Watch our premiere of the London-based South African artist's music video for "Sondela."
As the grand-niece of legendary South African Jazz musician Bheki Mseleku, DemiMa Mseleku is continuing the musical legacy of the renowned family. Having nurtured her artistry since childhood, she now announces herself with her debut single "Sondela." the video of which we are premiering below.
"Sondela" is a soulful story of love, identity and belonging. These themes resonate with DemiMa; as an artist whose development occurred between London and Durban.
Deeply inspired by the rhythmic patterns of Zulu praise singers, DemiMa was drawn to poetry as an outlet for her expression early on. "Sondela" is a glimpse into DemiMa's fusion of her tradition and musical influences that include the late Busi Mhlongo, Floetry, Dwele and Erykah Badu.
Her artistic ethos is the sonic and conceptual synthesis of her roots with elements of neo-soul, jazz, bossanova, hip-hop and psychedelic rock. Describing "Sondela" as "a love story to the people of the Diaspora that Mama Africa is inviting them closer," DemiMa is re-energising neo-soul with an afrocentricity both delicate and vibrant. We had the pleasure of an audience with the woman behind the voice, where we touched on the notion of divine femininity, art, Africa and of course family. Read our conversation below:
DemiMa - SONDELA Prod. Emmavie (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com
You describe yourself as Anglo-Zulu. How have both cultures shaped you?
I feel blessed to have been raised in both lands of my ancestors. As a hybrid, I've had to shift my perspective from feeling like an outsider, to feeling honoured to be from two powerful nations in this lifetime... and feel connected to both cultures. I moved to Durban from London at age six, so to have the Diaspora experience with nurtured roots is a joyful (and at times challenging) journey.
How does it feel to contribute to the musical legacy of the Mseleku family?
Being a member of oLwandle! Duma! Mthombeni! is quite daunting at times. My grandmother Pinkie was also a poet and the fusion of poetry into my music would please her. I was fortunate to have started my musical scholarship with my grandmother and her brother, grandpa Bheki, whom I had the privilege and honor of performing with in London's Jazz Cafe when I was 15 years old, singing his song with Abbey Lincoln, "Through the Years."
I hope all my elders would agree that I have embraced what they taught me, while sprinkling my generational influences to the mix to continue to spread their message with my own flavour. And the message is always the same: love, love, love! Love for self. Love for humanity. Love for Nature. Love for Earth. Love for the Divine Mother!
What drew you to spoken word and poetry, having been in such a musical environment?
I love the liberation that spoken word gives to touch on subjects that challenge consciousness. There's no filter, just message. Growing up, I was highly inspired by the soulful women in hip-hop like Floetry, Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu. They moved me to feel free to express myself using words, rhythm and harmony. Poetry is also a major element of Zulu oral tradition, and the rhythmic patterns and use of the metaphor by our praise singers is an art form that has always moved me.
Let's talk about your debut single and video "Sondela". What's the song about, and how does the video represent the concept?
"Sondela" is a love story, a message to the people of the Diaspora that Mama Africa loves you. Feel free to come home. My creative partner, Director 44, and I researched locations that aligned with the concept. The visual narrative I had in mind was of a natural woman from a natural environment calling the metropolis world to her: traveling to it and trying to find peace within it. Visiting the capitalist realm, to gain insight, and returning home.
And how did Toronto speak to you as the most fitting locale?
I love the balance of feminine and masculine energy in Toronto. There's a beautiful contrast of textures, from high-risers to reservoirs. I love the circular/geometrical structures. The metropolis is relatable to the major cities I am familiar with like Jozi, London and Durban. Also, Canada's appreciation of nature, conservation, sustainability and environmental awareness aligns with me.
How does that relationship with nature inform your art?
Nature is God to me! I am very passionate about my love for nature and sharing that as much as possible. I aim to use my art to create more awareness relating to global issues, so we can do our best to protect and nurture the paradise we are inhabiting.
I am inspired by all kinds of harmonious vibration. I love the sounds of nature like crickets or birds, which I include in my art to put the listeners in that environment too.
You're also very passionate about Africa Utopia and the concept of divine femininity...
These are the elements that make up who I am as an African woman devoted to Mother Nature. In "Sondela," I refer to paradise and feeling free under blue lavender skies. These are visions of Africa's natural beauty. I romanticize the possibilities of a harmonious sustainable thriving African future.
What can we expect from you musically going forward?
I am working towards releasing an EP of alternative and electronic soul in the near future, and a documentary I created the soundtrack for Zulu Return is about to hit the film festival circuit.
I will be performing in Andalucia at WAKANA Festival in May, I'm really looking forward to that. My monthly event A L C H E M Y in Shoreditch is still an important platform, not only for me, but also for other musicians and spoken word artists in London's underground scene.
Any upcoming collaborations with South African artists we should look out for?
I was happy to be featured on Kid X's "Ocean Summer Nights" in his monumental album Thank Da King. I've also met some great jazz musicians in Durban and Joburg. It would be an honor to my lineage to collaborate with artists such as Nduduzo Makhathini, Njabulo Shabalala, Zoe Molelekwa and many others.