My dad used to take us on Sunday walks on the pier towards the lighthouse when I was small.
“And I also have fond memories of the harbour festivals despite the clowns and the trauma of ‘I’m a barbie girl, in a barbie world…’ being thumped out all day when that song was big.
Finally; East London for you is …?
Home. Safe. Grey yet full of promise.
And Asanda is…?
Present. Observing. Thirsty. Stumbling. Hopefull. Brimming. Open-handed.
Hope, love and light x.
June 2, 2017, Msaki – ZANELIZA: A wave is coming. ONESHUSHUDAYARTISTRY: