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INTO MANANA’S MUSICAL ARTISTRY

By Ntsika Ngcamphalala | 2023-12-03

On this week’s Scene, we speak to one of the brightest stars to ever shine out of Eswatini.

Singer and songwriter, Manana, takes us deeper into his work by sharing insights on how his multiple awards have affected his artistry, hinting his upcoming ‘Christmas gift’ to his fans, as well as detailing his working relationship with collaborators such as The Imports, Nasty C, Uncle Waffles and many more.

The artist also Alliance Francaise de Mbabane on Friday evening. The show was in commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and featured performers such as Zwile and Velemseni.

Despite having won multiple awards such as the recent South African Music Awards (SAMA 29) for Best RnB/ soul album, the artist has maintained that these accolades do not put any form of pressure on him to perform. Instead, he states that music is a source of much pleasure and joy for him – not pressure.

The music he makes, he says, is for the people to enjoy.
“There’s no pressure for me when it comes to awards hey, I make music for people. That’s a pleasure more than pressure,” Manana shares.

As previously mentioned, Manana boasts a Grammy award for his songwriting credits on Nigerian artist, Burna Boy’s album, ‘Twice As Tall’. Reflecting on the award which was received a while ago Manana maintains that he has grown significantly since then.

“It’s been a while since that award so I feel as though I’ve grown quite a bit. I don’t over think as much. I’m able to trust my ability to write in different genres as well,” Manana reflects.

With his upcoming album being highly anticipated by his supporters, Manana details how he navigates the many requests from his fans for him to release his project. He admits that the constant inquiries on his project serve as a form of validation for the work he has put in. He further reveals a treat he has in store for his supporters before the year ends.

“It is validation of the work we’ve put in over the years. Look, I can’t offer anything exclusive for the album but the next single will be out within the next few weeks. Almost a Christmas gift for all the people supporting my career,” he shares.

The artist has worked extensively with collaborators such as The Imports for his music production. This relationship has birthed many beautiful sounds and has continued well into his most recent release – ‘All The Noise’.

He details how the relationship began and shares what has maintained it thus far. The secret, it seems, is that the musician formed a friendship that transcended just music.

“We started working together as students. We had similar aspirations for our lives and careers. And we connected on that level of friendship. That’s how we’ve been able to maintain our relationship, it isn’t just a working one,” he said.

Manana has also enjoyed a longstanding work relationship with director, Abongwe L. Booi, for his visuals. He shares that his relationship with the director had grown to such an extent that collaborating with other visual artists would still need his direction.

This is because the director instinctively understands the vision that the artist has and the look he is aiming for.
 

“Look, I won’t lie, the relationship with Abo had grown so much that any collaboration with other visual creatives would have to be with his direction. He understands what we’re trying to build sonically and visually - so working with him is easy. One of the most talented people I’ve had the privilege of working with,” he explains.

Furthermore, this year alone, the artist collaborated with other globally recognised artists on memorable projects. These artists included the likes of the late South African hip-hop legend, AKA, rapper and lyricist Nasty C, and Global Amapiano sensation, Uncle Waffles.

As such, the collaborative process amongst these artists is understandably different. Nonetheless, he maintains that all of these various artists have a similar trait that unifies them all.

“All these artists have one similar trait: they care about what they put out into the world. They respect their audience and listeners so much, and that makes them such phenomenal artists,” he articulates.

With each of the artists, he explains their strengths whilst articulating what made them stand out to him.

“Nasty C is a musical genius, and the camp we had with him allowed me to see how introspective he is as well. He expresses his thoughts so clearly and wisely. Uncle Waffles is THE complete artist/creative.

She doesn’t just think linearly about music or art. All the pieces of her expression feed into one another. AKA understood how to make a sound that could relate to so many people. He knew exactly what the people needed to hear, and made exactly that. A true leader of our industry,” he adds.

The local industry also has a few artists that have caught his eye – or rather, his ear! One of the artists, he shares, is none other than singer and songwriter, Velemseni. Manana ponders on the magic that would be made were they to work together.

“I’m a fan of Velemseni. Her voice is breathtaking and it would be nice to hear what we could come up with in a studio session,” he concludes.

MANANA’S BIOGRAPHY TAKEN FROM HIS OFFICIAL EPK (2022).
“Eswatini-born Manana is a multi-talented singer-songwriter and producer whose musical genius has endless surprise.

Manana is also very generous with imparting knowledge or skills and thrives at helping other artists reach their full potential. His solo productions came from a place of reflection, allowing him to look toward the man -- and musician -- he has become.

Formally trained in jazz performance with a solid choral come-up as part of the nation’s illustrious Drakensberg Boys Choir, Manana came to the fore in 2020 with his debut solo release, ‘In The Beginning Was The End’. Each track is a soundscape of its own;

Heartbreak on a Summer Day juxtaposes beauty and pain, detailing the conflict of being surrounded by tangible miracles while carrying heartbreak within.

While ‘Sunday Morning’ features singer-songwriter Rowlene in a sparse yet deeply satisfying physical and emotional yearning manifestation. Capturing the light and shade of growing and fading relationships, Manana was able to effortlessly blend sound and silence to his will as one of the country's most gifted creators.

Just by viewing his Apple Music Song Book, it is clear how diverse and open-minded his approach to music is. He has worked with numerous artists such as; Amanda Black, Ami Faku, Seba Kappastad, Rowlene, Mila Smith, Sauti Sol, Burna Boy, Shekinah, Langa Mavuso and Sun- El Musician, to mention a few.

In the beginning was the end; his debut EP was nominated for the 2020 South African Music Awards for the Best Produced Album. He had recently won a Grammy for his contribution to Burna Boy's album ‘Twice As Tall’,  the category being Best World Music Album.

MANANA’S ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM HIS 2023 ELECTRONIC PRESS KIT (EPK)
He returned earlier last year to present a brand new EP, titled ‘..but could the moments inbetween..’

The EP went on to support Manana’s tour of South Africa-boasting a string of sold out shows across the nation. At the end of the year, Manana blessed fans with a surprise release titled ‘Comma’, where he experimented and fused his signature soulful sounds with elements from other genres such as Afrobeats, low fi and Amapiano. This year Manana  completed the ‘Heartbreak Trilogy’ by releasing his anticipated album ‘...Our Broken Hearts Mend.’

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